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Author Topic: Contemplating Divorce: A Guide to Deciding - Susan Gadoua, LCSW  (Read 6270 times)
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« on: March 12, 2011, 01:51:29 AM »

Contemplating Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding
Author: Susan Gadoua, LCSW
Publisher: New Harbinger Publications, 1st edition (August 2008)
Paperback: 240 pages
ISBN-10: 1572245247
ISBN-13: 978-1572245242

Book Description
Just as there are right and wrong reasons to marry, there are good and bad reasons to divorce. Some couples are quick to split because they are unwilling to devote the necessary effort to fixing their relationships or to understanding their partners, while others miss out on personal fulfillment by staying too long in unhealthy marriages.

This practical guide will help you evaluate your marriage to determine whether you should stay or go. Without bias toward or against the option of divorce, Contemplating Divorce includes helpful tools to guide you to the right decision.

  • Use the tests and relationship evaluations to assess your level of fulfillment in your marriage
  • Learn about the five types of needs happy marriages satisfy
  • Find out how to fix "problem areas" in your relationship
  • Plan for the future, whether you decide to stay or move on

About the Author
Susan Pease Gadoua is a licensed therapist (LCSW) specializing on divorce and has been working with individuals, couples, and families as well as leading groups and workshops for nearly twenty-five years. Gadoua, together with her husband, Michael, are Certified Mediators and compose North Bay Mediation Center. Michael’s law degree complements Susan’s therapeutic background equipping them to assist in the resolution of a variety of issues. These include divorce, family and/or relationship disputes and co-parenting.

Gadoua was a guest on ABC's View From The Bay, has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Divorce Magazine as well as being a regular guest columnist for TheModernWomansDivorceGuide.com and Divorce360.com.
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2011, 01:54:55 AM »

What I valued in the book was that it captured my current emotional state. It didn't talk about BPD, and that was refreshing, because this could finally be about me. It simply helped me figure out where I was in the divorce-contemplation process, which feelings were typical, and what to expect going forward. I finished it with a lot more clarity than I had when I started.
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« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2011, 09:27:49 AM »

An excerpt from the Book:

It takes courage to be honest with yourself and others. The truth doesn’t always feel good and, in fact, can cause pain and heartache. The truth can make life complicated. But, as difficult as honesty can be, decep­tion is always worse and has the potential to create many more heartaches and complications than the truth does. This is why this part of the book challenges you to thoroughly examine why you are considering whether or not to stay in your marriage.

If you are considering leaving because your marriage is difficult, and you want a quick fix and think the grass is greener on the other side, I ask you to stay and commit fully until you feel that you have put in the work that your marital commitment deserves. Do everything in your power to work things out with your spouse.

Marriage can be extremely challenging, but if you have not done every­thing you humanly could think of (and could afford) to positively affect the situation, then you are hurting yourself, your spouse, and your marriage. If there is a shadow of doubt whether you have exhausted all avenues, then before taking any action to end your marriage, take more actions to save it. It may take more of your time and money when you feel you can’t bear it any longer, but in the big-picture scheme, you will be glad you took those few extra measures to try to work things out.

If you are considering staying because the pain you know seems better than the pain you don’t know, it’s just easier to stay put, or for any other misguided reason, then I encourage you to challenge your false motives and step out of your comfort zone to find your truth. You are not doing the world any favors by staying in an unhappy situation.

Knowing If You Should Stay or Go

While there are no quick, easy answers and no “one size fits all” reasons to offer, I will give you parameters within which to gauge whether or not you should remain married to your spouse or leave. I can’t give you your answer. I can only guide you to find your truth for this moment. Your part will be to follow along and read with honest introspection so you can identify your answer.

You’ve arrived at the heart of the book. This is what you’ve wanted to learn: how to know if you should stay in the marriage or leave it, why you should stay or go, and when to follow through with your decision.

When I meet for the first time with a client who is considering divorce, I can often get a sense of whether the scales are tipped toward staying or leaving from the reason he or she gives for wanting to stay married.

If the desire to stay married is based on moving toward a goal, the person is more likely to stay married; for example, “I want to raise my children in one house with two parents” or “I want to work on my anger issues and get on the other side of them.”

On the other hand, when people explain that they are staying in the marriage to avoid pain or fear, this indicates that the marriage hasn’t much glue, and such marriages aren’t as likely to endure; for instance, “I’m staying because I’m afraid of not seeing my children every day,” “I don’t know how I’d make ends meet without my spouse,” or “No one will ever love me like this again.”

Once I hear the reasoning for staying in the marriage, I ask why the client might want to get a divorce. The same rule applies: those who are contemplating leaving to move toward a goal are more likely to actually leave than those who are averting pain or potential consequences. Examples of going toward a goal or away from a fear are “I want more out of life than staying in an unhappy marriage” or “I need to get away from this abuse.”

Even though all of these reasons have merit and sound powerful, you may wonder how I know that the person who is moving toward a goal will more likely take action than the one who is running away from or trying to avoid pain. The answer is simple: fear.

Those who are motivated primarily by avoiding pain are usually fear-based people. These people see the world through the eyes of whatever problems and negative repercussions might arise from their actions. They are often imprisoned by their fears, not only as they pertain to deciding whether to stay in or leave their marriages, but in all areas of their lives. These people will more likely stay small, unhappy, and unfulfilled with the thought that they will remain safe.

