Episode 54: Avoiding Time Alone and a Divorce Discussion Gone Wrong

by | Last updated: Dec 14, 2023 | Podcast

Are you avoiding spending time alone with your partner? Do you feel like you’ve lost momentum on going forward with your decision after having the divorce discussion about it with your spouse? I answered a couple of questions from Tiffany and another caller who found themselves in these situations.

In this episode of The Loving Truth podcast, you’ll hear about how you get to a place of disconnection in your marriage and how the way you approach the divorce conversation with your partner can cause you to waver on your decision. I’ll also teach you how to build your muscle of discomfort to help you stop avoiding your husband and how you can move the separation process along as smoothly as possible.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

0:40 – A choice between befriending a little discomfort or a lifetime of avoiding your husband

4:08 – Why sometimes you avoid being alone with your partner

5:35 – How to start breaking down the buffers you’ve become used to in your relationship

9:48 – A common thing that happens in marriages with kids

12:45 – Why the conversation to end your marriage is just the first of many

16:56 – The importance of how you enter a conversation with your partner about separation

18:49 – How to move the separation and divorce process along as peacefully and loving as possible

Have a Question? Leave Me a Voicemail Message at 727-537-0359.

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Welcome to The Loving Truth Podcast where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host, relationship expert, and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.

Sharon Pope: Hello, loves, this is Sharon Pope and this is The Loving Truth. This is one of my favorite types of podcasts because it's where I take your questions and try to give you a little bit of guidance and direction so that you can be moving forward in your life and in your marriage, whether that is to reconnect with your partner in a new way, or that is to lovingly release it. We've got a little bit of both today.

The first question I want to go to is where this particular person is avoiding what's happening in their marriage and actually avoiding her husband and any time being spent alone with him completely. Take a listen.

Tiffany: Hey, Sharon. This is Tiffany and I have a question for you. Over the last couple of months or so, I found myself making up excuses, stories, or activities so that I don't have to see my husband by myself. The other day I even sat through my car through soccer practice which is over two hours long just to avoid going home.

The thought of being together with him without a different focus, like the kids or together with friends makes me really nervous. I'm nervous he's going to want to be intimate or that he's going to want to have a deep conversation. I know I'm avoiding both extremes in our marriage, but I just don't know what else to do. I feel horrible avoiding him like this. Advice, please.

Sharon Pope: Okay, I hear you that it feels super uncomfortable so you're avoiding him at all costs. I'm going to tell you something that you already know and that is this is not going to magically get better on its own. It's not. The more that you avoid it, the further apart you're going to get. We're either always moving closer together in our relationships or we're moving further apart. We're never just staying the same.

The more that you are avoiding your spouse and spending any time with him, you two are going to grow further and further and further apart. Sometimes that distance becomes so wide that it's not bridgeable. Right now, you're at a place where it's probably able to be bridged, where some of the things that are causing challenges inside your relationship could be turned around, could be fixed. But because you're avoiding it, nothing's happening. It's only going downhill.

Now I understand why you don't want to spend time alone with him. Because it's uncomfortable. Most of us really want to be comfortable. We want to have a great marriage, but we don't want to feel discomfort. We just want everything to be easy. That's not really the way of having an intimate relationship where you're going to be together over the course of decades.

It was easy and light when it was a couple of years in, but 10 years in, 20 years in, 30 years in, my friends, you're going to walk through some discomfort so I kind of want you to befriend a little bit of discomfort. I promise you, you can do discomfort. If the option here is to do an hour of uncomfortable with my husband or a lifetime of avoiding with my husband, what are you going to choose?

Start building that muscle of being uncomfortable and proving to yourself that you can do uncomfortable things, that you can do difficult things so that then you can move through the challenges in your life. I promise you, if you've ever overcome a challenge in your life, it's because you faced it and you dealt with it, and this is no different.

Now sometimes we will avoid being alone with our partners because we're so afraid that they're going to, let's say they want sex. You didn't say that in your message, but I know that that is on some people's hearts and minds and when that is the case, it means that we don't have enough non-sexual touch happening inside the relationship.

