1. How will your decision impact the children?
Divorce will definitely be hard on the children. They’ve gotten used to having both parents and the lifestyle that goes with that. Being together definitely makes it easier to manage parental duties if the two of you are working well together. But, the chances are that you are not – otherwise you wouldn’t be considering a divorce.
In some instances, staying together for the sake of children may be beneficial for children, but not always. Living in a toxic environment where parents argue, are unhappy, or if there is an underlying passive aggression and overall despise for each other is harmful for children. They may learn that marriages and relationships are not worthwhile and become hardened due to prolonged exposure to negative relational patterns between their father and you.
If, on the other hand, you and your husband* are managing difficulties in a friendly manner, and you are waiting for your children to complete an important milestone, such as going to college, it may be beneficial for you two to stay together to help your children complete their education, or adjust to some other new situation.
In either case, whether you stay together or divorce, what matters is that you are able to work it out with their father in a collaborative manner. Don’t deny your children a chance to continue their relationship with their father. If you have issues with their father, handle them behind closed doors, and avoid involving your children in the middle. Don’t use the children as your emotional support and play the victim in front of them. Collaborate with their father to the best of your ability in order to help your children adjust to the new situation.
2. Are your spouse’s offences “hard” or “soft”?
The other important thing to consider is what it is that you tolerate from your partner. There is a difference between so-called “hard” and “soft” problems. Hard problems are problems that most women usually don’t want to tolerate or we say that we don’t want to tolerate. Those are problems that you say to yourself are unacceptable for you. Yet, many of us wind up tolerating some of these behaviors. You might have tolerated them because of hope that he may potentially change. These issues usually include addictions, cheating, emotional or physical abuse, etc.
You go through a roller coaster with him. He hurts you, you are upset and want to leave, and then he tries to make amends. He buys you flowers, takes you out, and gives you extra attention. He promises he will never do it again. But, things usually don’t stay good for long. If he is a chronic cheater, alcoholic, or abuser, he goes back to his old patterns after some time. There are many examples of this, but the most recent that comes to mind is Huma Abedin and her husband, Anthony Weiner. After the first scandal of her husband’s sexting, Huma tried to work on her marriage, but the scandal reemerged again. He was caught sexting again. She is finally leaving him now.
Whether you decide to give him another chance or bail, it’s important to know that his habits may be hard to change. You need to know that he may return to old habits and hurt you again. What’s important to know here is that you are not responsible for his behavior. No matter how nice, beautiful, smart, or successful you may be, this will not change him.
The question is how would you like your life to be. Can you make the life you want with the way he is? Are you willing to be there for him and dedicate your life to him, while your life and desires are on hold? A five-year question is good to ask yourself when you are stuck: “How will I feel if my life with him is the same as it is in five years?” This question can help you get mobilized to create the life you want.
On the other hand, his offences may be so-called soft offences. He may be less affectionate than you wish, he may be boring, or something trivial like snoring too much. The point is that there are so many reasons why we may “fall out of love” with our husband. These are common patterns in many marriages and couples can work through them if they both are willing. It’s important that you know if you really want to save your marriage, or you are in the place where you realize that you want a different life. You two may want completely different things in life at this point. You also may be feeling torn and not know in which direction you want to go.
3. What have you contributed to the relationship problems?
This is one of the most important questions. This helps you see what went wrong, and how you can improve your current marriage situation or avoid the same mistakes in your future relationships. Even if your husband was cheating on you, there may be some ways in which you contributed to the dysfunction in the relationship. Maybe you were too busy with work or you diverted all the attention to the children while neglecting him. His cheating or any other dysfunctional behaviors are not your responsibility though, and they are still unacceptable. If your husband is not a chronic cheater, there may be hope for you if you are willing to look into your contribution to the relationship issues.
Some men may just be cheaters (or addicts, abusers, etc.) regardless of how beautiful, fun, successful, or attractive you are. They will cheat regardless of how much attention you give them. The question for yourself is, what keeps me with him? This is for you to sort out. Your answers may be completely pragmatic and related to the lifestyle you are used to with him. Or, you may be insecure and worried that you can’t make it on your own. You may think, It’s too late for me to find new love and start over. In this case, I like to go back to the “five-year question”: How will I feel if everything stays the same in five years? Staying in a crappy situation can be a bigger risk than trying to make it work on your own. It’s equal to death to stay in the same situation, according to some women. It can feel like existential death to stay in the same situation and go through the motions in life.
These questions can help you sort things out and get in touch with your feelings. These questions may lead to more questions and exploration. But being stuck and living your life on autopilot is not an option if you want to live a happy life. Life is too short to not try and live the best life we can.
Individual therapy can help you sort things out. If you are working together with your husband, and one or both of you are uncertain about what you want to do, discernment counseling is a good option to consider. A good discernment counselor will help you both see what went wrong in the relationship, examine the current state of the relationship, and help you decide if you want to work on your relationship or part in the way that is the least painful.
* This article has been written as though the reader is female to avoid all the awkward “he/she” and “husband/wife” language. You can substitute “wife” for “husband”, “she” for “he”, etc. to fit your own situation.