Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Should I Get a Divorce? Am I Being Naive?

I love premarital counseling. It’s so easy. I don’t mean to be sarcastic or condescending here, but I’m sure you’ll get my drift as I continue on. The reason premarital counseling is so easy, is that you’ve got two people believing they have found the one person in the entire human race who can truly make them happy. They are definitely NOT asking the question, “At what point should I get a divorce?”. Easy enough. They are consumed with bliss and willing to make the necessary sacrifice just to have the opportunity to travel the road of life with this cherished one. Together they will conquer the world and experience true love and all that life has to offer. It really makes little difference what you say to these couples, because they’re going to do what they want anyway and best you can do is help as much as you are able while tying a knot and holding on. You can throw warnings at potential problems, but slim chance they will heed your advice because in their own mind, they’ve already figured it out and they are going to do what they want and what their emotions want. There’s no hint of coping with divorce. At best, you can warn them of possible concerns and apparent difficulties, but once they are married, reality most certainly will set in.

In life, dating, engagement, and courtship are all based on a paradigm called romanticism. Romanticism is always about two people longing to be together, but they’re not. It’s about wanting what you don’t have and the sacrifices you’re willing to make to get what you don’t have. Marriage, on the other hand, is based on a system called “oneness”. The paradigm of oneness is somewhat like tying two cat’s tails together and then instructing them to get to the water bowl or to go out and catch supper. It’s no longer about wanting what I don’t have, now I’m connected to another at the hip and we’ve got to figure out how to navigate life and life’s incredible challenges. As I always say, “it’s far easier to want what you don’t have than to have who you don’t want” and at some point during marriage, the latter comes to pass.

Our inability to comprehend this reality sets couples up for painful disappointment. Frequently marriage just doesn’t meet our own expectations. I’ve always thought the best way to explain this reality is a baby in utero. If I could speak to an unborn child, I could try to explain what life is going to be like on the other side. How life is different and how there are these things called air and light. What it means to breathe, “Breathe?” the child might ask, “what is that?” My explanations might leave a little to be desired. How can I explain the reality of breathing to a person who has never felt the wind or experienced anything beyond the safe warm fluid within the womb? In the same way, our best attempts at explaining marriage are lacking. We can try, but ultimately, those entering the marital union are nevertheless usually pretty naïve about what they are about to experience. After all, it’s romance and at some time or another, we’ve all felt the allurement of attainable romance and passion.

I believe the only naiveté that exceeds that of entering a marriage is the naiveté we exhibit as we exit a marriage when coping with divorce. The question looms - “Should I get a divorce?” Why we think we understand the dynamics of coping with divorce or that we will be able to easily navigate those difficult and life changing waters baffles me. If you don’t believe me then just go visit a divorce recovery class. There you will see some people who are really hurting and are trying to pick up the pieces and move on. Not only are they dealing with the pain, but now they’re dealing with even more issues, like dating after divorce. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen individuals in as much pain as those going through the tearing that occurs as a relationship ends. It hurts themselves, their spouses, and their children. It’s just not easy and it is certainly not what most anticipate when they decide to divorce. Much like those entering the union of marriage, those exiting this union seem incapable of hearing and/or understanding the reality that awaits them. As a counselor, I can try to warn. I can scream, “Bridge out ahead!” but few will listen. Our pain has a way of blinding us, or deafening us to hearing warnings of what life will soon be like. Some listen and really go to great lengths to ponder what awaits them should they take this route. Others are dead set on ending the union and are not always acting out of wisdom. They don’t even ask the question “Should I get a divorce?”…they just act.

Are you considering your options during this difficult time? If you are considering ending your marriage, please remember you just may be moving to the next magnitude of naiveté. I would encourage you to stop and ponder whether it might be worth trying to figure out how to make this thing work, or at the very least attempt a comprehensive last ditch effort to see if the marriage can be saved. You’d be surprised how quickly perspective changes when couples finally get expert help for their situation, it enables both spouses to come out of the fog of pain and trauma. After 28 plus years of caring for those struggling with the effects of infidelity, I can tell you while it may look and even sound impossible, often times there is hope and opportunity for change.

