One of the more interesting parts of being a writer about divorce and relationships is that I receive countless emails from people looking for advice or commiseration. For some reason I have been receiving quite a few messages lately from people who are looking for my validation of their decision to a) have an affair, b) continue an affair, c) abandon their unsuspecting spouse or d) all of the above.
Umm... do they realize who they're messaging? Do they honestly expect that I'm going to give them a stamp of approval and send them on their merry, marriage-destroying ways? I mean, yes, I'm in a better place than I've ever been after facing my ex-husband's infidelity and abandonment, but that doesn't mean I endorse that as a life-affirming event. I would have preferred a cruise.
I usually take a little time to breathe before composing my responses. I want to ensure that I'm not coming from a place of my personal experience or reacting defensively. After all, even though these folks are looking for approval, they may also be asking for help. And there's a chance that what I say may register.
There are some common themes in all of the messages I receive in this category. They all tell me that their spouse would be better off without them. They all speak of interest in another man or woman. They all seem hesitant to speak to their spouse.
And most of all, their attention is focused outside of the marriage.
Well, then, it's no wonder the marriage is floundering. How can you expect a marriage to flourish when your efforts are spent elsewhere? How can you presume intimacy when you're busy building barriers? How can you demand a connection when you're busy dismantling it?
Before you diagnose your marriage with a fatal case of failure to thrive, feed it. Nurture it. Give your marriage at least as much attention you're giving your escape plans.
Your intentions drive your attentions. If you're committed to leaving, your focus will be on your exit.
So, before you call it quits, make staying your intention. At least for a while.
Now, attention is no Miracle-Gro. Your marriage may have fatal defects or may have been starved for too long to ever thrive. But, at least give it a try before you leave it for dead.
One person asked me if he owed it to his wife to stay.
No. That's just a breeding ground for resentment and contempt.
But he does owe it to his wife to at least try to nurture the marriage before making the decision. He does owe it to his wife to end things in a kind and mature manner, if it comes to that. And, he does owe it to his wife to not use her for excuse or blame.
The grass isn't greener on the other side. It's greener where you water it.
So, stop blaming your spouse, stop pretending that you're doing this to help him or her and pick up the damn watering can and water your marriage.
This post originally appeared on the blog Lessons From the End of a Marriage.