If you are getting divorced, chances are the person from whom you are separating was at one point someone you truly and deeply loved. This kind of care and compassion for one another does not just evaporate overnight. Therefore, it is natural that in some divorces, people feel the desire to support and comfort their ex through what is a painful and trying experience for both people. If you want to leave and your spouse is not ready to call it quits, here are a few things you ought to consider.
Have you done your best?
Marriage is a financial, legal, social and emotional commitment. It ought to be taken seriously, and when things get tough it is important to try to work through it. If your spouse is indicating that they want to try to make it work, this can be an opportunity to honour your commitment to them. This is not true for all cases – where there is abuse within the marriage, an abusive spouse will often try to manipulate their partner into staying. This can be a further form of abuse, and it is important to be cognizant of your own safety and well-being. What you really need to ask yourself is, “Did I do my best within the circumstances? Did I fight for this marriage?” If the answer is yes, then it may indeed be time to let go of a relationship that has run its course.
Is this a co-dependent relationship?
Co-dependency is a psychological term that refers to a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on the approval of someone else in order to form self-worth and identity.
Co-dependence often shows up as an emotional reliance on one’s partner. These relationships tend to indicate an unhealthy attachment. When people’s fundamental sense of self is dependent on someone else, the people within the relationship lack autonomy or self-sufficiency. Relationships like this can make you feel responsible for your partner’s happiness, or stay too long because they are fearful of being alone. This is a maladaptive behavior, and a cycle that must be broken. Having your partner depend on you to define them and making you the keeper of their mental health is unfair. It is putting a huge burden on you, and being asked to keep someone content all the time means that you are essentially being set up to fail. Everyone is responsible for his or her own mental health. Divorce is painful, and it is great to display a bit of empathy and compassion to your partner, but if they are making you feel responsible for keeping them together through this process, you may need to take a step back and reassess the situation.
Resources for your Spouse
In situations like these, it can be a great idea to gather your spouse’s support networks – reach out to their parents, siblings, friends or adult children. These are people who will provide love and support in a more constructive relationship dynamic. Counseling or therapy for your spouse might help them to work through the divorce and develop coping mechanisms on their own. Setting boundaries in the divorce is important in order for both parties to heal and move forward, so while it may be difficult in the moment, keep in mind that you want to create a positive outcome in the long run.
Doctors or religious leaders can also be great resources that will enable your spouse to get mental health support outside of your relationship. Activating these opportunities may be a great way to display healthy behaviors for your children as well – by modeling productive resolution techniques, both you and your spouse can set a positive example.
You can only try your best, and when that is not enough to make the marriage work, your ex may need to face the harsh reality of the situation. Oftentimes initiating the divorce proceeding is the only option you have left, regardless of whether your ex is ready to end the marriage. Of course, you will need to establish grounds for divorce as stipulated in the Divorce Act (in most cases – a separation of one year).
Divorce is not easy, and while your ex may be having a hard time accepting that you want to move on, you need to do what you think is best. An experienced family lawyer can help guide you through this transition.