Pingel Family Law Pingel Family Law
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How Do I Know If and When It's Time to Divorce?

At Pingel Family Law, we often share with clients that just because they’ve walked through the doors of our office, it does not mean that they need to, nor that we are going to try to guide them towards a divorce. Clients often consult with us for many reasons, including to have a better understanding of what could happen or what their rights are if things don’t improve in their marriage. Often, the best service we can provide for a client going through a hard time in his or her life is valued guidance, input and strategies to work through decisions. Both, morally and ethically, we view it as an important part of our role in a meaningful attorney client relationship to give clients input about saving their marriage if that is their desire and even to provide resources such as therapists and other recommendations from our large network of professional referrals that we have to serve our clients.

Often marriages will go through highs and lows. Sometimes, depending on the issues, the level of frustration and the length of time the marriage has struggled, those lows can feel like impassable, hopeless extreme lows. Sometimes, having a consultation with one of our attorneys with a fresh perspective about creating and setting boundaries, working through communication difficulties and new strategies can be the breakthrough you need to work through problems in your marriage. At Pingel Family Law, after more than twenty years of helping parties get through divorce and other family law matters in Kansas and Missouri, we have also been knowledgeable about efforts and steps that you can work through in trying to reconcile and repair your marriage. Allow us to share this guidance along with the information you may be looking for in the event that your marriage cannot be saved.

When people are contemplating divorce or in some situations, the other party has indicated that they are requesting a separation or desire a divorce, people often ponder whether they should actually get a divorce. More than half of married couples indicated in a recent poll that one or both of the partners have talked about, considered and/or asked for a divorce at some point during the marriage. Determining whether it is truly time to end your marriage is a personal decision that you ultimately have to make, deciding whether you should continue to dig in and work through issues or decide that you’ve had enough and it’s time to call it quits.

For many people, there are some “unbreakable” signs that a marriage may be over. Often, for people these include either infidelity or for some, multiple instances of infidelity (where they have given a spouse a second chance only to have them break the trust again), a complete lack of communication, unyielding money mismanagement or toxic and/or abusive behavior. However, many couples determine that their marriage needs to come to an end after considering less obvious broken boundaries and thus, they struggle with when to decide enough is enough. If you are seeing red flags and trying to decide if your marriage should continue or come to an end, it may be an appropriate time to have a consultation or initial case assessment with a family law attorney so that you can discuss what is involved in your situation and do some pre-divorce planning while you are considering your options.

Some people, rather than asking if they should save their marriage prefer to contemplate whether they have done everything in their power to try to save their marriage. Often the final steps of answering this question, assuming there is not substance abuse, drug or alcohol use or abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, untreated mental illness or other safety concerns is answered by working with a qualified therapist or other mental health professional to aid you in exploring these concerns. 

For many spouses, they need to evaluate and consider the following factors in trying to make a decision about whether divorce is the right option for them or not. If you are evaluating any of these concerns, again, it may be an appropriate time to seek a divorce consultation, and it may also be appropriate for you to seek out marriage counseling or therapy with a goal of working through specific issues and areas of concern.

  1. You start to feel self-doubt.

Of course, self-doubt can take on many forms, however, if you’ve always been happy and self-confident and suddenly you find the circumstances of your marriage changing your disposition, it is probably time to give the marriage a long, hard consideration. If your spouse is regularly devaluing you, discounting your thoughts and input or making you feel like less than him or her through words or actions, you need to take stock of these behaviors. These are not healthy feelings and often, if you are unable to take stock of them, you will transfer these feelings into your career, your interactions with employers and co-workers, your family and children, as well as in other social settings. Don’t allow your spouse or staying in your marriage to change who you are! Even more difficult is situations when your spouse makes you feel that everything that goes wrong in your life, their life and the family’s life is your fault. In any conflict or disagreement, there are two people contributing to the issues that are present. 

2. Your partner is no longer making an effort or you’ve become ambivalent about making an effort.

Marriages are often faced with challenges. Someone no longer making an effort is not about getting through a difficult time or period. Both parties, at times during a marriage, may have a large project due at work, mandatory overtime or other substantial time commitments. If the marriage is suffering a disconnection for a prolonged period of time, even after the time-consuming work or other commitments are resolved, this may be a sign that the marriage is over. If one or both of you indicates a lack of willingness or desire to even attend marriage counseling to work through issues, there is likely a complete disinterest in getting past the issues and moving forward. 

