If your marriage is deeply troubled, then yes, it is absolutely normal to fantasize about not being married. I’m not talking about the fleeting wish that life would be simpler if you didn’t have to consult with your spouse on a certain issue or many of the day-to-day disagreements that are typical to a marriage or any on-going relationship.
What I’m talking about is the situation where there is an enduring, chronic misalignment between you that seems impossible to resolve. Here, not only is it commonplace to start picturing your life as a single person, but people also start to imagine their spouse dying so they aren’t in the picture at all, even as a co-parent.
That’s not something that is openly discussed but it may come as a relief to know that in my interviews I’ve talked with many people who have imagined their spouse being killed in a car accident or in a tragic plane crash returning from a business trip and other variations. These are not people who placed little value on human life or who were filled with hatred to the point of planning their spouse’s demise. They are regular, everyday people like you and me.
Wishing you were single or that your spouse was out of the picture is a sign that deep down inside you know your marriage isn’t working and likely, will never work but you’re looking for an easy way out. You want to be single but you don’t want to go through a divorce. Perhaps you're thinking that it would be easier to be widowed than divorced. You want to fast forward through all the nastiness. Unfortunately, there is no fast-forward button. There is no escaping confronting your spouse, nor is there a way to avoid the difficult, potentially contentious discussions about ending your marriage.
You’re going to have to do the hard work, step-by-step. Here are three tips to get you started:
- Develop your vision for your single life. Give yourself permission to expand on your fantasy: where you live, what your home is like, where you’re working, how you and your spouse are sharing parenting responsibilities, how you handle the day-to-day logistics, how your children respond to two homes and so on. The more detail you put on this the better. Having this vision will help you make many divorce-related decisions and if you can create a mental image of the new happy life you’ve created where you’re laughing, with friends, having fun with your children, that picture will help sustain you through the emotionally-draining divorce process.
- Figure out why you haven’t seen divorce as an option. This is often about our beliefs and one way to identify this is to write down all your responses to the question, “Why not get divorced?” These could be your religious beliefs such as your faith community not recognizing divorce, your ethical beliefs such as breaking your wedding vows, your own beliefs around marriage such as it is forever, your experience with divorce which may be that no one in your immediate family has ever been divorced.
You then need to look at each of these reasons and unpack it, understand why you feel the way you do, question whether that is still legitimate given your circumstances and be open to other perspectives. This can be a difficult process to do on your own and you may find yourself going round in circles. So consider working with a mental health profession such as a divorce coach.
- Consult with an attorney. This is just an initial exploration to find out what your rights and obligations would be if you were to proceed. Talking to an attorney doesn’t mean you’re getting divorced. It doesn’t mean you’ve crossed a line and there’s no going back. It just means you‘re gathering information to help you make a decision. This consult should help you identify the issues that will be of particular concern for you and from here you can start researching those issues in more detail.
If you’ve been avoiding thinking about divorce you may find that much of that is due to a fear of the unknown and perceptions that are based on assumptions rather than facts. Researching divorce means removing this uncertainty and getting realistic information on which to base your decision. Just as this research may help you move ahead with ending your marriage, you may alternatively decide that divorce is not the answer or maybe that the timing just isn’t right. And later on when you find yourself fantasizing about being single again you’ll know it’s time to revisit the question of divorce.
Mandy Walker is a divorce coach and mediator. If you’ve been fantasizing about being single then Mandy’s free audio program, 5 Ways To Know If Divorce Is Right For You may help you. Mandy is also the creator of the online, divorce coaching program My Divorce Pal which has an entire track devoted to making the decision to divorce.