Action-based people have the opposite view of the world. When they set their sights on a goal, they see what opportunities and benefits might come from moving forward. These people are more willing to take risks and go for what they want. They will also less likely settle for less than what they believe they deserve.

Of course, you can be partially both fear and action based, but whichever mode is dominant will usually win the arguments in your mind about whether to stay or go. The good news is that these aspects are not

necessarily set in stone. If you are primarily a fear-based person but would rather be action based, you can push through your fears and accomplish your goals. Most people need some training or support to make these changes, but it is an alteration that anyone can make.

In addition to examining fear-avoidant versus goal-oriented behaviors in the decision-making process, I look at whose needs are driving the decision. In a decision as big as whether or not to stay married, it is imperative that you consider the possible ramifications your leaving may have on others, but you must also balance that with your own needs. Where I see people go wrong in such a decision is when they forgo their own needs and focus primarily on meeting the needs of their spouses or children, or, on the contrary, they consider only their own needs and ignore the potential impact on their children and spouses.

Case Example: Kelly’s Story

I spoke with a woman named Kelly about why she wanted to leave her husband. “He’s a drunk, he’s violent, he yells, he makes us all tense and uptight, he hasn’t worked in fifteen years, and he’s a miserable SOB!”

Then I asked her why she wanted to stay in the marriage. The answer was, “I’m concerned about money, about having to sell the home, and about the kids. And knowing him, he’ll fall apart, and then I’ll feel guilty.” When I asked her if there was anything about him that made her want to stay in the marriage, she responded that she really couldn’t think of anything.

When I asked what they had done to work on the marriage, Kelly revealed that she had tried to get her husband to consult her pastor since he wouldn’t see a therapist, but he refused to talk to anyone, declaring that she was the only problem in their marriage.

Kelly’s ambivalence about divorcing resulted purely from her fear of the logistics and the impact of splitting up, and had virtually nothing to do with her love for her husband. She did not mention any good side to him. When she had attempted to get outside intervention, he had refused.

In this situation, I would assess (without knowing more about their relationship) that there wasn’t much keeping this couple connected. Sure, they shared parenting responsibilities, as well as chores and other respon­sibilities of running a household, but they had no real conjugal cohesion. It seems as if it should have been a pretty clear decision for Kelly, but she still had a hard time leaving her loveless marriage.

I’ve had countless clients like Kelly tell me that they don’t want to divorce because they are afraid of losing the co-parenting relationship or their spouse’s income, only eventually to realize that they alone already carry the load of responsibilities. The spouse doesn’t contribute to the marriage but, rather, takes from it.

On awakening to this fact and confirming that they had done every­thing possible to improve their relationships, most of these clients imme­diately filed the divorce paperwork. And for almost all of these folks, letting go of the unhealthy relationship was the best decision they’d ever made. Rather than becoming harder, life actually got much easier, because they no longer had the added burden of taking care of the people who were supposed to be their partners or dealing with the many negative emotions their spouses elicited from them. What they had feared prior to taking action never manifested. They realized that they had postponed their own fulfillment and happiness for months, sometimes years.

Case Example: Barry and Penny’s Story

Barry was at wit’s end with his wife Penny, who constantly lamented being in physi­cal or emotional pain. It seemed that she always played the victim. Barry felt that he always had to protect her and take care of her.

He didn’t want this role anymore. He wanted to be with someone who was more his equal. He was ready to walk, when his best friend suggested couples therapy, something he had previously been opposed to. He only agreed to counseling so that he could look back and say that he’d done all he could. Penny was more than happy to attend counseling with him.

In the first session, I learned that Penny came from a long line of alcoholics. I referred her to a 12-step program to work on her issues from being the adult child of an alcoholic, and continued seeing them as a couple.

Although it took some time, Penny got stronger, which shifted the dynamic between her and Barry. Penny began taking charge of her own life and stopped looking to her husband to save her or do for her what she could do for herself. For the first time ever in their relationship, they were partners.

What differentiates Kelly’s situation from Barry and Penny’s is that Kelly’s primary concern was that her husband would fall apart and her kids would suffer. She disregarded her own suffering as if it didn’t matter, or certainly as if it mattered less than her husband’s and children’s suffer­ing. Barry had become so tired of taking care of his wife’s needs that the pendulum swung in the opposite direction to the point where he didn’t consider Penny at all in his decision. Kelly had to add more of her needs into the mix, while Barry had to diminish his needs to find balance.

Another important distinction between these two situations is that Kelly had tried to work with her husband on the marriage, but he had refused to work with her. He had no desire or willingness to put in the work that the marriage clearly required. He was sapping Kelly’s life force with no end in sight.

On the other hand, Penny and Barry were caught in a dynamic in which she drained his life force; however, she was more than willing to work on the relationship dynamic. As a result, they were able to change the previous unhealthy pattern to a much more workable and equal partnership.

Barry fell in love with his wife all over again, and they went on to enjoy a very ful­filling marriage. Barry’s last-ditch effort had worked, primarily because of his and Penny’s willingness to give it a shot and improve their dynamic. This couple had been on the brink of divorce, but Barry saw that he honestly hadn’t given Penny the opportunity to respond to his needs. Assuming that it was  hopeless, he had been ready to leave his wife.


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Talking about solutions create solutions

« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2011, 09:37:56 PM »

Asking yourself why you stay is a good question that all of us should consider... .

Change your perceptions and you change your life.  Nothing changes without changes
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