Here’s how to decide for yourself.
Marriage, like the love that leads to it, rides many waves of change. And not all are fun. So asking, “Is an unhappy marriage better than divorce?” isn’t a yes-or-no query.
The answer, of course, ultimately lies with you and your spouse. But arriving at the answer shouldn’t be an arbitrary, heat-of-the-moment, feelings-only process.
If you’re at a point in your marriage where you’re contemplating “Is an unhappy marriage better than divorce?” we need to talk.
Ironically, talking — how much, how, when, with what intention — is often what’s missing in marriages on the threshold of divorce. In one way or another, communication is at the root of most problems.
If you research advice regarding staying in or leaving an unhappy marriage, you will get answers across the spectrum. And the black, white and gray of them all will have just as many shades of suggestions and directives.
A person looking for a reason to leave will find one. A person looking for a reason to stay will find one. The availability of advice and justification for any choice is abundant.
And that’s why it’s so important to consider the source of the information, and especially to commit to complete honesty with yourself and your spouse. Ultimately the decision to stay or separate belongs to the two of you. So do the consequences of your choice.
Is an unhappy marriage better than divorce? There will never be a blanket answer to that question. There can, however, be an answer for your marriage — but only if you have an unequivocal grasp on why you are unhappy.
Transitioning through the seasons of love can be confusing, conflicting, even painful. Sure, you may expect that the honeymoon won’t last forever. But how can you possibly know during the fairy-dust stages of falling in love and planning the perfect life that the magic dissipates?
Love grows, evolves, and writes its own story in the context of life. It has growing spurts and growing pains just like children do. And, just like children, sometimes you don’t fully recognize it. Sometimes it bores you to tears, and sometimes you just flat-out don’t like it.
But one thing’s for sure. Just as with children, if you aren’t paying attention to your love as it goes through its changes, you’ll miss it.
You may not even know if what you’re feeling is unhappiness or simply boredom. You’ll just be aware that the elation you felt in the early stages of love and marriage isn’t there anymore.
If you aren’t communicating consistently with yourself and with your spouse, you may misdiagnose your situation. And the last thing you want to do is make a lifetime decision on the basis of misinformation.
Is an unhappy marriage better than divorce? The first step in helping you decide is knowing what an unhappy marriage looks like.
Below are several predictors of an unhappy marriage. Keep in mind that these are not reasons to give up. They are simply symptoms that, depending on number and intensity, can indicate a marriage at-risk.
- The absence of sex and visible affection
- Lack of genuine engagement
- Leading separate lives
- Drastically different values
- Blaming one another
- Fantasizing about life without your spouse
- Disinterest in your spouse’s company
- Control issues
- Not fighting anymore
- Feeling unheard
- Unmet needs
- Unwillingness to get help or work on the marriage
- Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and/or stonewalling
Research studies support what may be surprising to those who feel unhappy in their marriages and don’t see a path to happiness.
Unhappiness is almost always temporary. And there are normal, predictable places in a marriage where it is more likely to rear its dreary head. Like after the birth of a child, when everything changes.
Surprised? If so, consider further that those who stuck it out reported feeling happy in their marriages five to ten years later. (And no, that doesn’t mean they were “miserable” during the time between — only that they were happy they didn’t give up.)
If you’re feeling unhappy in your marriage and are wondering, “Is an unhappy marriage better than divorce,” consider the list above. Also, consider the gravity of any of the signs as they relate to your marriage.
There are a few situations in which the reasons for unhappiness may warrant a less tolerant decision.