Deciding to Divorce
Many people come to a divorce attorney’s office looking for the answer to the question – “Should I get divorced?” There’s no easy, cut-and-dried standard when deciding to divorce. Unless there is an unsafe, abusive situation most marriages are flawed and it comes down to priorities and tradeoffs.
Start with the extremes
There are few 100% perfect marriages. According to Susan Pease Gadoua 14 Signs Your Marriage is Headed for Divorce here’s what we should all be striving for in an ideal marriage:
· Mutual Trust
· Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Security
· Care, Concern and Kindness
· Shared Interests
· Mutual Respect
· Common Goals
· Willingness of both spouses to be open to change/improvement
For those that have an ideal marriage, kudos! It’s rare and worthy of holding onto forever. For those who would not define their marriage as ideal but certainly very good. Congratulations too. Marriage is not easy.
The opposite extreme is an unhealthy or unsafe emotionally, verbally, sexually or physically abusive relationship. If this is your situation, we can help you with your divorce and any necessary protection orders. Contact the law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates in Milford, Michigan at 248-676-1000.
Understanding that the vast majority of marriages fall somewhere along the middle of the spectrum, the answer to the divorce question comes down to priorities and how well a spouse understands and respects his/her partner’s priorities. For example, some people don’t care a bit about fishing together but need complete support when it come to child-rearing. For others, they might fight bitterly about spending habits but share complete agreement and respect regarding retirement plans.
For couples grappling with the big question of whether or not to divorce, South Lyon Divorce Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler recommends two things right off the bat: 1) Read and discuss the book, “Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. And 2) try therapy.
“I’m a huge proponent of giving counseling a chance,” said Wayne-Spindler.
“I’m always pleased when I hear a potential divorce client say that they tried therapy,” says Wayne-Spindler. There are many reasons. Therapy allows couples to feel like they’ve tried everything before deciding to divorce. Therapy encourages couples to begin the healing process. Couples therapy gives the individuals access to help for any emotional crises during or after the separation process.
“As much as I am willing and able to listen and comfort clients, my top priority has to be their legal case,” said Divorce Attorney Wayne-Spindler. “It is beneficial for the client have someone on their side supporting their emotional needs while I take care of their legal ones.”
Therapy or not, we do hear some common threads to clients’ motivations for divorce. So we share five commonly heard phrases and some advice for those in the same boat trying to decide the divorce question.
“We’re like roommates.”
For some, roommate situations can be just fine. You take turns mowing the lawn and have somebody to complain about work to. In many marriages there are bound to be times when family and work demands mean that romance and intimacy take a backseat to the color-coded school calendar. When it becomes unrecoverable is when the habits erode the very foundations of the marriage. During those busy times, the parties should still be interested in getting back some connection with their spouse. If you miss those pre-marriage date nights and snuggling, consider it just a temporary glitch. Couples therapy may help reestablish an emotional connection.
Signs it’s a problem: Keeping major secrets from each other. Intentionally overscheduling to avoid intimacy. Cancelling dates. Daydreaming about being single or with someone else. Dreading coming home after a business trip. Using intimacy as a bargaining chip.
What to try: All of these activities may indicate that the marriage is not providing the support, friendship, respect and companionship that both parties need. Try therapy and scheduled date nights.
“We never do anything together.”
This goes deeper than the need to have a canoeing partner. Mutual activities can represent shared goals and beliefs. Spending time together usually promotes communication, and a mutual understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, fears and dreams. Private jokes develop.
Signs it’s a problem: Seeking friends or co-workers for shared activities instead of a spouse. Belittling a spouse’s hobbies. Including children in what should be a chance for spouses to reconnect.
What to try: Some couples get trapped in a rut of trying to fit into the other person’s passions. Try a completely new activity that becomes yours together. If he likes football and she likes cooking, maybe try tailgating. If she’s a tinkerer and he’s into boxing, maybe find a robotics club.
“We fight all the time about the littlest things.”
