When couples decide to go to marriage counseling, it’s not usually a decision that they make lightly. In fact, most couples wait a long time before finally deciding to see a marriage counselor. So by the time couples see a counselor, there have been long standing problems going on for years between them. And most of the time things are bad enough that they’re debating whether to see a marriage counselor or a divorce lawyer. They can’t decide whether to try to repair the relationship or just let go and art ways.
When is it Time to Let Go?
Adam and Amy were a couple who had been coming to see me for marriage counseling for several months. In the beginning, they wanted help with their communication problems but as we got a couple weeks into counseling, they talked more about inappropriate texting and the “false flirting” that he would often do with his co-workers, friends and people he would meet.
Amy would get enraged each time she would find an inappropriate text or see him flirt with another girl at the supermarket. She felt insulted by his behavior and felt that she should be treated better than that. Each time she’d get mad he’d respond with something like “What’s wrong? It’s not like I’m sleeping with them or anything. Don’t take it so personally.”
Amy was insistent that Adam stop his flirting with other girls. Adam was insistent that she was blowing it up to be much bigger than it really was. She said he was ruining their relationship by their flirting. He said she was ruining their relationship by continuing to make such a big deal out of such small things. They were at an impasse. And neither one of them were willing to give.
Finally, Adam decided that marriage counseling wasn’t going anywhere and he no longer wanted to waste his money on marriage counseling. He didn’t want to divorce, he just didn’t want to try marriage counseling anymore. Honestly, I couldn’t blame him. He was right. They weren’t going anywhere.
Amy on the other hand wanted to continue in individual counseling. She wanted help to decide whether to leave him or not. She continued to press me and ask me if his flirtations were a big enough deal to warrant a divorce. Through individual counseling, Amy was looking for my advice to tell her whether it was time to divorce or not. “Unfortunately, I can’t give you that answer” I would tell her repeatedly. “You’re the one who has to live with your decision at the end of the day. and you’re the one who has to feel confident about it”.
As you look around, you’ll see lots of couples who you question whether they should still be married or not. Maybe the husband has been alcoholic for years or the wife has had serial affairs, etc., and you wonder why they continue to try to make it work. On the other hand,you’ll hear stories about couples who have divorced simply because he never did the dishes. There are lots of couples who make it work through extraordinary circumstances and there are lots of other couples who divorce for lesser reasons. That’s all good for them, but not for you.
At the end of the day, there will always be voices in your life that tell you what you should have done. You will have friends, neighbors, and family who tell you that you should have left ages ago. And you’ll have other friends, family and neighbors who will tell you that divorce was the wrong thing and you should have given it another try. But they’re not the ones you have to sleep with at night. You’re the one you have to sleep with. So it’s your conscience that you need to be at peace with.
To stay or to go is a personal decision that only you can make and it’s a question of your personal tolerance and integrity more than it is a question of what others think you should do. So instead of asking what you should do, ask yourself what you want to do, how much more you can tolerate and whether the violations you’re feeling in your relationship are a matter of integrity or just annoyances.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. He specializes in working with couples learn to communicate and overcome sexual difficulties.