Please understand that coping with divorce, especially following infidelity, is no easy task. Unless you’ve talked to what I call an “infidelity-specific resource” who can help navigate the complicated waters you are in, I wonder if you’re not pulling the rip cord early as they say? In fact, many couples come to us as a true last ditch effort, and are surprised at the results they find since they are now understanding issues between them with a much greater sense of urgency and understanding. Should you consider moving forward in divorce though? You don’t know what’s waiting for you and no one is any more capable of explaining that reality to you than air to an embryo.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes our mate is just not safe and refuses to take action. We can then be forced with an ultimatum which no one really wants to make, but has to. I would never want to recommend staying with a spouse that was abusive, whether physically or verbally, and sometimes divorce might be the only option for your and your children’s safety. However, when abuse is not present in your relationship, or there’s just a really bad feeling of being “stuck”, I’d say pump the brakes before you just end the marriage. My team and I would be more than happy to help in any way we can. There are a variety of methods and specific methods you can utilize on our site for help, perspective, and expert insight for your journey. Our Expert Q & A sessions have been incredibly helpful for so many, and if you’re like some of the couples above needing that last ditch effort, I hope you’ll give our EMS Weekend some thought. For a confidential discussion with our Intake Adviser  give Tony a call at (512) 879-6326. As I always say, it just might not be as hopeless as it seems.

Sections: 

RL_Category: 

RL_Media Type: 

Add New Comment:

Comments

The Real Deal

Rick, your article brings it home. I personally owe my marriage to God's grace and to the Affair Recovery EMS Weekend and all the supportive staff. As I look back, I realize that my wife and I were neither one in a good place. I wanted to save the marriage and she was wrapped up in a world of romance longing to keep ties with her AP. I didn't know if I had the courage to give my marriage the time needed to heal. It was a tough journey with a lot of ups and downs. With the Grace of God and the tools and help from your program, our love for each other is stronger than ever, our marriage continues to grow day by day.

divorce

I ended up divorcing after 25 yrs and being with him 30 he filed...we divorced due to him being a crossdresser and he takes 52 pain pills a day and he beat 3 yrs ago. I also found out that he is seeing his therapist...I couldn't live that life any longer....

time

This was a really nice and thoughtful article that made me momentarily hit pause on my thoughts of divorce. My wife had a short, ugly and very deceitful affair many years ago. while things are better, I still hold onto the fact that my marriage feels fundamentally broken and the covenant of marriage completely dissolved. I simply don't feel the same about marriage as I did before. It doesn't mean the same thing to me. A friend told me that maybe it's that I just don't feel that way about my wife.

my wife reminds me that there is no timeline for recovery, but how long does someone normally go on feeling this way and not finding acceptance In what happened? I read articles about people recovering in a year and it is depressing. I'm far beyond that and don't feel as if I ever will be whole again....I know that our marriage won't be. All the factors you described have given me pause to avoid divorce for now. In the end, I feel it's the ultimate destination for my marriage.
I would deeply appreciate any advice on the time line for recovery. What normal? What's not?

Your comment sounds so

Your comment sounds so familiar to my situation. It has been over 5 years since my husband's infidelity and it is still hard. I too get depressed at people's stories of 'happily ever after' in what seems like a short time. But every time I am sure divorce is the answer, God gives a little grace for just one more day. My husband is finally seeking godly counsel and I am seeing a faint glimmer of hope to hold onto. I also realize that our marriage will never be the same. There will always be a scar, but healing can come and the scar a reminder of God's grace and love. Have hope.

i think you might ask if you

i think you might ask if you are making progress (even baby steps) or not
i tried for 11 months - made NO progress, had nothing left to give...and walked away from my wife after 28 years of marriage

my choice was to try for one year
if it has been a couple years for you....

Time

If your spouse has owned up to their failure and doing to their best ability to mend themselves and the marriage you need to figure out what else you need from them within reason. If there is just simply nothing that can be done to change the way you feel you may need to look within yourself. Seek church, counseling, a support group or something to further find where you are stuck. It would be unfortunate if you do end the marriage and your spouse has grown and become a better rounded person to share the better part of themself with someone different and you remain in a place of being the victim. People can mend from this trauma....we see it often on this site and elsewhere. Don't believe that the marriage will end but that you and your spouse will do what is necessary and it will survive.

