This is important: Your partner doesn’t have to understand or agree with your reasons for leaving.
Yes, the emotional unwinding of your relationship will be difficult, but that’s not a “good enough” reason to invalidate your own pain… to remain compassionate to his.
In this episode, I’ll walk you through the reasons why literally NO ONE needs to understand or agree with your decision to leave.
Listen to the Full Episode:
What You’ll Learn In This Episode:
- Why it doesn’t take 2 people to end the relationship
- How you can express your decision with simple conviction
- What to do if his pain threatens to pull you back
Featured On The Show:
Struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you’re serious about finding that answer?
Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. 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.
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.
Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope and this is The Loving Truth. Today I want to talk to you about when you have made the decision to end your marriage and why your partner doesn't have to agree with your decision.
So people typically find their way to me when they are in some version of, do I stay or do I go? But at the end of coming to a decision of if I stay well, then how do I live into that? How do I get equipped to sustain that for several more decades so that it can feel really good for both of us? How can I evolve the relationship so that it really suits us today?
And some people come to the end of that decision and make the determination that for them their answer is to unwind the marriage, and they want to know how to do that in the most peaceful and loving way possible. Now, unwinding a marriage sounds pretty straightforward, right? You go through the divorce process. The paperwork part of it is pretty straightforward, and it's pretty predictable.
But marriage is a matter of the heart, and the heart is pretty unpredictable. So it's all the emotional stuff and the emotional turmoil that is difficult to navigate. A lot of people get stuck there. One of the places where I find that a lot of my clients get stuck is in having that conversation with their spouse, where they share the decision that they've made, and be able to take the next steps forward to move through that decision.
You know, a lot of people will make the decision in their minds, but they won't be able to articulate it to their spouse. They won't be able to tell the truth. They won't be able to just say the thing that they most need to say.
Other times people will be able to have the very difficult conversation where they share that for them, the marriage is over, and that the best next step is to unwind the relationship. But then they take no action. The next day they wake up, and they're both in denial. They pretend that everything is sort of fine, but it's super uncomfortable. Or I've also seen a larger number of people who do take action, where they will separate, and they will live separately, not either in the relationship and not out of their relationship for years. So they never really walk through that final door. They just stop the bleeding of the day-to-day interactions of living together.
So there's a bunch of different ways that people deal with this, but all of those examples are just different ways of getting stuck somewhere in the process. That's why it's not actually as straightforward as you might think. It's not just about the paperwork. I could tell you story after story of when women have this conversation with their spouse and try to explain why they made the decision that they did to end the relationship. And then there are lots of very, very difficult conversations, because it's never just one conversation.
There are pleas for another opportunity, another chance to make it right, another chance to make the changes that probably should have been made years ago and would've made a huge difference years ago and may or may not make a difference now. I can tell you an infinite number of stories around when this happens.
Then the spouse goes on what I call good behavior, which is being nice and doing things around the house because they don't know what else to do. But inevitably, months will go by or even years, and you'll realize that nothing has really changed, and then you're back to the same place, and it gets more and more frustrating and hopeless every time you land there.
So I could tell you a bunch of stories, but I always think that it's helpful to use the words of someone who's in the midst of it. Because then you can feel it a little bit more. So I want to share this with you. Someone recently shared this in my membership. She said, “I had the conversation tonight”–and everyone in this group understands what “the conversation” means.
“I had rehearsed it over and over and got it out quite well. He was shocked and couldn't understand why I didn't want to try again. We have already done marriage counseling, set couple goals and values, but the same patterns returned. He said he loved me and always has. His abusive anger would suggest otherwise, but he dismisses that as the stress of all the bad things that have happened to him. Job loss, conditional love from his parents, health issues, investment troubles, always the victim. And so I got the wobbles because I know he does love me, and I could feel myself entertaining trying again to stop him from hurting, but I knew it would never work, and it just wasn't what I wanted.
“I slept in the spare room after the conversation, and in the middle of the night, he came in and wanted to cuddle and work through our issues. We talked for two hours, and I am exhausted. It didn't really get us anywhere other than him accepting, although not really understanding that I am done, which still feels like the scariest thing in the world to me, but which I know if I renege on, I will only end up back in this place in another three years’ time. He is now super angry. ‘You are throwing away 30 years, everything we have worked for, I don't see it that way,’ and said that I don't regret a thing about those 30 years. Our marriage has just come to an end because we have both changed and are no longer a match for one another.”
