There are a lot of tough questions in life, but whether you should end your marriage has got to be up there as one of the toughest. It’s your marriage, your family. How do you know if it's time to call it quits? Or if you should stay and try to work things out?
We talked to divorce expert Robin Siebold, Ph.D., LMHC and author of the upcoming book "To Divorce or Not."
"I remind those contemplating divorce, that you cannot trade in people like you do your car," she says. "You may not necessarily get an upgraded model with a warranty and no issues."
Siebold says while there are marriage "dealbreakers" out there, such as domestic violence or a substance abuser who refuses to get help, many people simply claim overall "unhappiness" as their reason to leave their relationship. But is it really your partner that's giving you the blues? Or could it be coming from within? "If we cannot find our own happiness within, another person cannot sustain it for long," says Siebold. " If you focus on what you are NOT getting from your partner, then maybe it is time to focus on what you DO get."
And re-evaluate what you are giving, too. "When was the last time I asked what I could do for my partner instead of always wondering what they are going to do for me?" asks Sieblod. "The world would be a better place if we gave more and started focusing on the other person."
One way to do this? Try rekindling that happy relationship feeling with shared activities. Maybe dancing, maybe get a babysitter and go on a date. "Sometimes relationships feel stale because we have not fostered them. Getting back to an activity together helps to restore the bond."
And don't dismiss counseling. Even if it doesn't save your current relationship, it could aid you in future ones. "Commit to a 90-day plan with someone who can guide you with issues you are struggling with," suggests Siebold. "Otherwise, they will follow you from relationship to relationship, and be passed on to your children. If your partner will not go with you, go yourself."
And resist the urge to unload on a friend instead of a professional. "Your friends are not always your best place to turn about what you should do," says Siebold. "There is truth to the old adage, misery loves company."
Other issues Siebold lists that can lead to divorce if not dealt with?
- Sex Life: If sex is waning, do not assume that your partner is happy with that, either. Sexual issues start with communication (unless there is a medical issue). Many times the sex drive is different, and you have to find a compromise, not just when you "feel" like it. Understand that there are differences between men and women and people, in general.
- Conflict Resolution: How do you resolve conflict? Usually there is one who withdraws and the other wants to talk it out. Respect each other's difference in style, but agree to sit and listen to each other. We often talk at each other rather than trying to understand, accept and affirm each other. I suggest using an egg timer and one person talks while the other listens. Have a note pad to write down what comes to mind because you cannot let it cross your lips during the other person's "time".
- Financial Issues: Financial issues flow like the emotions in a relationship. I refer couples to a financial planner to discuss their finances so BOTH parties are up to speed. It is unfair to delegate one person to manage the finances and then blame them. BOTH parties need to understand the money flow.
Whatever you decide, Siebold suggests you move forward with dignity and not declare war on the other person. Especially if you have children together. "Children need both their mother and their father," she says. "So divorce or not, you will always be in each other's lives to co-parent."