Elly McGeary Fossum, M.S., M.F.T
I have had extensive experience and training in working with families, particularly, working with couples. I have been married for 40 years and have raised two children. The focus of my work as a therapist has been to help people find their own personal lifestyle. A lifestyle that is not only life enhancing but a lifestyle that includes developing acceptance and understanding in close relationships, whether it be a significant other or a family member.
I believe that most couples can stay together unless, of course, there are problems with substance abuse, domestic violence that endangers one of both of the couple and/or the children, criminal acts, chronic poor judgment, or, a persistent failure to maintain a committed relationships. I say, a "persistent" failure to maintain a committed relationship because I have found that affairs are often a symptom of problems in a marriage rather than a reason to end the relationship. Oftentimes marital relationship are considerably improved once the couple works to find out why the affair or liaison has occurred.
Marriage can be very challenging in many different ways. People often find they have married someone who is very different from themselves. This then can lead to what people perceive as an unworkable problem in a relationship. Differences are inevitable in a marriage and actually can enhance a relationship. These couples then also find it hard to articulate and assert themselves when they do know what they want and frequently end feeling like strangers because they don't know how to share their thoughts and feelings.
Leaving a marriage because of destructive behaviors is one issue. Leaving because your partner isn't perfect or lacks the tools to be in a healthy relationship is quite different. I have seen numerous couples who have worked through an impasse to find a happy, more fulfilling relationship with each other.
Many couples make a decision to get married without talking about what they hope for and expect in a marriage. I've often seen married couples who are having problems because one of the partners wants children and the other doesn't. It's quite an impasse for them that could have been avoided if they had talked about such an important issue before they made the decision to get married. It can be very beneficial to a couple to sit down and talk with a therapist about what they hope for in a their marriage before they get married. It makes things a lot easier as the couple transverse the challenges of married life.
Divorce doesn't solve problems-it merely changes them. People who decide to divorce believe that the future will bring about a better, fulfilling life. Unfortunately, this isn't true. People can actually take problems from one relationship to the next not trying to find out why the relationship didn't actually work. The pressures of divorce (and co-parenting if there are children) often exceed the pressures of even a poorly functioning but intact relationship. If you had difficulty making parental decisions when you were together, making co-parenting decisions is even more difficult after a divorce.
If you have done all you can to save your marriage divorce might be the only solution. There are several different ways to end a marriage. There is a section on my website entitled Collaborative Divorce. I encourage you to take a look at working through your divorce Collaboratively. It is a healthy, thoughtful way to end a marriage without all the rancor of going to Court. It is beneficial to the couple and, most importantly, beneficial to the child.