Why You Don’t Have to Leave Your Spouse (Even if You Think You Should)

A few marriages are made in heaven and live there for years without interruption. Most marriages vacillate between beautiful high vistas and smelly dank sewers.

Lighted Door, flanked by shuttered windows on balcony.

If you’re caught in a bad relationship but don’t want to leave and don’t want to divorce, there is a third option. That option is to change the relationship. Use the courage you have to stay to fuel the steps you need to take to change the relationship.

And then there are the marriages are that have become a living hell for one spouse, and any children.

I’m talking about a marriage where one spouse is engaged in destructive, addictive, behavior.

I’m talking about living with a man or woman who is addicted to alcohol, illegal substances, gambling, spending money, sex or some other activity that gets in the way of a healthy relationship.

Leaving is Not Your Only Choice

If you’re living in hell and you’ve reached the point where you’re not willing to endure the current situation (and you shouldn’t) you’re probably thinking your only choice is to leave the relationship (and who would blame you).

And yet, you stay.

You stay because you want there to be a third option. An option that gives you the kind of relationship you want with the person you thought you married, not the reality of the person you did marry.

There’s a third option that you may not have considered. Or if you have, you’re thinking that you can’t possibly pull it off. I’m here to tell you that you can.

No, I’m not talking about how to get away with murder.

Yes, There is a Third Option

You don’t want to divorce, but you sure don’t want to stay in the current situation. There is a third option. Your third option is to leave the relationship and yet stay in the marriage.

How do you do that?

It’s not by separating from your spouse and remaining legally married.

You do it by changing the nature of the relationship. You already know what’s wrong. There’s a third party that has intruded into your marriage and that third party is the addiction that is causing the problems.

If you want to stay married, but you don’t want to stay in the current relationship, start making your plan today to change the nature of the current relationship. There are myriad resources available that will tell you how to do it, and where your spouse can get the help he or she needs.

Give Yourself the Courage to Try

The only thing that is holding you back is the courage to try. Courage is not a feeling. Courage is a course of action.

Courage starts with your vision of what life can be like for you, your children and your spouse, once you leave the hell that you’re in.

To grow, courage needs the support of a few good friends you can count on.

To mature, courage needs a roadmap to get you out of hell. It starts as a list of what you think you need and what you might need, and what you might want. That’s where those resources I mentioned above start to come in. Then it begins to develop as you start working on the one thing that seems manageable right now. Maybe all you can manage today is a sparse list. Right now it is enough for you to start the list. You can add to it at any time as the way ahead comes into view.

One Day at a Time

In time, when you’re ready, you’ll start to tackle each of the things on your list. For now, don’t worry about all of the things, it is not time for you to tackle all of them. Tomorrow, or next week, or next season, you’ll be ready to tackle the next thing and the next thing and the one after that. Eventually, the list and the work you do on your list will form your roadmap.

Is Hell Really that Great?

To thrive, courage needs you to believe in yourself.

Every day, remind yourself that you’re taking the steps you need to move yourself out of hell. You’re taking the steps you need to move your children out of hell. You’re taking the steps you need to move your spouse out of hell. You’re moving your relationship to a better place.

All that moving is exhausting. It’s discouraging. At times it will feel like you’re never going to get to that new relationship that you can imagine. You’ll be tempted to turn back. You’ll be tempted to stop partway.

Don’t. Remind yourself that you’re living in hell right now. Why do you want to stay there?

Life Is Honest, Open and True

When you’re living in an untenable relationship, you don’t have to continue to endure it. You also don’t have to file for divorce. The third option is to change the nature of the relationship. It is hard to change the nature of the relationship. But it is no harder than staying in the hell you are in. It is no harder than pursuing the option of divorce. Gather your courage and begin. You’ll get where you want to be.

I believe in you and want the best for you and know you can achieve the best for yourself.

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Have you ever been tempted to leave your lover and then decided to stay? Are you still happy with your decision? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!

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