Hi there - I'm curious. You

Hi there - I'm curious. You said the affair happened many years ago. How/why did you decide to stay married back then? My husband was unfaithful, and we are shy of 1 year post d-day. So this was an interesting article.

Me too...

I am in the same situation as you. It's been 3 years since my husband cheated on me. I even moved out for a year. I've forgiven him and we continue to be married, but I don't feel the same way about marriage. I can't look at my husband the same way. I've been in therapy and we have had therapy together. There are some things that are better, but fundamentally, I can never trust him again. I have seen where people have healed in a year, or 2, but it's been over 3 for me and now, I have asked my husband for a divorce because I just don't see the light.

confused

I'm not sure what to do at this current moment in time. My husband and I have been separated since October and he has since had 2 different girls move into our apartment with him. He has a sex addiction and I don't know if I can see things working out or not if he isn't doing anything to better his situation. All he continues to do is run from everything. He just drags other girls down with him as well. I love him yet I'm not sure just how much longer I can take all of this. If he's not willing to do anything then how are things even supposed to get better. I really don't feel like I have any other choice but to divorce him.

I can so relate

My husband worked away from home 9 days and would be home for 5. I discovered he'd been having affairs out on the road with women he picked up on a dating website (one you had to pay for even). I found out when one called our home after he began to bail on her and she discovered he was using a false name and had 2 social media accounts linked to each other by the guys he worked with. She was broken and wanted answers and my world was devastated. We were both good women who'd been lied to. I was so hurt I put him out, crying and telling him I never wanted to see him again in the heat of the moment. He immediately cut all ways of communication with me, went on a spending spree within days buying a new truck and other man toys and was back on the dating site that same week advertising himself as a good honest man. 8 months later he's run himself into huge debt, has a new girlfriend who thinks he's amazing and I'm still in shock and depressed from what happened to me. I'm now starting legal proceedings since I haven't heard one word from him since D day. He never even came back for his things.

Divorce is painful

Great article. I hope that those who still have a fighting chance to save their marriage fight as hard as they can and exhaust all their options.
Unfortunately, my marriage did not survive. My husband had an affair with a co-worker ten years his junior. I was willing to work on it but he was not. I moved back home which was 3 hours away before I discovered the affair as I thought my husband was mentally ill as he was acting odd. He wasn't coming home at night. He told me he was staying at hotels for $20 a night. I would catch him in our basement shaking with his backpack packed.

I don't love him, should I have to stay?

I no longer love my husband and feel I stay in the marriage for everyone but me. My husband had 2 affairs - one several months and the other longer than 2.5 years. We are almost 3 years post discovery.
On discovery the only person my husband cared about being hurt was his AP. He torn my world apart and seemed totally immune to my pain. I can hardly even think of the conversation that occurred that night without feeling distressed at the traumatic and cold way he disclosed the affairs to me. I think something in me died at that time. Then for the next year he lied, minimised, justified and blamed and I slowly stopped caring and loving him.
Eleven months out I told him to go - I was done. It was like a new man took the place of the awful person he had become. Suddenly he loved me again, was prepared to tell me anything I needed to know and was desperate to do "anything" to put things right.
I decided to try for a bit longer, our daughter was getting married, our younger boys still at school and he (husband) had suicidal depression. Since, we have been in counselling and really in many ways he is easier to live with than he has ever been. He tries harder, is more thoughtful (he has always been quite a selfish person so this is huge) and continues counselling. BUT I still don't love him, the best I can do is feel fondness for him and our shared history. I feel like I am staying in the marriage for everyone but me. It isn't terrible just "meh". I feel obligated to stay - it has been 3 years and he tries hard and loves me [now] - how can this be a basis for marriage? At what point can I pull the plug?

There too!

I don't feel the same for my husband. I tried. I poured out myself to him the way I thought he wanted. It only made me feel even smaller than I already was. My husband doesn't want counseling. I go alone. I want to know when I can pull out? When can I start looking out for myself??

Does it really get better?

