If your marriage is like every marriage that has ever existed since the beginning of time, you and your spouse have experienced some rough patches. There are mountains and valleys to every relationship, but the marital bond seems to have be created only to be frequently tested by fire. There comes a time in many marriages when one or both partners comes to the difficult conclusion that the relationship no longer works as is and it needs more help than what a mere tweaking can accomplish.
It’s tempting to go to family and friends to get their feedback on what they see wrong and how to fix it. Don’t. Seriously, don’t. People involved in your lives will invariably choose sides. This makes it very difficult to get an objective viewpoint from them. It also creates bad feelings between your loved ones and your spouse, which makes any kind of reconciliation harder. Instead, seek a neutral party to help. Individual therapy, marriage counseling, support groups or marriage retreats are a much better way to fix what’s wrong. Since there are two of you in the marriage, you both bear the fault for the problems and the responsibility to work to fix them.
What happens if you think that spending some time apart will help things between you? If you need the perspective that solitude will bring, perhaps you want to first consider a legal separation vs a divorce. There are key similarities between the two. A legal separation divides assets, arranges custody of your children, dictates alimony or support payments and forces both parties to establish separate lives away from the matrimonial state. The important difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that you are still legally married to one another even though you are living your lives apart from one another. This may be a step towards divorce or a step towards reconciliation, depending on how each spouse reacts to being separated.
Your Next Step
None of this is fun. You’re probably dreading this and maybe even a little scared. Yet if you decide your marriage is over, you shouldn’t drag your feet about it, either. While divorce isn’t painless, your trauma can be minimized if you and your spouse commit to treating each other with dignity and respect. Employing the services of a divorce mediator may help you to do that. A mediator’s job is to help both parties come to a reasonable solution about things like asset division and custody. You can definitely still have an attorney to represent your interests, but a mediator is supposed to work with both spouses equally and fairly. Mediation won’t work if one spouse is abusive, so be sure to hire a good attorney if that’s your situation. A good lawyer will fight for you, getting what you deserve as your marriage dissolves.
Your path forward is neither clear-cut nor easy. You and you partner are going to have to draw on communication skills that may be rusty or non-existent. Your best bet is to seek professional help, either from a qualified counselor, a mediator or an attorney. Perhaps all three.