3. You don’t support or listen to each other.

Active listening is important in every positive marriage. It is not enough to hear the words that the other person says, but to meaningfully listen to them, show signs that you or your spouse have listened and offer supportive feedback. If you and your spouse are no longer in a place to work together in this manner then at best, you are in need of immediate marriage counseling to work through the communication breakdown. When your marriage has lost communication abilities and neither partner cares enough to work through those communication issues, it is likely that is another sign that it is time to end your marriage. In many marriages, the lack of meaningful communication results in one or both spouses finding a new person to communicate with, often leading to infidelity. If you want to prevent your marriage from going in that direction then get professional intervention as soon as possible. If you no longer care that your spouse would have an affair or you would prefer to simply find someone else to communicate with then it is time to resolve the marriage you are in so you are emotionally and physically ready and available to move forward.

4. You or your partner have unrealistic expectations.

Some spouses remain living in the past. Whereas, every marriage and partnership grows and changes over time, some spouses are unable to evolve with changes that occur. For example, if your spouse has had the privilege of not having much work or expectation around the house, with the arrival of a new baby, those requirements may change. If your spouse (or you) expect to keep things as they once were, forever, even with changing circumstances, likely your marriage will struggle without professional guidance or input.

5. You and your partner have decreased time together.

Decreased time in a marriage can be a temporary sacrifice for a limited period of time to serve an agreed-upon purpose and benefit for the marriage or the family. For example, when children are born, some spouses agree to work opposite shifts to allow their child to be cared for by them rather than attend a daycare. Obviously if you and your spouse agreed to such an arrangement then a period of a few months or even a couple of years with less time is a small sacrifice over the course of your life together. On the other hand if there are no reasons for you and your spouse to be working opposite shifts and one or both of you have the opportunity to change your shifts, but the lack of time together continues, this reflects a priority that one or both of the spouses have placed on your marriage and relationship. Often the break-down of time spent together also leads to a lack of intimacy with one another. For many couples this cycle of break down becomes something that either needs to be fixed or you and your spouse need to have a heart to heart realization that you have both already disengaged from the marriage. 

6. You and your spouse are not on the same page about your future.

Sometimes when a marriage starts both people want the same things and plan to pursue those things together. Sometimes life has a way of changing or reconfiguring priorities. For example, if you end up having a child with special needs, one spouse may want to relocate to seek the best health or educational care for the child while the other spouse does not appear to prioritize the child’s special needs in the same way. In other situations, one spouse’s desires for their future simply change. People evolve and change over time. It’s okay for one person’s desire for their future twenty years ago to no longer be their desire today. If you and your spouse can find compromise for your future and timeline together then perhaps the marriage can be saved. For some couples, their desire to have children- or not, changes over time. Some couples get married and agree that they do not want children, but one spouse decides a few years down the road that he or she will not be complete if they don’t have one or more children. Obviously, one spouse should not “give in” and have a child that he or she does not want for the sake of making the other spouse happy. This is a life-long commitment that should not be entered into lightly. On the other hand, if the spouses agreed to have children and one spouse later changes his or her mind, you should not “talk the other spouse into” having unwanted children. That will serve as a lifetime of frustrating moments and an unhappy childhood for your wanted children. If one spouse has a desire or need for the future and the other spouse is uncompromising in being willing to find a solution, the marriage is not going to be able to work out long term as one spouse will eventually become resentful and angry to the point that the marriage union will break down.

7. There’s a lack of respect in the relationship or marriage.

Many issues and problems in a marriage come down to a lack of healthy or mutual respect. Once that is gone, it is almost impossible to return to a health relationship. Of course, this can be worked through with intervention from marriage counselors and professionals, but it is often a long, difficult road. Marriages that lack respect often have either reached a toxic level or are going to reach that toxic place next. If you can no longer communicate in a civil, healthy way or one partner uses stonewalling techniques where he or she refuses to communicate for extended periods as a manipulative strategy, it is probably time to move forward with ending your relationship. Often, if there is a lack of respect, it is better to amicably and peacefully agree to go your separate ways than it is to engage in hurtful or damaging behavior toward one another that may still result in the conclusion of your marriage but may also make it difficult or impossible to co-parent children and lead to feelings of hatred or contempt toward the other party. If every issue or adversity becomes the source of an angry, bitter fight, it is probably time to move forward. 