If all touch has to lead to sex, and we only touch when we have sex, then what can happen is that your partner will reach for you and you'll recoil or pull back away from that because immediately, you may not be in the mood in that moment for sex. You might be in the middle of making dinner or something. You might be in the middle of finishing a report. You might be in the middle of reading to your child or something, like you're in the middle of something.

That's what happens when we lose the flirtation and the non-sexual touch of just hugging, holding hands, or touching each other. When we stop doing that and the only time we ever touch is when we have sex, then that is what the result is, is that one of you typically will recoil every single time you're touched because it means, “Hey, you want to have sex right now?”

The likelihood of two people wanting to have sex right now in the exact same moment, my friends, only happens in Hollywood. That doesn't actually happen in a marriage after 25 years together. Now, maybe it's not that you assume he's going to want sex. Maybe you’ve become so accustomed to having buffers around you.

Here's what I mean. I did this in my first marriage so I know what I'm talking about here. I wouldn't set up a date for just the two of us, I would set up a date with other couples because I needed the buffer. People will say, “Well, we spend time together but we spend time together as a family.” The kids are around and we get to be mom and dad and then the kids become the buffer.

Look, when you need buffers inside your relationship, things are getting bad. What I want you to do is instead of diving into like, “Okay, I need to go home and I need to spend time with him, I need to tell him how I feel, and I need to share that I feel really disconnected from him,” that's going to feel really, really hard, what if instead, you just planned an outing together?

I mean, I'd rather it not like you go to Costco together, I'd rather you go to a comedy club together, go to a cooking class together, or go see a movie together. Maybe you're afraid to talk so a movie is a good way to avoid deep or difficult conversations, but just plan something for the two of you together that might feel fun.

I know. Fun. We miss it inside of our relationships. We get married, life gets a hold of us, we've got kids, we've got a home, we've got careers, we're busy. We don't have time for fun. Let's start where it's easy and just plan something fun for the two of you to do together. No expectations and no promises made, this isn't going to solve everything, but it's just going to help you start building that muscle.

You don't walk into a gym where you've never been in the gym in your life, you walk into a gym for the first time, you walk over to the dumbbells, and you reach for the 50-pound dumbbell and think you're going to be able to pick it up because you won't. You gotta reach for the five-pound dumbbell. You gotta curl that until five pounds feels light and then you can reach for the 10 pounds.

Then you curl that until that feels light and so on and so forth. You've got to build that muscle of being a little bit uncomfortable. Start where it's easy. Don't end there. Start where it's easy and prove to yourself that “Yeah, look, I can do something that feels a little bit uncomfortable. After a while, the discomfort waned and it wasn't as uncomfortable.”

The next time, instead of a movie, you might plan dinner. Now you're going to be eating together. I would suggest early on, sit at the bar, sit shoulder to shoulder so that you can talk and you can have something that you're both looking at, whether it's the bartender, the TV, or whatever. That is easier than sitting across from one another at dinner where you have to look each other in the eye and you two were the only things there for each other's entertainment the entire evening. That can feel more difficult.

Again, this is all just about building the muscle. Start where it feels a little bit easy and then keep going. Keep reaching for a little bit more discomfort to where you'll get to a point where you ultimately, instead of having a conversation of “I've been avoiding you. I don't want to spend time with you. I feel so disconnected from you,” he's not going to know what to do with any of that. It's going to hurt him, but he's not going to know how to fix it.

Instead in the meantime, as you get closer and closer together, you can have the conversation of, “Sometimes we get in these spots where I start to doubt, I start to think, maybe this is all there is and we're just going to be this disconnected couple who never really wants to spend time together and then our kids are going to grow up and they're going to go off and they're going to build their own lives and I'm sitting here wondering, are we still going to be a couple? Are we still going to be together? Will we have things in common? Will we enjoy one another?”

This is so common. Particularly when we have kids, kids aren't the only contributing factor to this but when we have kids, oftentimes we pour the best parts of ourselves into our kids and we pour all of our love, attention, and focus into our children. They almost become the loves of our lives, don't they? Which means our marriage and our partner is not first anymore. They are not the most important thing.

