I Want A Divorce! Will My Spouse Survive?
Taking the decision to end a marriage is rarely done without a lot of soul searching and consideration. For some, this decision is made even more difficult because they are genuinely worried about their spouse's ability to cope.
Maybe the spouse is physically or mentally unwell and needs extra support, maybe they do not have any ability to care for themselves financially. There are cases where it is felt that the spouse may not cope emotionally or cannot accept divorce on religious grounds. The ultimate problem is when it is felt that the spouse could even harm themselves as a result.
It is rare that a departing spouse can switch off all care and consideration for their partner and it is, therefore, natural to consider their reaction in the decision. So, what to do?
The first step may be to take a good look at yourself and your thinking.
How much of your assessment of the situation is rooted in reality and how much is an assumption. Nobody likes divorce, it is painful; that said we all get through it one way or another. Are you sure that your spouse will not cope? Make sure your concern is evidence-based. If it's not, maybe you are using your spouse's potential reaction as an excuse not to move forward.
"I'm unhappy and I want to leave but my spouse will not cope, so, I cannot."
If you find yourself saying this, maybe YOU are the one that can't leave, maybe you are scared and will not cope. That's OK but be honest with yourself and own your problem.
If however, your worries are genuine, then the way forward is to identify the reason your spouse would struggle to cope and find a solution. If you do not, you will create a situation that breeds contempt and builds huge resentment.
Some common reasons spouses will struggle to cope:
a. ) Health.
For some, ill-health is a barrier to ending a marriage. Maybe you are the main carer or the source of quality of life for your spouse. Your decision to leave could have an impact with much further reach than just your marriage.
b. ) Finances
Maybe your spouse does not work and has no ability to support themselves (and possibly your children) financially. You may feel that by leaving you are making life impossible for your spouse.
c. ) Emotions
Beyond the usual stress and upset that divorce causes you may fear that your spouse will never recover and that you will be ruining their life.
d. ) Religion
For some, religious beliefs may mean that divorce is not an option. You may be aware that your spouse would find divorce intolerable on this basis.
e. ) Inability to live alone
For a myriad of reasons, your spouse may be unable to live alone (past trauma, no ability to drive, not a native speaker etc.) Your decision to leave may cause untold struggles for your spouse.
As you review this list, it should become obvious that there are ways and means to address each situation. Professional support is available for those suffering physical illness or emotional trauma, financially, you could, if means allow continue to offer financial support or at least help them to find an income of some sort and so on. These are tangible issues that have tangible, if not always savoury, solutions.
More importantly, it is vital that you ask yourself what will happen if you do not end the marriage? Are you willing to sacrifice your own wellbeing and happiness to address one of these problems?
If you are, how will life be? As you grow increasingly frustrated and unhappy, how will your spouse cope with that?
Marriages where one party feels obligated to stay for whatever reason are rarely happy or satisfactory for either party. It may be fairer, in the long run, to take the difficult decision now and at least give your spouse a chance of future happiness.
Our greatest duty and our main responsibility is to help others. But please, if you can't help them, would you please not hurt them. - Dalai Lama
(A final word: There are some very difficult situations where a departing spouse may fear that their partner is likely to cause themselves harm if the marriage fails. This is beyond your control and responsibility and the best way to address it is to take professional and proactive help from a professional mental health specialist.)