8. The blending of your families has failed.

With more than 50% of marriages ending in divorce, this means our society is also seeing an unprecedented number of blended families. If you and your spouse have obtained professional intervention and the situation with siblings, step-children or other extended family cannot be worked through after months of therapy and other efforts, it may be in the best interests of your children and your spouse’s children to simply agree to go your own ways. Don’t allow your child to have a miserable, unhappy childhood because the issues of blending your family cannot be worked through!

9. If your spouse is a serial cheater.

Many spouses have a “zero tolerance policy” for cheating and say if you cheat once, the marriage is over. Other spouses will forgive an indiscretion and try to move forward. Often, one of the most difficult situations to recover from is an affair. If you and your spouse are trying to work through this issue, you almost certainly need professional therapeutic intervention. Often, marriages can suffer months or years of angry repercussions from an indiscretion. However, if an affair has occurred, you and your spouse have worked through the issue and recommitted to one another but your spouse has yet another indiscretion, the marriage is probably not able to be saved. This is because some spouses are simply incapable of being monogamous. If your spouse has seen the damage and hurt that their behavior has caused, has promised that they will not engage in the behavior again and yet they do, often there is an inability to work through and heal from a second (or more) indiscretion. If you tried to work through a breach of trust and it was breached again, often a therapist will indicate that there is not further constructive, healing work that he or she is able to do.

10. There has been domestic violence.

This is one of the toxic situations that is not safe for you and/or your children and at a minimum, if you decide you want to try to work through your marriage, you need to do it from separate living situations, safely. If your spouse is committed to addressing his or her domestic violence issues, which are not just anger-focused but also about a power and control dynamic, he or she needs an extensive batterer’s program. This program is often characterized by several hours a week of commitment for a period of time lasting a year or even longer. If your spouse is not willing to do the in-depth work he or she needs to engage in to ensure that domestic violence never occurs in your home again, it is time for you to get out. 

11. You’re depressed, anxious or having other mental health symptoms. 

Often, when spouses feel they have made significant effort to work on their marriage, they reach a point of despair, anxiousness or other exacerbated mental health symptoms. If you have reached this point, you need to speak with your physician or therapist and make your health a priority. You matter as much as the marriage!

In conclusion

One of the techniques in marriage therapy that a counselor will sometimes use is to ask each spouse to describe a perfect day. What would you be doing? Who would you be with? What would it look like? If your perfect day no longer involves your spouse, it is probably time to take an in-depth look at why that is. In some situations, walking away from a marriage can be the most gratifying gift you ever give yourself with the one life that you have to live. This is especially true when there is domestic violence, emotional abuse, neglect or irreparable betrayal. However, for some spouses, the fear of the future and the inability to explore beyond the status quo keeps people in miserable marriages for years longer than they should stay. People often report that their divorce process goes smoothly if they have assured themselves that the marriage is over. 

If you can honestly say to yourself that you have made every effort to save your marriage and you still feel as though there is no hope of reconciling (or you feel that you or your children are not safe to continue in the marriage), this is one of the biggest signs you should divorce. While we cannot help you make the decision about what is right for you and your family, we can certainly give you valuable, professional, compassionate and empathetic guidance at the time you need it most. If you want to work longer at remaining in your marriage, you need to decide whether your partner is committed to making the kinds of changes you need to see. At Pingel Family Law, we want to empower you to make the best decisions for you and we will always support those decisions, including a decision to reconcile your marriage at any time.

A decision to divorce always brings big emotions, worries and questions and fears for the future. Call our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Pingel Family Law to help you discuss your options, plan for your future and if needed, discuss mechanisms and opportunities to reconcile your marriage. Let our creative, solution-oriented attorneys help your family today. Call us at (816) 208-8130.

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