Relationship Advice: Should You Stay Married or Get Divorced? Our Expert Weighs In

Couple having a serious discussion on the couch

Couple having a serious discussion | iStock/Getty Images Plus

Are you trying to decide if you should get a divorce? It’s a tough decision to make. The Cheat Sheet reached out to a top relationship expert for advice.

The following is a guest post from Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka “Dr. Romance”) psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working It out Together

Marriage can be frustrating and disappointing, especially if you don’t have the skills to fix it. But giving in to the frustration and leaving may turn out to be the worst thing you ever did.

Consider these reasons to stay:

Couple sitting together on the beach on a swing

Should you stay? | anyaberku/iStock/Getty Images Plus

  • You still love each other.  Maybe you’re irritated, frustrated or resentful, but bottom line, you’d be sad to lose your partner. Don’t give up. What’s wrong can probably be fixed.  If you haven’t calmly told the truth about how you’re feeling, and it only comes out when you fight, then you haven’t created a chance to fix things and restore your loving feelings.
  • You have children.  Divorce is devastating for kids, and it’s not right as a parent to put your happiness above theirs. In any case, doing what it takes to repair the marriage will make everyone, including you, a lot happier than the failure of divorce. Leaving is only a good idea if your marriage is abusive. That’s more damaging to kids than divorce.
  • Your complaints are petty and juvenile. If you’re mad because you’re not getting enough attention or there’s no romance, or someone else looks better to you than your partner, you’re probably not being realistic or doing your part to fix things. Don’t be a baby. Grownups don’t keep complaining, whining and nagging—they figure out how to fix things.

While I don’t think you should stay and suffer if nothing’s working, in my practice I see many couples who do the work and wind up happier than before. The affair may have happened after long-standing problems in the marriage, which can actually be corrected to the satisfaction of both partners. Often dissatisfaction grows from resentment, and the root causes can be fixed with the help of counseling. If both partners are willing to change what’s not working, a marriage can be improved can be turned into a satisfying life of enjoyable companionship.

I also see a fair number of couples who get back together after a divorce, because they had a chance to see what it’s like to be alone, and to calm down and get over petty resentments. Unfortunately, now they’re a lot poorer because of the cost of the divorce, dividing up property, and so on. Here are some reasons to stay or go:

Top 5 reasons to stay:

Happy couple

There are some situations when you might want to stay. | LittleBee80/iStock/Getty Images

  • Your spouse truly recognizes he or she has a problem, and is willing to get help to fix it, and to be accountable for rebuilding trust.
  • You two are going to counseling, and understanding why the affair happened, and how to fix the problems.
  • You’re getting your own sex life back on track, if it was off track.
  • You have a long, shared history, joint finances, and family ties that make it worth keeping the marriage together.
  • You still love each other, and it’s clearly mutual.

Top 5 reasons to go:

Angry couple

Is it time to end things? | iStock.com

  • Your spouse is in denial, makes excuses, and blames you. This means he or she is invested in the cheating behavior, and not ready to change.
  • You have had it, no longer feel connected, and are not willing to work on it. Be sure this isn’t just temporary anger.
  • You are prepared to be on your own.
  • You either have no children, they’re grown, or you’re certain a divorce will be better for them than what’s going on.
  • Your spouse refuses to give up the other relationship, or infidelity in general.

Tina B. Tessina is a licensed psychotherapist in Southern California, with 30 years of experience in counseling individuals and couples. Tessina is also the author of 13 books in 16 languages, including Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today, How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, and How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free, 4th Edition.

Read more: You Won’t Believe How Many People Regret Waiting to Have Sex Until Marriage

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