- Gender and Relationships
Divorce: How to Decide if it is Time to get one
Let’s say you’ve been married for a while and now the thrill is kind of gone. Or your marriage is just too much of a boring routine. Or maybe there appears to be no future in it. These sorts of things can make you wonder if it’s time to call it quits. But how do you decide? It takes time to figure it out. But if you learn the 5 easy steps to fully understand how you feel right now, you'll know what to do next.
Let’s look at the question of divorce scientifically using the five feelings of love. These feelings arise from 5 separate biological systems. Arising separately, the 5 feelings mix together to form the particular way we love our partners and relate to them. Not all five feelings of love will necessarily respond to every partner. These five feelings that create the way we love a person will not respond to different partners the same way, either. And any of the five feelings can also arise in a negative fashion and make you feel lousy. Also they can change over time making people feel different about the one they love. Let’s review the five feelings of love and see how this applies when considering whether to get a divorce:
(1) The in-love feeling. If you are still in love, you’ll get excited sometimes when you see your partner. In the first year of a relationship, it’s normal to think about your lover a lot. After 2 years, you should have moved beyond thinking about your partner all day long. The issue here is that if you don’t get excited about being with your partner once in a while—or simply feel good about being with him or her—then the in-love feeling has passed.
(2) The Sexual feeling. Some people bond to their partners through sex. It stimulates feel-good neurotransmitters. Others simply jump up and go after sex because they purposely avoid attachment. For them, sex is a transaction. Sex addicts need more and more intense transactions. But people who bond with sex slow down and enjoy it. They often cannot imagine having sex with anyone but their partner. Yet others get tired of the thought of sex with their spouses. Or maybe, sex itself seems boring. Regardless of the issue, if your partner does not turn you on sexually, you can see a sex therapist. Or you can talk to your partner about it. Or you can say the sexual feeling has passed.
(3) The Feeling of Friendship. There is something called romantic friendship. It happens between partners who really get to know each other. It’s not simply being “just friends,” which is boring. It is the relaxed feeling of it being OK to say anything you want because you always end up forgiving each other anyway when something goes afoul. If you’re holding grudges and cannot forgive your partner, maybe you’re not really friends. If you don’t have things you like to do together, you might not be that close either. Whatever your situation, if you cannot kick back like friends—but must be on guard—then you need to find someone to talk this over with. You also need to consider that the feeling of friendship has passed.
(4) Feeling like Family. If you have bonded to your spouse, then you feel like part of a family. You also have a sense of security when your partner is around—if it is a healthy relationship. You both consider yourselves as a couple sometimes when planning things, and it brings a sense of satisfaction to accomplish stuff together. If your family feeling is not healthy, then you feel insecure when your partner is around or when thinking of him or her. If your family feeling is lousy, then you might talk to a counselor about it. But your family feeling may have already died, or it may never have existed.
(5) Feeling like Helping. You want to see your partner succeed if you have a healthy marriage. But you shouldn’t really have to make big sacrifices. You work things out together so that your relationship helps both of you succeed. You may still wish your partner success even if your sexual feelings and in-love feelings have died. If you try to help your partner in order to gain control over the relationship, then you’re wasting a lot of energy. Controlled relationships are unhappy relationships. If you do not really care about your partner’s future or about helping him or her, then the helping feeling has died, or maybe it never existed.
Those were the latest scientific facts on how feelings arise to create the ways in which we love and relate to our partners. Let me show you how to use this information as a template for analyzing a relationship when considering a divorce:
● Imagine Couple Number One. In this relationship, one partner has some positive feelings of love. But that person also draws some blanks when it comes to a few of the other love feelings:
(The numbers in parentheses tell you which of the five feelings of love the item relates to. A minus sign in front of the number means that it is a negative feeling)
I feel like I’m a friend with my partner. (3)
I feel like family, including a sense of security when I’m with my partner. (4)
I feel concerned about my partner’s future. (5)
I do not get excited when I meet my partner somewhere after he or she has be absent for a while. (-1)
I never feel sexy when I’m with my partner. (-2)
This is the Half Alive Marriage. If you love your partner in the way this person does, then the in-love feeling is gone and the sex is boring. And even if you feel like a family, you may not be able to get that spark of being in love back—not without intense couples therapy, which both of you willingly endorse. So, if it’s all up to you to make the relationship function, and you feel this way about this person—not sexy, not in love—you’ve been left hanging.
