I’m currently earning my way in or out of a relationship. The direction really doesn’t matter since the process is the same.
Two of my “self improvement” sources mention earning your way out of marriage before filing for divorce. Both have gone as far as confidently saying that what has been done in the past probably doesn’t even come close to the real work required to earn your way out of a relationship. Somehow those rewarding behaviors of martyrdom, complaining, finger pointing, stonewalling and withdrawing don’t make the list of things to do.
You shouldn’t get divorced until you earn your way out. That means turning over every stone and exploring every avenue of rehabilitation in a sincere effort to reconnect with your partner. ~Dr. Phil
What does this mean to me? What do I need to do to look at myself in the mirror and know that I did my best? What steps do I need to take to make sure I have no doubts following me into the future?
I’ve got my list in hand:
Let Husband #2 know there’s a problem
This may seem silly since we are separated but I think it’s of paramount importance to let your partner know there is dissatisfaction in your marriage. Withdrawing is not the way to do it. Having a tough, matter of fact conversation before things get dire is the way to go. Early detection is key.
I’m not talking about marriage counseling, which I think is flawed as it pits one spouse against the other. I’m talking about personal therapy. “Figure out your own fixing”, to quote Mort Fertel. Figure out what you have inside of you that makes you work at odds with your goal of being in a long-term committed relationship. Here’s my list.
Tell Husband #2 my goals and hopes for our future relationship
This part may fall on deaf ears, but at least I will have voiced what I want and expect out of a romantic partner/spouse.
Establish healthy boundaries
By figuring out what I want and what I won’t tolerate, I can make better decisions about the relationships I choose to pursue. A great marriage doesn’t have to be a 100% meeting of the minds, but there does have to be some compatibility when it comes to beliefs and values. I value honesty. Lie to me and you won’t get to spend much time in my life. I’m not talking about the little white lies we tell each other to keep feelings from being hurt…I’m talking about the big lies.
Working on myself
This goes hand in hand with getting help. And includes all those parts of self-improvement outside of personal therapy. Being financially independent, losing a lot of weight, exploring my own interests, and becoming detached from the daily drama are things I’ve been focused on during my time apart from Husband #2.
Being open about my feelings
It’s ok to be sad, disappointed, angry, scared…. I’m more open about my feelings and not worried about Husband #2’s ability or inability to handle them. My feelings are the way I communicate what’s going on inside. There is no stonewalling or withholding allowed.
Setting a deadline for action
I can’t deny the fact that I’m 48 years old and looking at the second half of my life. My age is my wake-up call. I realize that there will be hard decisions to make and setting a window for those decisions helps to keep me on track. My deadline is November. As I promised Husband #2, I would make no decisions until that time.
Attempting to discover solutions that both Husband #2 and I can live with
We all know romantic love dies and that’s when the real work begins. I’m involved with the real work looking at things with fresh eyes and imagination. I am fully aware that this may all be one-sided but, again, it’s what I need to do.
Becoming the best person I can be at this time
No matter what the outcome is with Husband #2 I know that I’ll be a better person coming out of it. As Kazimierz Dabrowski postulated, trauma is often necessary to make large, permanent changes in a person’s personality….the pain creates enough emotional energy to move a person forward in their changes.
All of these things are meant to change me, no one else. And being the better person at the end of the process I may earn my way into a great marriage or out of a unfulfilling one. At least I’ll know I did my best.