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

Should I Get a Divorce? Am I Being Naive?

Should I Get a Divorce? A Two Part Series

Part 1: Am I Being Naive?

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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?" 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 the 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 there is a slim chance they will heed your advice. In their minds, 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.

Romance Is Easy (Early On)

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 lot 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 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.

Divorce and Infidelity

should i get a divorce

I believe the only naiveté that exceeds that of those who are 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 ripping apart 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.

What Should You Do?

Are you considering your options during this difficult time? If you're contemplating ending your marriage, please remember you just may be moving to the next level 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.

Many couples are truly surprised at how quickly perspective changes when they finally get expert help for their situation.

This new clarity and insight enables both spouses to come out of the fog of ambivalence and raw trauma. After over 30 years of caring for those struggling with the effects of infidelity, I can tell you that while it may look and even sound impossible, there is often hope and opportunity for change.

Many couples come to us as a true last-ditch effort, and are surprised to find that they are now seeing and understanding issues between them with a much greater sense of urgency and clarity. 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.

Please understand that coping with divorce, especially following infidelity, is no easy task. Every situation is uniquely challenging and requires a great deal of patience and strategy before you finally act.

Unless you've talked to what I refer to as an "infidelity-specific resource" who can help navigate the complicated waters you are in, I would ask you to pause, and try the help of a true expert before you divorce.

Alternatively, if you've held on for what seems like an eternity and your spouse's actions continue to show their disregard for any of your consequences and pain, not to mention future together, you may have come to the point where divorce is your best right option. Sometimes our mate is just not safe and refuses to take action. We can then be forced with a decision 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 end the marriage.

My team and I would be more than happy to help in any way we can. There are a variety of Programs and Courses" and free resources on our site.

Just below, I'll share an answer to a recently submitted question: How Long Should I Resist Divorce?

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"Before arriving at EMS [VIRTUAL], I was hesitant and didn't believe that 3 days would do anything to help the state of my marriage (which was broken beyond recognition). I didn't believe that a group of strangers would help me open up to the extent that I did. Lastly, I had no faith in the idea that I would ever feel connected to anyone in that group or want to stay in touch with them. However, at the end of EMS weekend, all of the assumptions and reluctance that I had prior was completely gone. Within 3 days, I was able to share feelings to my wife that I hadn't our entire marriage, I understood the damage I did on our marriage more, and most importantly her pain and anger... It gave myself and my wife hope that we could have a great marriage in the future as long as we take what we have learned through EMS and continue to apply."
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Thank You

Thank you so much for this video/article in helping to navigate these hard questions that badger me multiple times a day. Thank you!!!

I want to say 'Thank you,

I want to say 'Thank you, Rick and your team' for teaching us wisdom. The world has two groups of people: people who make an effort and those who don’t when comes to their marriage. Compromise and awareness are the finest part of a relationship. Knowledge about how to work on marital problems can lead couples to understanding where their own pains/needs/insecurities are coming from, and lead them to their internal healing.

My own marriage was a journey that reached mountains' peaks and then dropped into abyss. I had to climb to the top on my own. The pain and despair that went with it impossible to put into words. The feeling of abandonment was horrific - it breaks a person's soul.

I wish I knew Rick's work much, much earlier. I would have been a much wiser person in my marriage. But I have learned, and I keep learning. Right now I stand for my marriage alone. Despite things might look 'strange', I do believe my marriage is on the road of being restored. I cannot see it, but I know that with God all things are possible.

Rick's column about Divorce

As a betrayed spouse I've never considered divorce. But I find this column very insightful. I like especially how Rick says trying to prepare people for either marriage or divorce is like trying to explain to an embryo what air is! Very clever. I also like how he says that the naivete with which people approach divorce is similar to the naivete with which people approach marriage. The two cats with tied-together tails made me laugh out loud.

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