Divorce is difficult, no matter how clear cut or muddled the marriage or decision to separate may be. But if you think you can walk away from everything tied to your union when you sign the paper or leave home, you are sadly mistaken. You may attempt to come out of a bad situation unscathed, but here are five things that will not be resolved just because you undid your “I do.”
Divorce cannot fix:
1. The other person
Divorce is not an ultimatum or a call to action. Threatening or following through on divorce will not break an addict from his addiction, an adulterer from his affairs, or an unavailable partner from his distance. Likewise, while breaking free from an abusive situation will help you physically, there is still a lot of work to do psychologically and emotionally to healing from those wounds. And you cannot make those changes for the other person. Divorce on its own won’t motivate an abuser to change; he has to come to that decision himself.
On the other hand, divorce also cannot fix you. Whatever flaws or failings you brought into or developed within the marriage will stay with you long after the papers are signed if you let them lay. Separating yourself from your partner is only one step in correcting brokenness in your relationship. You were a part of that brokenness in some way and have to put in the work to heal and complete yourself when the relationship has dissolved.
3. Your feelings and faith
The harsh or contentious feelings that lead to your divorce will not dissolve with the relationship. Nor will any shakiness you felt in your faith because of what your partner put you through. Your feelings of happiness, wholeness, health and trust will only return when you make a commitment to letting them lead your new life.
4. Your past or future
We tend to marry our problems; meaning whatever issues were left unresolved from our earlier years tends to be sought out in our partners and magnified until resolution. These are largely unconscious choices we are making in our partners to ultimately draw out the problems and help us heal. But if these problems could not be rectified in the marriage, this means they are still present even after a divorce. And any future relationships would have elements of the same issues.
5. Your marriage
Divorce cannot fix your marriage. This may seem to go without saying, but it needs to be understood that many people marry, divorce, and then remarry the same people every year. These relationships rarely go the distance and fewer than 10% of these reunions last. But the underlying thought is that time apart to reorganize and let tensions fall before re-engaging in a relationship is helpful to solidifying a union. A well thought out and organized separation with an intention to reunite may be helpful in fixing whatever problems arise in a marriage; along with outside intervention in most cases. But divorce is not to be used as a “serious” separation. It means the marriage is entirely over and should only be used in such dire circumstances.
Divorce is an avenue to a clean start but it’s not a guaranteed clean slate. Be clear about what divorce will and won’t get you: it will distance you from your partner, but it won’t change either of you on its own.