Live Like You’re Divorced
Its not what you think.
I’ve been working with couples and families for 18 years and something I hear over and over is excuses about why things can’t be done better. I’d like to focus on excuses in marriage and show that if you want to make your marriage work, living as if you’re divorced can go a long way to helping you not just stay married, but thrive in your relationship.
There are four common problem areas the couples I’ve worked with seem to have: sex, money, time, and control.
With sex, there is often one partner who feels entitled to getting sex whenever they feel the urge. I recently heard a wife tell me that her husband reported changing the light bulbs and then asked in all seriousness, “So, can we spend some time together tonight?” which she knew was his way of asking to have sex as a reward for his hard work. Another client insisted that his wife’s duty was to help him release his tension since his body was producing sperm by the millions every day and the pressure was painful. Give me a BREAK! These men may not be married much longer unless they internalize what I’m suggesting: live like you’re divorced.
Here’s what I mean.
When you’re divorced, you don’t have the right to ask for sex from this person. The ex-spouse is under no obligation to provide “pressure relief” for your aching balls. And the same is true right now, while you’re married. You have to learn some respect and selflessness. Stop bugging her about sex or soon you will be at a point (divorced) where you won’t have sex with her ever again.
Often the complaint is about one or the other spending too much money, not saving, or somehow things not being “fair.” When you’re divorced, you don’t really have any business discussing your ex’s finances. Men are often paying child support, usually hundreds of dollars, and there is nothing they can do about it. Women, most often the recipient of child support aren’t able to make ends meet very well even though they receive the begrudged support payments each month. You lean to live on less. With less to control. Less complaints. Less nit-picking. Less demands. Less selfishness. How about beginning to live that way now?
Excuses about not spending enough time together are always so lame.
- “We don’t have a babysitter we trust.” When you’re divorced, you are both going to be working. You will have responsibility for your child without the benefit of sharing that together. Often the time split is 50/50 in child custody agreements so 3-to-4 days a week, you will be responsible for your kids but will also have other assignments: school, work, yard work and housekeeping, car repairs, etc. And guess what? You’re gonna need a babysitter and will find one. You will utilize your existing support network more, like family and friends. You will learn to trust more and stop being paranoid that people are going to chop your toddler into pieces. You will make new connections. You will spend more money on a more trusted source of child care. The bottom line: you will have needs for child care and will find a way to make that happen. Why not now?
- “Our schedules don’t match.” You live in a shift-work city. One works days, the other works nights. The obstacle here is often sleep and not having any matching time slots. When I’ve helped people through divorce here’s what I see them doing: dating within 3 months. How do they swing it, schedule-wise? They take days off work, call in sick, sacrifice some sleep, change jobs and do ALL KINDS of things that make for better dating availability. When you’re divorced, you are GOING to adapt to a new reality with regard to time management. Why not now?
- “Going on dates always cost money.” Have you ever looked into how much a divorce costs? Some estimates range between $15,000 and $30,000. Let’s use $20,000 as an example. Most people put that on a credit card and it would take about 10 years to pay that off. Not including interest, that is 120 payments of $167. Spend $167 on a night out one hundred and twenty times in the next 10 years and you probably WON’T be divorced. Even better, 240 dates that cost $83.50 or 480 dates that cost $41.67. That’s a guarantee. I’ll bet $20,000 on it. 😉
By now you already know where I’m going with this. When you’re divorced, you cant: check their phone, tell them what to wear, choose their friends, keep them from their mother’s house, manipulate them into not playing golf, or anything else, really.
It really gets difficult to deal with when your spouse brings other people around your kids like a new partner, someone with a different look, a different race, a different religion, different values, etc. You may think it’s too soon, this person isn’t “good” for them, etc. Guess what? When you’re divorced, your rigid and judgmental opinion doesn’t matter and before you can have a peaceful existence, you will have to learn to keep it to yourself. Why not now?
The ex starts allowing your younger children to swear. Maybe they don’t follow up on homework as well as you’d like or start allowing them to wear immodest clothing. Maybe your ex spouse even picks up smoking or drinking. They do these things in the presence of your kids. Maybe they don’t take them to church or sports practices or start feeding them strange foods. You have zero control over this.
What if the secret to staying married is to live more like you were divorced instead? I don’t mean strippers and booze and vacations alone and an even more egocentric life. I mean “giving up the project,” as David Keirsey says, “that endless and fruitless attempt to change others into carbon copies of oneself.” When you’re divorced you lose power and control over the once-loved person. You lose the ability to be intimate with them at all. You lose the right to assert influence of what happens with the children while they are with the other parent. Out of necessity, you lose some of the excuses you’ve been using. Why. Not. Now