Your Spouse is Involved with Someone Else
I don’t consider it a marital death sentence if one spouse is having either an emotional or physical affair with someone else. I have seen countless marriages survive infidelity and even become stronger after the healing begins. However, it is also true that positive change in marriage is harder to achieve when one spouse is emotionally or physically interested or attached to someone else. In my practice, when I see couples, who on the surface are saying, “we want our marriage to work,” but as time progresses and nothing changes, it’s often the case that one spouse has a “special friend” waiting in the wings. There are some key phrases I’ve heard over the years in marriages where this is happening. See if any of this sounds familiar to you.
“I admit that my spouse is changing, but it doesn’t change how I feel about him/her.”
“it’s not about my spouse, it’s about me. There’s nothing s/he can do to make things better. It’s all inside my head.”
“Yes, my spouse is changing, but I think it’s too little, too late.”
“I feel like we’re brother and sister.” (referring to the fact that there are no longer feelings of attraction.)
And last, but not least, the all-time favorite:
“I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”
You are not to blame for the lack of progress in your marriage. It’s likely that you are doing everything right but you are hitting up against a brick wall. If your partner’s extramarital interests are secretive, it’s especially difficult because it prevents you from confronting the real issues in your marriage. And it prevents your spouse from seeing things clearly and from putting his/her soul into making your marriage work.
Your spouse has decided your marriage is over
One of the reasons nothing you do seems to be working is because it isn’t. As cold and cruel as it seems, when some people announce the death of their marriages, they really mean it. For them, over means over. Once this happens there is absolutely nothing anyone can say or do to change that persons mind. The only thing you can do is make matters worse.
But here’s the problem for someone like you who desperately wants to make things better and keep your marriage thriving. There is no clear way to tell when “over” means “over” and when it means “over, maybe.”
Sometimes people say, “it’s over,” in the heat of passion and it means nothing. Sometimes people say, “it’s over” after thinking things out, but the next day they wake up and they aren’t quite as sure about ending their marriages as they were the day before. Even though they might give an unbending appearance, the divorce is far from etched in stone. And then there are the diehards, the immovable ones who rarely retract a decision once it’s made. When these folks say it’s over, only a miracle could change things.
Since it’s hard to know whether your spouse is truly done with your marriage or just needs some more time to come to his/her sense, if I were you, I would err on the side of caution. Why not assume that this is going to take much longer than you anticipated, but that, in the end, things will work out. “Act as if” you believe that your marriage sill has possibilities. Do the things you would do if you envisioned a positive outcome to all of your efforts. Don’t allow friends, relatives, lawyers, or therapist to tell you that you should move forward in your life if that’s not your heart’s desire. If you are still hopeful that your spouse will eventually reconsider, keep practicing the techniques I’ve taught you. Don’t stop until you are absolutely convinced that it’s over. Surround yourself with people who will support you in this endeavor.
Sometimes people ask me how they will know when to stop trying to save their marriage. I don’t have a clue. The only person who knows when you should stop working on your marriage is you. You are the expert here, not your mother, father, spouse, rabbi, pastor… just you. Only you, in the privacy of your own thoughts at night, can tell whether you’ve left no stone unturned, whether you still have energy to give. If you do, then continue. If after lots of soul-searching, you decide that you can no longer continue feeling the intense hurt and pain that stem from the rejection you are experiencing, then, and only then, should you consider other options.
Start by focusing on your own life. When you let go, you will go through a mourning period that is natural. Even if you are at peace with your decision to refocus, you will probably feel intense pain. In some ways, it’s very much like a death. It’s the death of a dream that you had for yourself and your family. It’s the death of a relationship. Allow yourself to feel the pain. And at the same time, begin to think about what you can do to fill the void. Spend time with loved ones. Do nice things for yourself. Keep yourself busy. Although it’s hard to believe when you’re going through it, know that your life will go on. You will find happiness again. Many of the people with whom I work who go through a divorce, go on to find new partners and blend families and have new children. Their lives don’t end just because their marriages do. They join support groups in their churches or through their mental health centers. They double their efforts to spend time with their children. They learn everything they can about co-parenting after a divorce. They find new interests. But all of this happens slowly. Healing takes a lot of time. You need to reach out to others. There is life after divorce.
I know that many of my divorce-busting fans might be surprised by my words here. I’ve never before talked about life after divorce. I feared that by discussing the D word, I might actually be encouraging people to throw in the towel prematurely. This is the very last thing I would ever want to do. I hate divorce. I believe you must know that by now. I write about the possibility of letting go for only one reason. I don’t want people who have been in excruciating pain because of unrequited love to feel judged when they eventually decide to move on with their lives. In truth, we only have one go-around. We are all entitled to happiness. If, after you have tried everything humanly possible to win back your spouse’s love to no avail, you can’t torture yourself forever. Just make darn sure before you move forward with your life that you can honestly say, I’ve given it my all.” Then make peace with your decision.
It is my hope the above advice will be the catalyst to help dig your marriage out of it’s current rut. If you do need additional help, I encourage you to consult with a Divorce Busting Coach to give you the tools and support to reignite the loving flame in your marriage once again.
Michele Weiner-Davis is a best selling author, internationally renowned marriage therapist, and award winning speaker who has dedicated the last 30+ years of her life to preventing unnecessary divorces. Get her latest advice on Facebook, Twitter, and join the Divorce Busting e-mail list.