● Imagine Couple Number Two. One of the partners feels this way about the relationship:
Sometimes my partner turns me on and I really feel sexy. (2)
We’re friends, almost like buddies at a sports bar. (3)
I care about my partners future and feel like helping out. (5)
I really don’t feel like my partner is “the one” like I used too, and I sometimes imagine what it would be like to be in love again with somebody else someday. (-1)
The idea of being a family feels like an obligation without any reward, so it’s kind of lousy. (-4)
This is the Sports Bar Marriage— sexy and possibly looking cool—but it’s loveless and not binding. If you’ve in one of these, you may feel like there is supposed to be more. You also may feel like the marriage is just a transaction, and everything is OK. It’s up to you whether you want to stay in something without much meaning. If you break up, you need to look for more meaning in your whole life. You’d have to work on yourself for quite a while before you’d be able to have a meaningful relationship.
● Imagine Couple Number Three. One of the partners in this couple experiences the relationships like this:
We have common friendship interests like breeding dogs and bird watching, and we travel to exotic places. (3)
Sometimes I help my partner just because I like too. (5)
I don’t get all that much excited to see my partner; so when he or she gets back in town, I have to make a reminder to go to the airport to pick my partner up. (-1)
We have sex in a kind of perfunctory fashion. (-2)
I do not feel like I’m a part of my partner’s family, and my partner doesn’t really make me feel like there are ties that bind us firmly together. (-4)
This is a Worn-Out Marriage. The excitement just doesn’t happen anymore, and the sex isn’t much of a big deal. But you do enjoy a few friendship activities and interests together. Yet you just don’t feel like family. You’d help your partner because you care about him or her doing well. But in all reality, the two of you are just cruising along, sharing a few special interest. Three out of five of the feelings of love are gone so the marriage is really almost over. You might be staying together for the kids. And if there are not any big conflicts, it might not seem right to get a divorce. If you don’t have any big plans or want a more exciting love life, then it’s kind of a tossup whether you should file for divorce.
Think About the 5 Feelings of Love in Your Own Relationship. Look over each of the following feelings and see if you can put them into the context of the discussion we’ve been having:
● the in-love feeling (1)
● the sexual feeling (2)
● feeling like friends (3)
● feeling like family (4)
● feeling like helping and being concerned about your partner’s future (5)
Write Out What Each One of these Feeling Means to You.
Put the good feelings if a “Pro” column and the not-so-hot ones in a “Con” column.
Now, let’s analyze your results:
Ø If there are more pros than cons, say 3-2, you could stay and work it out. That would probably take getting professional help. But both of you would have to want to save the marriage. Simply dragging your partner to a marriage and family therapist won’t do. In this 3-2 situation, both partners must find a reason to save the marriage. You are probably still thinking in your own mind about how things could get better. If things do not get better in the next 6 months, then get out.
Ø If there are more cons than pros, say 3-2, it’s probably time file for divorce. You heart has 5 cylinders and its only responds with 2 toward your partner. Absent a minor miracle, your marriage is not going to change. But if you cannot imagine doing something else with your life, then stay where you’re at until you find a new purpose and meaning in life.
Ø If it’s 4 good and 1 lousy, then you’re fairly OK. You know what you’ve got to talk to your partner about, that one feeling that’s not working out for you. You might seek help in learning how to talk more directly about your feelings with your partner. If it is the sexual feeling that’s not functioning, the two of you could visit a sex therapist.
Ø If you rated your marriage as 4 negatives, then you had better start calling around for a lawyer today. You’ve put it off long enough. You’re hanging on to a relationship that really no longer exists.
Ø If you have 5 negatives, you need to be careful. You’re in a Dead Horse Relationship, but for some reason you have not left. If you feel in danger, you need to pack up, grab the kids, and go. Seek help with a family support agency.
If you feel really depressed, or really anxious, after reading this, talk to your doctor or seek the advice of a psychologist as soon as possible. You need help and probably cannot go through a divorce feeling all alone.
If you want to fully understand the five feelings of love, get the book Low Stress Romance. It explains the most recent research about the five feelings of love and how they relate to modern relationships. If you would like your relationship to be featured—anonymously— in one of my posts, send me a note through this blog or through my contact page.