As I read over these posts and comments as I have been for the last four years, it's sad to see so many of us in the same situation...but comforting to know my feelings are shared.
Four years ago next week I found out my husband was having a very involved affair with my neighbor for over a year..they were " in love"
I found a folder full of text where he trashed talked my cooking, cleaning and mothering ..and he told her how terrific beautiful and wonderful she was..I also found a file full of nude photos of them both..
They ended it, she fled with her family..I'm still here with the sad view of her house across from my front door. We have four children, three young. I too feel like I stay in this marriage for everyone but myself. I cried at 30 yrs old when my own parents were divorced..I don't want to put that ache in my kids lives. Instead I ache everyday living in a marriage where the love has left my heart..I almost feel incapable of loving him again..he's changed, I see that..but I feel like I could be fooled again. I was so in love with this man..I was constantly told how lucky I was to have him..everyone thought he was wonderful. He did everything for everyone, he could never say no to helping someone out. Then I discover his secrets and they destroy our marriage and what I thought of him..I know I'm suppose to forgive and not judge but how can you just go on? Sometimes I try to convince myself that I can do it, I can make myself love him..but then those feelings and knowing what he did haunt me. I still compare her nude image to my own..his words still make me question myself as a mother, wife, and housekeeper..
It's sad that I still feel broken. When does one decide a divorce is the only answer?

Divorce

My d-day was 6 years ago and I was so sure that MY story would be different at this point. I thought MY marriage would be better and stronger than before the infidelity. But...it isn't. And sadly, after 18 years of marriage, I have come to the decision to file for divorce. I have done all that I know to do to try to fix my marriage but my husband has only made half-hearted attempts, at best, to try to repair the damage. He's had multiple affairs since we have been married. In fact, I have recently discovered that he has never been faithful since we've been married nor while we were engaged. He says that he doesn't want our marriage to end but he hasn't really done anything to fix anything. I told him that I want a divorce but he's done NOTHING to try to stop me from filing. Even after all of this, I still love him but I know that it's time to let go. I believe in the supernatural power of God to restore, reconcile, and change things, including marriages, but BOTH individuals have to be willing to be restored, reconciled, and changed! For the betrayed spouses who see that the betrayers are REALLY putting forth an effort to change and repair, don't give up on your marriage! For those who said that the betrayer is REALLY trying but you don't love them anymore, please don't stop fighting for your marriage! This is when you have to CHOOSE to love them. And as you choose to love them, God will begin to restore your love for them and can make it better than before. If the betrayer is SINCERELY trying, don't give up on them. Though it's difficult, God can strengthen you to go through this season of your life. And He is more than able to re-write the story of your marriage and make it even better and stronger! If there's any inkling of hope, don't give up on your marriage!

I'm scared to move forward

Rick, I'm new here. I also in a stage of my life where I feel trapped. After 25 years of marriage and 22 of those years in full time ministry, my husband had an affair. It's been almost a year since I found out. I tried everything to keep my marriage. I ended up leaving and then after six months, came home. My home is the church's parsonage. The church no longer exists. Everyone left after the affair came to surface. The other woman has been to my church during the (unknown to me at the time) affair. She has slept in my house, rode in my husband's car. Everything around me reminds me of his affair. I have boxes stacked up in my house. So there's a constant reminder of the affair in my face everyday. I started to think a few months ago to go ahead and unpack everything and settle back in to this life. Then in March I found out he was still seeing her. Lying to me on a daily basis. I can't trust a word he says. I no longer care what he is doing. I'm looking for my next stage in life. I'm tired of barely living with the daily reminder of "her". My husband also drinks now. When he does he becomes very angry. We fight. I have holes in my walls.

I have dedicated my life to this man and this ministry for 22 years. Now, I'm basically starting over. I worked for the church. That's over. My home belongs to the church. Which is his now. I have nothing. My family has deserted me because they thought I should have left him a year ago.

So, I'm seeking God and asking for permission to leave. My husband doesn't want to change and honestly I think God needs me out of the picture before He will work in my husbands life.

But...I'm scared. I've never in my entire life been alone. But I am alone every day with him. So I guess it's a matter of stepping out.

What type of affair was it?

Our free Affair Analyzer provides you with insights about your unique situation and gives you a personalized plan of action.
Take the Affair Analyzer