For a long time, the end of a marriage by divorce was seen as an unmitigated failure — which put a lot of social pressure on couples to stay together even when they were miserable together.
Well, therapists say that’s changed. Divorce isn’t necessarily a failure at all. Actually, it might be signs of personal growth by one or both members of a couple. When that’s true, they should be congratulated on that growth and their marriage regarded as something that is simply past its time.
Why the change in approach? A lot of it probably has to do with the changing nature of the institution of marriage itself. Marriage was once considered primarily an economic convention. People got married because it was the best way to obtain security for themselves and their future offspring. Families were united, support groups were cemented and wealth was maintained through such unions.
That’s all changed. Marriage is now dominated by free will and most people marry for love. That means the economic incentives to stay together aren’t there. Marriage is less about social and financial security than it is personal growth. And personal growth, by definition, requires redefining who you are and what your goals are in life.
It’s important not to avoid change in your relationship as a way to avoid a potential divorce. That can make your spouse feel trapped “in a box” and do lasting harm to your relationship. You have to take the chance that you might grow together while simultaneously acknowledging the possibility that you’ll grow apart.
Occasionally, both members of a couple realize that their marriage no longer meets their needs because of the nature of the growth they’ve made. They aren’t just stagnating — they’re suffocating. Sometimes, it’s only one member of the couple. In either case, the mature decision is to terminate the marriage because you are making a conscious decision to end everyone’s suffering.
If you’re still trying to decide whether ending your marriage is the right thing to do, consider talking to a therapist who will help you decide if you and your spouse are merely in a troubled spot…or simply two different people than the ones who met and married years ago.