Divorce or stay?

Troubled couples at crossroads

By Barbara Pierce

Millions of married people are stuck in an unhappy marriage, but will not divorce, according to findings of recent research.

When a close relationship is no longer working, should you jump ship and abandon it? Or should you fight for it? Or do you just hold on to the thought that most marriages go through rough patches, and sooner or later things may be better?

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut path to follow that will lead to the right decision. How you resolve this dilemma will depend on your personal circumstances and the conclusions you reach through a lot of thought.

According to a recent study, the No. 1 reason unhappy spouses stay together is because they fear they will be making the wrong decision in leaving. They hope things will improve.

Another leading reason people stay is because splitting up would have too big an impact on the kids.

“As I visualize taking the leap of faith into the world of divorce, I hold a vision of taking a leap out of an airplane without a parachute,” said Michele Attias on divorcedmoms.com. “In choosing to leave the ‘comfort’ associated with marriage, we take a leap into the unknown. It’s one of the biggest decisions we will make.”

“Deciding to divorce was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, and it took me many years to get there,” added Joy Cipoletti on the same website. “I was stuck in indecision. Doing what I knew in my heart was right for me felt like the cruelest thing I could do to my husband and our family. I couldn’t go through with it.”

If you’re in this dilemma, unhappy but staying, here are some things to consider:

— The decision to divorce is critical, with consequences that can last a lifetime. Marital problems do not always warrant a divorce, especially if they are small short-term problems.

Try everything you can before divorcing. What have you got to lose? However, if you or your children are in physical danger, put safety first.

— Counseling with a good marriage and family therapist is a safe place to start thinking things through. A therapist can lead the way through the mire. If your partner won’t go, go alone.

“To look at the marriage objectively, calmly and carefully, an experienced couples therapist can allow you both to have space to talk through the issues in the relationship, reflecting on what brought you together in the first place and what currently drives a wedge through it,” said Attias.

“Resolving complex family and relationship issues isn’t easy, but most people see the results they desire within eight to 10 sessions,” said licensed marriage and family therapist Greg Kovacs, Utica. “I help couples build resilient relationship bonds, repair wounds, learn new ways to tackle their current challenges, and get back to focusing on their dreams and goals.”

Confusion about whether to stay or to go can be a gift, said Cipoletti. “If you’re not sure, don’t try to force a decision. Clarity will come more easily if you relax,” he said.

— Some considerations: Can you repair your marriage? Have you made clear your concerns about the relationship? If there is a way to save the marriage, what would it be? Would you really be happier without your partner? Do you still love him or her? What about finances involved?

What’s best for the kids? Custody is an emotional and difficult issue. Think about what arrangement would be best for your children. What you want and what would benefit them most may not be the same thing. Can you and your ex co-parent effectively?

“Parental separation will always be difficult for children,” said Kovacs. “I can help you and your co-parent overcome difficulties to minimize the negative effects of separation on your children.”

The bottom line you need to address is: What is it that you personally truly want and need right now emotionally, financially and legally. You’re the one who has to live with the decisions you make.

— Consider a support group to get you through. The Separated and Divorced Support Group at the Good News Center in Utica is for people who have ended or are in the process of ending their marriage. The group is meeting via Zoom. To register, call 315-735-6210.

“No one will tell you it’s an easy ride. I wouldn’t wish the end of my marriage on my worst enemy. It was excruciating and incredibly unsettling for all of us,” said Cipoletti.

“Essentially, the grass is by no means greener on the other side, it is just a different color altogether. In the grass, a number of flowers have blossomed,” she said.

To stay or not to stay, the known versus the unknown, that is your question.