The Choice to Stay

No matter what you decide, it is important to look at why the relationship is failing, to see if it can be fixed, or to ensure you do it right the next time around.
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Why this Divorce Attorney May Send You on Your Way

Someone once described my job as that of an undertaker, saying that "divorce is not the death of the marriage, it is the funeral." For the majority of people who come to my office for a divorce, that is true. For many, the marriage ended long ago, sometimes months or years before people come into my office to finally move forward. There have been years of disconnect, of fundamental irreconcilable differences. Sometimes there is fighting -- lots of fighting. Sometimes there is just silence. For some, there are years without sex. Yes, years. Fights about money, children, or family and the list goes on. Specific reasons are as varied as the people who walk in my door.

However, the often familiar lament of "we just fell out of love" seems to me the saddest of all. Fell out of love? They make it sound like they fell over a misplaced shoe. What? No birds chirping? Well then, let's just get a divorce. What if there is a chance to fall back in? Maybe we need to re-adjust our definition of love. I am the first to recognize that there are some marriages that were wrong, probably from the start. But maybe, just maybe, a few of these marriages are not really dead after all. In that case, I would rather be the ER doctor than the undertaker. For some reason, after all these years of practicing divorce, being a child of divorce, along with making a bunch of really bad mistakes of my own, I have developed a unique ability to help some clients determine to give their marriage a fighting chance. There is no harm in trying. I think it is important that family law lawyers first assess if their client really needs to be there in the first instance, perhaps they need a therapist instead. If, in the end, the relationship cannot be saved, at least the clients will know they have tried. There is a peace to that and it helps people move on.

Love is not a thing we are in or out of; it is a continuum. For anyone has ever loved someone, there are those days that person walks on water, their mere presence in your life must be proof there is someone watching over you from heaven. And then there are the days when you can't stand the way they, well, breathe. The erroneous expectation that all days will be full of romantic gestures is perpetuated by media and the constant reminder that love is flowers, weddings, romantic vacations and sunsets really sets us up for failure. There will be times when your marriage is just bills, dirty laundry and sickness, and anyone that tells you otherwise is full of it. One thing is for certain: Getting a divorce will not get all those things to go away. There will be more bills and laundry and the sick kids will still be there, you just won't have anyone to help you, and, of course, you will have a lot less money to pay those bills. I love the saying "wherever you go, there you are." Sometimes people are just unhappy with themselves and blame their partner or the relationship. Marriage will not make you happy and neither will anyone else. Happiness is a place inside us. When we are happy, others will be happy around us. Make sure you see a therapist before you come see the divorce lawyer or at least before the judge stamps final on your dissolution. No matter what you decide, it is important to look at why the relationship is failing, to see if it can be fixed, or to ensure you do it right the next time around.

Perhaps this age of instant gratification for almost everything we need is simply ruining us. In decades past people would recover a chair, but today they just throw it out. Things are so disposable. If you are not happy with your partner, just hop online and find someone new. Divorces proceedings are sometimes entered into without really trying to see if it is possible to save the marriage. Long ago, my slightly older and much wiser sister described a successful marriage as one where people "choose to stay." You stay through the times it is hard and then it gets better. Simple advice that changed my thoughts about love and marriage. We say "for better or worse," but never really talk about what that means. Will we choose to stay when our partner is sick? Will we choose to stay when money is tight? Will we choose to stay when we don't feel love the way we did before? Let's be clear, anyone who expects the nights of wild abandon and the feeling of excitement you get when the relationship is new to last forever is bound for disappointment. Those feelings of "madly in love" come and go. Sometimes, there are just quiet moments of love watching your partner rock your baby to sleep or care for their ailing parent with love and patience. Sometimes, there are tear your clothes off moments of passion. Sometimes, it's just a quick hug when you are melting down from a real shitty day. So we choose to stay. Just stay.

I would like to say every day with me is a dream, but anyone who knows me well knows better, especially my husband. Some days the most I can muster is a quick shower and some sweatpants. Some days I barely have time to really even see my husband, we are so busy with work and kids, and the never-ending pile of crap accumulating in our house. But in the quiet moments when I see him with our daughter putting her to sleep (when he is not breathing too loudly), I am thankful that my amazing husband chooses to stay. There are a million moments, maddening and magical, we would have missed had we not chosen to stay. And yes, I understand saving a few marriages means losing a few clients, but I can live with that.

© Krista Barth 2014

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