Sometimes our marriages become the third, fourth, or fifth most important thing. We stopped placing that priority on our marriages like we did when we first got married. Now, if I'm like number three, four, or five on the list of your highest priorities in your life, we're not investing in the relationship anymore.

I actually think it's unfair to put that on the child, like, “You are now the holder of all my love. You are the love of my life and you are where I orient everything around.” I don't think that that's right to put on a child. They're here to love and to be loved just like we are but they're also here to create their life experience.

If we say, “If I am Mom's love of her life, then I feel a little bit guilty when I go off and want to create my own life, my own love, my own family because now I might feel a bit responsible for Mom because Mom placed me as the object of her only source of attention.”

These are things to think about. That's more about how we get to this place of disconnection. I just tell you that because I want you to know that you're not alone. You're not alone in that. When babies come along, almost everyone says, “This is now my priority, and my needs, desires, and dreams,” that all goes on the back burner but part of your needs, desires, and dreams is to have a healthy, loving connected marriage which is the foundation of your family and the kids, the house, and all the stuff is just built on top of that foundation. But if the foundation isn't solid, my friends, what we're building isn't going to be solid.

Alright, so start small, start where it's easy, but absolutely start, and then don't stop. Keep reaching for a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more. You can get anywhere you want to go only being able to see 10 feet in front of you at a time. Just keep looking 10 feet in front of you. Now what? Now what? Now what can I do? Keep reaching for a little bit more.

None of it will feel comfortable. But I promise you, you can do a little discomfort. You don't want to do a lifetime of discomfort and disconnection. Now on to our next question for the day.

Caller 2: Hi, Sharon. Here's my question for you. After listening to your podcast, I had a conversation with my husband about our relationship. I shared that I was essentially done and ready to move forward with the divorce. The conversation did not go well. There was arguing, hurtful things were said by both of us. I did not handle things as well as I'd hoped. But in the end, we ended the conversation knowing that separation was our next step at my request.

Over the next week, things happened with the family, work, etc. Basically, life kept happening even though we'd made this decision. I feel like I lost the momentum and that I keep ending up back where I started even though I know I want this to be the next step. How do I stick to my commitment to moving forward while still tending to life that is happening all around me?

Sharon Pope: Okay, I can tell by the nature of this person's question that they are in my program The Decision. She has said that she's listening to the podcast and she took action, which I think is amazing. Like yes, yes, yes. Do that. However, please understand that podcasts, think of it like the 10%.

It's a little taste. It's like, “Look, if you're going to have the difficult conversation about ending your marriage, it's probably the most difficult conversation you will have in your life. If that conversation and process that follows could be handled, easy breezy. In a 20-minute podcast episode, wouldn't we see divorces very, very differently? Wouldn't most divorces be done peacefully? Wouldn’t they be done without drama and without anger, venom, and hatefulness?”

Because that's not how it works. This is the 10%. The other 90% that I equip you with of like, “Look, there's one conversation that when you've made the decision to end your marriage, yes, there is that one conversation. But that is the first of many conversations that will happen. It's never just one. It's just the first time you actually tell the truth to your partner about where you're really at.”

They're going to have questions. Because here's what I want you to think about. You've probably taken years to get to this place of where you know that your answer is to end the marriage. But they haven't been thinking about that. They're way back here on the continuum.

If you're expecting them to come up to speed in one conversation, you're expecting them to go from 0 to 60 overnight. They're never going to do that. We've got to be able to bring them along and realize that this is a journey and you're going to need that other 90%, which fortunately for this person, they're in the program and so they can tap into the tools that I teach in the program.

It's not just the full gamut of the tools, which is there but the other piece that makes all the difference is that inside the program, there's coaching from me and community from other women who are walking through the very same very difficult circumstances that you're walking through so you realize you're not alone, and they ask questions that you didn't even think to ask.

This is the difference. This is why if you could just listen to a podcast, then wouldn't all of our marriages feel great? There are lots of podcasts on how to make your relationship work. There's more than a million relationship books on Amazon today. If all those relationship books solve the problem, why would we have a 50% to 73% divorce rate? Because that alone doesn't solve the problem.

