Sex & Relationships

Together Apart: 4 Reasons People Who Want to Get Divorced Don't

It’s not all doom and gloom—but careful planning is necessary to safeguard the future of yourself and your children.

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Photo Credit: Andrew Bird/Bristol Wedding Photography/Flickr CC

It's so easy to sit and pass judgment on why friends or family stay “trapped” in unhappy relationships. We often wonder why she hasn’t left him/her, why can't she see that she could do much better, why can't she value her self-worth, etc.

But while it may seem like the logical thing to do, for many, it’s not so simple in reality. Many complex factors come to play, and people “stick it out” for all kinds of reasons, often at a personal price.

Here are some common reasons, and how to overcome the fear:

1. "I'm staying for the children."

The effects of divorce or separation on children can be devastating. No parent wants to see their kids suffer as a result, and we tend to stay because we “owe” it to them to play “happy family.” Plus, the thought of raising children alone is terrifying.

But if you have both been unhappy for a number of years—and counseling has been futile—children can already sense this. It’s much better for their emotional well-being to be in a more positive, secure, and nurturing environment, rather than one filled with constant arguments and conflict.

Of course, it’s never an easy decision to make, and it will take time for all to adjust. But it ispossible to achieve successful co-parenting that will suit everyone’s needs—and importantly, your children’s happiness will always come first.

2. “I don't want to have to start all over again.”

When people have been in long-term relationships, the very thought of “starting again” is daunting. For many who are so used to living and doing things in a partnership, they don’t know what it’s like to be independent.

This can create vulnerability: So many people stay in unhappy relationships because they're afraid they would be lonely otherwise, or because they feel they’re “too old” to start over. While it seems scary, begin by changing the negatives into positives, and don’t isolate yourself. Surround yourself with a great support network of friends and family, do the things you enjoy, and focus on the goals you want to achieve on your own.

It will be challenging at first to get into that mindset, but once you realize your path to true happiness, you have a whole new next chapter to look forward to.

3. “I'll lose my financial security.”

Divorce is an expensive business. It can often cost more for people to live apart than together—especially when one person is the main breadwinner and the other person is responsible for child care and managing the house.

Sometimes the financial burden and lifestyle change can put people off. In fact, many separated couples are forced to live under the same roof because they simply can’t afford to live elsewhere.

But before you make any big decisions, plan wisely. Get legal advice to find out what your rights are and look into your personal finances. Do you need more time to save? Are there any cutbacks you could make? Do you need another source of income?

If you have children, agree with your partner what financial arrangements can be made for them. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for support from family or friends. It’s not all doom and gloom—but careful planning is necessary to safeguard the future of yourself and your children.

4. “I'm afraid of the social repercussions.”

Everyone will gossip about me. What will they say? 

These are things we often worry about when long-term relationships or marriages fail. It’s particularly difficult if you have established a good relationship with the in-laws, or if you both enjoyed an active social life with a close network of friends.

All of a sudden, you have to declare to everyone that your relationship was far from “perfect,” which can often bring a sense of failure or embarrassment.

But there’s no need to feel ashamed when it doesn’t work out as planned. You’re not the first, and certainly won’t be the last! Don’t rush to tell people; take some time out for yourself until you’re ready to face the world.

Also, don’t be concerned about what they might think of you. Just focus on what you need to do for your own happiness—if they're truly your friends, they will support you no matter what. 

This story by Cynthia Lawrence originally appeared on Ravishly, a feminist news+culture website.

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