Fighting is often a sign that communication and trust have broken down. Fighting about little things may indicate that there are bigger unexpressed and unresolved problems. When people are scared to have the big, meaningful fights – like about parenting, finances, religion, family – they fight about the little things like what temperature to keep the water heater or whose turn it is to walk the dog.
Signs it’s a problem: Returning to the “same” fight. Bringing up unresolved past fights. Giving silent treatments. Interrupting.
What to try: Therapy. Therapy. Therapy. Counseling can help spouses learn how to fight fair and address the big issues in a safe, neutral environment. A therapist may be able to help a couple determine what “real” issues are being disguised with fights about ice cream flavors and hospital corners.
“He/she won’t go to therapy.”
Every couple has problems. No one is perfect about communicating, arguing, forgiving grudges, etc. Therapy may have benefits. Social workers can present opportunities for improved communication. Couples’ therapy allows spouses a safe place to express worries and complaints. Therapy may help with minor mental health issues and addictions.
Signs it’s a problem: Skipping appointments. Not doing homework. Badmouthing the counselor. Blaming a spouse for demanding therapy. Complaining about the cost. Refusing therapy is an indication that one party is not open to change or does not value the relationship enough to be willing to put in time, effort and money. Some reluctant therapy participants’ worry that therapy will expose a mental illness or addiction that they thought they were hiding. In other instances, a person may see therapy as a sure route to divorce.
What to try: A reluctant therapy participant may need to see a direct reward. Maybe agree to a trade-off that if both parties attend appointments and do homework they can go do something fun together as well. Some people are reluctant to try counseling because they see it as endless. Perhaps it would be helpful to set a definitive timeline. Set a date on the calendar after the 8th, 15th or 30th session to revisit what’s been learned. Be willing to suspend future appointments if no progress has been made.
“It’s like having another child around the house.”
Marriage is supposed to be a lifelong partnership of spouses celebrating each other’s strengths and supporting each other’s weaknesses. Spouses should strive to be equals. Each should contribute as much money, chores, social responsibilities and parenting as possible commensurate with their skills, education and capabilities. When the financial, household or parenting responsibilities are lopsided for a prolonged time, the healthy co-dependence of a happy marriage can suffer.
Obviously children are a huge responsibility and their health, safety and success are mutual goals. Many couples agree to split responsibilities along the breadwinner/childcare traditional roles when the kids are small but don’t discuss what the split should be when the children grow up or when the breadwinner retires. “When the children are in school full time or all grown or the couple never had children and one person still bears all the financial burden that’s not fair,” said Divorce Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler.
The same goes for the retired breadwinner who should not expect to laze about watching television while his/her spouse manages all of the household responsibilities. Be sure to discuss expectations frequently.
Signs it’s a problem: Frequent financial disagreements. Constant nagging.
What to try: “In this day and age, there is no reason that a couple can’t share the burdens of a life together,” said Divorce Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler. “It doesn’t have to be 50/50 but each person should be making a good-faith effort to contribute to the family’s needs both financial and household.”
The job market is prime these days for entry-level stay-at-home moms or dads to get some part-time hours. Even if a parent has been out of the workforce for decades, there are retail and work-from-home scenarios that allow potential employees to build confidence and a resume. If money is not an immediate concern, online classes or retraining might provide opportunities.
When Divorce is the Answer
Ultimately, the answer to the “should I get divorced” question comes down to what each person can live with. Kathryn Wayne-Spindler strongly recommends trying therapy. “A therapist may be able to help spouses determine their priorities.”
For many who determine that the time is right emotionally to separate, meeting with an experienced divorce attorney like Kathryn Wayne-Spindler can give a good idea of what to expect financially and regarding child custody. For a free consultation contact the attorneys of the Law Office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000.
Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates is located in Milford, Michigan and serves five Southeastern Michigan counties including: Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Genesee. The experienced family law attorneys handle cases in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Commerce; Walled Lake; Waterford; Howell; Brighton; South Lyon; New Hudson; Holly; Linden; Grand Blanc and many more local communities. Contact the Law Office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000.
Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long, Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates