5 Alternatives to Divorce
You've either been through it yourself or you know someone who's been through it--divorce. It's a word that's final and strikes fear in the heart of those who believe in their vows and intend (or had the intention) to be married forever; however, divorce proceedings take place just as often as wedding ceremonies so the reality of the situation is definitely present. Because it's so common now (even with do-it-yourself divorces) a lot of the stigma attached to divorce people in the past have been changed, but that doesn't mean that everyone necessarily wants to go that route for the simple fact that they can probably get it with less hassle than in the past.
Here are 5 alternatives to the dreaded D-word that can possibly even save your marriage:
1. Counseling It sounds so logical and we hear it so often that most people probably believe the majority of couples had some type of therapy. I say, don't make assumptions. While statistics aren't clear on the subject, with over 50% of people lined up to get divorced yearly and the average span of a marriage in California being 7 years, I would hope that counseling would be one method that these parties would consider before decided to part ways.
So why do some people still end up divorced or separated even after lenghthy (and costly) counseling sessions? A number of reasons actually. One of them being is that the persons involved go to counseling looking for it to be the solution to their problems and the counselor as the person who's going to have all the answers to everything in their lives and is going to be the glue that helps keep them together, but that's the biggest mistake to make and probably why a lot of people cite counseling as the agent that pushed their already flawed relationship to the breaking point. Counseling should be treated as a tool in your relationship, not a saving grace. Another thing that couples don't seem to realize (or at least one part of the couple) is that even though you're sharing bits and pieces of your lives to this person, they don't really know you, and even if they appear to biased with either of you, it doesn't necessarily make the person they're siding with right. The two of you in the relationship know one another better than the third party involved so counseling shouldn't be a method to try to viciously attack one person, but voice problems that you can't otherwise verbalize when you're alone with them. Counseling should be used to tell the other person how you feel about them or certain matters that have bothered you, but it's up to you to bring it up and it's up to them to listen and either acknowledge these problems and try to rectify them or change the things that caused them in the first place. At the most, the counselor will only give you tips to navigate around your circumstances. Truthfulness and communication are a given and most of the time, that's the most you're going to get from a counselor. You know where your real problems lie if the two of you are honest enough with one another, so it's up to the both of you to figure out if staying together is worth it or a waste, so when going this route use it wisely.
2. Physical Separation Sometimes the healthy thing for a couple to do is spend some time apart and reevaluate their circumstances. It doesn't have to be legal, but maybe it's necessary--for the moment, and that moment can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. We'd all like to assume that the reasons that people divorce are major and complicated, but not always. There are those couples that experience a breakup because their living area was too cramped and they fought over space--it may sound silly, but happens. Other times, it's just wiser to walk away from a fight. Denial is a problem in some cases, but walking away can sometimes prevent saying things that are unnecessarily hurtful and cause rifts because of the build up of animosity between two people. A lot of people move back in with their parents for a time without getting legally separated only to move right back in with their spouse with a different perspective. Sometimes a situation just has to run its course before it gets any better.
3. Mediation It's the best alternative to counseling. With counseling you have someone going the emotional route with you, with mediation, it's more to do with the physical assets, and sometimes the physical assets are the things that are causing the problem. Mediation allows both parties to be heard without choosing a right side or a wrong side, and instead deciding the best possible resolution for all involved.
4. Legal Separation There are times when it's best just to have it in writing for the person to take you seriously. Not everyone that files for a legal separation gets a divorce and not everyone who files one wants one. It is a requirement in a few states to be legally separated before the dissolution of a marriage is granted and in those cases it's sometimes when the couple seriously looks into getting counseling or addressing their problems for the first time. Knowing that you could lose your spouse or them realizing that they could lose you sometimes will give the situation (and you or them) the proper respect it deserves. Like statements in declaring one's love for another, this could be the statement that one has to make to either redeem themselves or decide that the marriage isn't worth making the effort for.
5. Your Last Will and Testament Some couples decide that living apart is the best solution for everyone, but coparenting and their financial situations stop them from taking that final leap of dissolution. If you can deal with the other legal obligations that you still have to the person, but live separate lives and have a civil relationship, the best solution is to have a lawyer draw you up a will and leave $1 to your spouse and specify that the rest of your assets be left to your children or other relatives, friends or organizations that you want it left to. And yes, you did read that right, leave them $1 minimum and they won't get the things that you don't want them to have, but talk to your lawyer and have them advise you properly to tie up other loose ends. Mostly I've seen older couples (late forties and up) do the Will and Testament draft because younger couples want to move on with their lives and possibly remarry and have more children, but for the ones who don't wish to get a divorce at all, I would say this is your best alternative.
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- Mediation Training Institute: Web resources
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