The information alone doesn't solve the problem and certainly, 10% of the information alone does not solve the problem. Here's what I want you to know is that you didn't do anything wrong, you listened to the podcast and you took action, it didn't go very well, and that’s okay. But realize that how you enter into that conversation is really important because we react and we respond to one another.

Where I start initiates a reaction and a response. If I start from a place of, call it anger, which is what most people do, they wait until they get angry because then they have the courage to say the really hard thing like, “I'm done. I want a divorce,” whatever the words are, and so what you're going to be met with is more anger, defensiveness, hatefulness, or just a lot of words being said back and forth that once they're said, you can't take back.

For sure, that starts, I call it the separation and divorce and unwinding of a marriage process. On a really difficult note, it doesn't mean that you can't regain your composure and get back to a grounded and steady place. You can but that's some of the work that you've got to get really good at doing and realize that you're going to have many conversations.

If you go in thinking that having that one conversation and now I've told you how I feel, I've told you that I want to end the marriage, and you think the next day your partner who doesn't want the marriage to end is just going to go, “You know what, I get it. That makes total sense. You know what I should do? I should start looking for a place. You know what, no problem I'll find a place. We'll get a mediator. We'll work it out and I'll be out by the end of the month,” that never happens. It's not what's going to happen.

So if this is going to continue down that path towards separation and divorce, and just essentially unwinding the marriage in the most peaceful and loving way possible, it's not going to just magically happen and your partner isn't going to just pick up the ball that you dropped and run with it.

You have to keep moving the ball down the field if we want to use the football analogy. You've got to keep going, “Okay, I've had that conversation. We probably need to have another conversation. I need to make sure that they know where my head is at. I need to make sure that they know it wasn't just an argument that was done out of anger,” because haven't we all had an argument where a few days later, we pretend like it didn't happen?

When you let it go a few days, they're thinking, “This is the same old thing that we've always done. We have a big argument, we say some hateful things. A few days later, we'll forget about it and we'll breeze past it like nothing ever happened.”

But if that's not what you want, then you've got to pick up that ball and go, “Okay, now we've got to have the next conversation. I'm going to let my partner know that I'm sincere about this. I've got to give them the opportunity to ask questions and be heard. I've got to give them the opportunity to share their feelings about what's happening,” because, by the way, they're allowed to have feelings. You've made a decision that will impact the trajectory of their life forever. They're allowed to have feelings about that.

If you have to sit there and listen to their feelings without taking them on as your responsibility or doing something with them, but just acknowledging them and validating them can go a long way. Then you move into the next steps, which is like you got to create a “What does this separation part look like? Are we going to do this in-house together? Is one of us going to move out? Are we going to get the house ready to sell? What is this going to look like as we're in this interim period between being a couple together and not being a couple together? What does this interim place look like? Ultimately, what does it look like on the other side of this?

On the other side of divorce, when all the paperwork is done, what is this going to look like and what are the most important pieces that we really need to consider and how can we come together as a couple or two people who care about one another and come to some decisions together?” That's the whole process.

The first conversation, that's the 10%. That's the kickoff point. But that is not where everything begins and ends. It’s just the starting line. It's just the beginning. Now we've got a whole bunch of runway in front of us before we get to the other side of that and it will only happen if you make it happen.

If you are in that position of where you're struggling with telling your partner that for you, the relationship is complete, for sure, listen to the podcast where I say, “How to have that very difficult conversation?” But know that that is 10% and it is the starting line. There's a whole bunch of things on the other side of that.

If you want to get equipped with the other 90% so that you feel confident and equipped to be able to unwind a marriage in the most loving and peaceful way possible, even when your partner isn’t loving and peaceful, then by all means, get into my program so that I can equip you with the content, the full 100% of the content, the community, the support and the coaching that will help hold you accountable and keep sort of gently nudging you forward so that you don't lose your way, so that you don't get stalled out because life isn't going to slow down for any of us. Alright, I will see you in our next podcast. Until then, take really good care.

If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage, and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage. Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now.


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