Common Myths about Divorce
Written By: Mark Smith
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I tell every couple who comes to see me that my goal is to change their paradigms: how they view their problems, themselves, their spouse, their parents, their kids, their work, their money, their perspectives of reality, etc. Most people who have gotten divorced did not really need to. They got divorced because they felt like they were out of other reasonable options. In this article, I am going to discuss several common myths that result in people ending up believing that divorce is their best option.
MYTH #1: "I am a victim of my spouse's behavior. They have damaged the relationship and hurt me too deeply to ever even think about forgiving them."
This one is at the top of the chart. Imagine the surprise of these couples when they learn that, in fact, there are no victims in marriage. The selection of a marital partner is a matter of the heart. Virtually all of our hearts get damaged in some way and in various degrees during our childhoods. It might be a distant father, or a critical mother, or rigid discipline, or anxiety, or divorce. It could be so many different things. All families are imperfect. Basically, what we do is instinctively draw to ourselves someone who will love us with the same type and quality of love that we received from our parents when we were growing up. As children, we construct psychological walls, which, while they insulate us from our pain, also serve to bury our unresolved core issues. Our "victimizing" spouses are actually doing us a wonderful favor. They break down our walls, dredge up our deepest issues, and then present us with an opportunity for growth and proactivity. So, the daughter of a controlling, raging father marries a controlling, raging husband, and a man who was abandoned by his parents when he was a child is stung to his core when his wife abandons him by having an affair. Our marriages are about us, not our spouses. Our lives are about our choices. They are about what we settle for. If you have a victim mentality you can't grow. All you can do is vent, and triangle, and be miserable. I have never worked with a couple where the responsibility for the marital issues was anything other than 50%-50%. Learn why you settled for being loved so inadequately and fix that within yourself. If your spouse is game to do the same, there is absolutely no need for a divorce.
MYTH #2: Another huge myth responsible for countless divorces goes like this, "I'm not happy with my wife. It was a mistake marrying her. I'm going to divorce her, then find somebody who I know will definitely make me happy some day. I'm sure she is out there. I deserve to be happy."
If it were only true, it would be great. The downside with that logic is that the nature of the marital problem is misunderstood. Your spouse isn't the problem. In an indirect, somewhat perverse way, they are actually a big part of the cure for the problem. The problem actually lies within us—our unresolved issues from childhood, our selecting and settling for inadequate love. We must first fix things deep within ourselves. I tell people that they can learn the hard way, or the harder way. The hard way is opening up their core issues during an extended period of therapy. The harder way is not learning from the past, not gaining insight into their own responsibility for their lives, and then repeating the very same dysfunctional relationship with a different name and face. We never marry the wrong person. We select exactly who we need to select in order to help us heal ourselves. We do this instinctively and unconsciously. On an unconscious level, we know exactly who we are selecting when we fall in love. Divorcing and looking elsewhere is a nightmare of complications. It is not necessary. If we do the work that we need to do, and our spouse is willing and able as well, we might as well stay with the one person we have children, history, and an estate with already.
People can and do change. They just need effective professional direction. They need a road map (a paradigm) that is proven and true. They need to be understood and not judged. They need to be heard. In such an environment, most people are willing to experience some initial pain and adjusting in order to avoid the pain of divorce. I tell my clients that you only really need three things in order to build a healthy interdependent marriage: (1) At some point having some chemistry or psychological connection; (2) Two people who are accountable, psychologically open, teachable and willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard; and (3) Time—lots of time.
I hope this article has comforted those of you who have been disturbed about the pain, distance, and lack of fulfillment in your marriage. On the wall of the YMCA where I play basketball there is a poster listing the keys to a happy life. Number one on the list is marriage. Getting it right is so important to the rest of our mental health and happiness. The key to your spouse changing for the better is you getting the focus of your unhappiness off of them and on to yourself in a proactive program for personal growth.
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