So that gives you an idea of the emotions that he presents to her when confronted with the information that his wife wants to end the marriage, and then how she sort of backtracks on those feelings because she sees her husband in pain and she cares about him. She probably still loves him to a certain degree.
So here's what I want to equip you with in the context of your partner does not need to understand or agree with your decision. Most people go into that conversation seeking understanding, and maybe even agreement, which they will likely never get. Your partner is not necessarily going to understand your perspective. They have their own perspective. But when we go into it seeking understanding versus just expressing a decision that you've made, the distinction is probably two or three hours of really painful emotional conversation. A lot of upheaval versus three to five sentences and about a 10 to 20-minute conversation.
It's a very different energy when you show up to that conversation expressing a decision you've made versus justifying it and needing him to understand. Now, the other thing I will tell you is that by the time you have this conversation, it should not be a surprise. You should have been communicating all along. And when things got real, when it was like, if something doesn't change, this is not going to last, or if this specific thing doesn't change, our marriage is not going to last, so please don't be surprised if this doesn't change, if it truly is a deal breaker for you. But most of us don't express that as a deal breaker.
We say things like, I'm not happy. I'm struggling. We're living like roommates. And we expect them to know what to do with that. And since a confused mind does nothing, most of the time nothing gets done and we go grow further and further apart until finally the woman over years (Because I've never met a woman who comes to that decision in a few days or a few weeks. It's always a long time to be able to come to that decision where you know that your next best step is to unwind the relationship). But now he's got lots of feelings. So I always find that the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle, that it's not that you weren't communicating where you were at with the relationship. And there's an element of he wasn't listening.
And so now he's surprised, right? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle; we could have communicated more directly, we could have been more clear, and he could have listened. He could have paid attention when things were starting to head south, as opposed to after you've made the decision to end the relationship.
Now, the reason I can say he doesn't have to agree is because, look, you have your perspective. There are a ton of things that went into you coming to this decision to end the relationship. So you have a whole perspective on that and probably more than your fair share of some really painful moments. And he does too, right? Every person on the planet is allowed to have their perspective, even of the exact same situation.
It’s your relationship, but your experience inside your relationship is not the same as his experience inside your relationship. So you have to detach from him needing to see it your way or needing to understand your perspective. That's what will keep you stuck, right? So every relationship, it's composed of two people. There's you and there's your partner, and that is what creates the third entity, which is your relationship together. But the way that relationships work, whether we like it or not, is that as soon as the relationship stops working for one person and one person says, “This no longer works for me, and I no longer want to be in it,” the relationship itself crumbles. That's why he doesn't have to agree.
It takes two people to show up to the relationship in order to make it work, but it doesn't take two people to end the relationship. And it might sound heartless, me saying this, like he doesn't have to agree with your decision. For some people that might sound heartless, particularly if you're the one on the receiving end of that conversation. But I'm not saying be heartless.
I'm saying be respectful, be truthful. Be compassionate and loving. Have compassion for his pain. Of course, I'm not saying don't be compassionate. I'm just saying don't invalidate your own pain in order to be compassionate to his, because it took a lot for you to get to this point, to make that decision.
If that's where you're at, nobody has to understand it, not him, not your mother, not your sister, not your kids, not your coach. Because no one has lived it. No one has that same lived experience. I often say if I asked you about the struggles inside your marriage, you would have a whole story. You'd have a perspective that you would share with me.
And if I asked your partner, “Tell me about the struggles in your marriage,” you would have a whole different story. So if the only two people that are involved in the relationship don't see it the same way, we’ve got to give up this idea that anyone outside of the relationship could ever see it the same way. And to expand on that thought, we don't have to remain in the struggle trying to convince our spouse that we are allowed to honor ourselves, and that we are allowed to honor our decisions and all the pain and trouble that brought us to those decisions.
All right? I hope for those of you that are facing this, that that was helpful for you. I know it's not an easy place to be because I've been there myself. I'll see you next week. 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 and 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. That's clarityformymarriage.com.