August 8, 2016

One Gray Day

blog picIn 1967 when I was starting my first career out of college, I ordered a charter subscription to a new magazine – Psychology Today. I read with fascination the multitude of articles on a variety of topics. One that caught my attention was about what happened when some psychologists set out to study true love. They said they wanted to find out what the secrets were to couples who had found loving relationships.

The premise they had was to interview couples who had been married for a long period of time – assuming that lastingness would be related to happiness. What they discovered was a huge shock. While they did find some happily married couples, they also found something they were not prepared for. There were a goodly number of couples who had been together for forty years or more who candidly shared that they despised each other. Marriage had not been kind to them, but for a variety of reasons they found that the pain of an unhappy marriage was not as frightening as the uncertainty of ending their bad marriage.

There are all kinds of people with all kinds of experiences that drive love out of the marriage, and there all kinds of ways of addressing the situation. Let me first examine some reasons why you may be better off ending your marriage, and how that may occur. Then I will look at reasons you may be better off working through the hard times to discover the rich rewards for those who can come out of the dark woods together. These considerations are even more significant when dealing with what has come to be called, Gray Divorce.

Backdrop Thoughts

With long term relationships factors exist that cut in different directions. For example,
there is a greater possibility that you have a more intricate family situation that may include adult children and grandchildren. The more textured the fabric of your relationship, the more lives that are touched and impacted by your choices. People of integrity have an obligation to consider how these other lives are touched, not only by the consequences of ending the relationship, but also by the way in which you conduct yourselves.

Long term marriages will span different worlds; the world you left to get married was quite different from the world you will be returning to as a single person. However, the marital estate may be considerable and better suited to providing support for each after the marriage ends. These factors vary considerably.

Most likely your wedding ceremony included vows made by each to the other, and a witnessing of those vows by your greater community. While it has become more common in post modern society to end the marriage without ever revisiting or addressing the promises of your vows, that by itself does not resolve their existence, and the value of addressing them now, rather than simply ignoring them.

Ending Your Marriage

If there has been physical or mental abuse in the marriage there may be good reason to leave the marriage. Alcohol or drug abuse that cannot be effectively addressed and corrected can make the continued relationship dangerous. If such circumstances exist seek professional counseling to help you reach your final decision.

Absent pathological behavior, you may still reach a mutual decision to end the relationship. There are considerable examples of people who are able heal each other and mutually agree to go separate ways. The possibility for this depends upon the uniqueness of your relationship.

When the desire to divorce is mutual it affords the opportunity to operate from high ground. A new option, called discernment counseling, provides an excellent opportunity for both parties to align on the process of divorce.

Working to Heal and Save Your Marriage

In long term marriages there are considerable reasons to think twice before divorcing. You have spent a significant time together. You are more aware of the problems that exist. It is not uncommon for people to divorce, and then regret, in retrospect, that decision. If there is a possibility of healing the shortcomings, many people have been able to arrive at a marriage that becomes deeply rewarding for the effort made to look at options. You may be leaving a relationship that has the potential to be deeply rewarding for the risk of finding someone else who will have their own shortcomings.

Reconciliation is a powerful concept. At its core it means healing the relationship. It does not necessarily mean going back into the marriage, especially if the marriage has been harmful to one or both. It may mean healing the wrongs and hurts each has inflicted and suffered, and obtaining forgiveness, each from the other. A healed relationship will naturally have a greater possibility of recreating a marriage that is healthy and nurturing. And, if the choice is to end the marriage, it increases the possibility of either or both finding a healthy relationship after the divorce. If both parties are able to move through a difficult time from your highest functioning self, you will benefit immensely.

In the final analysis, the best way to heal is by giving each other the gift of reconciling differences before making the final choice to either stay married or to end the marriage. Either person may be able to heal on their own, but it may require a more committed process for a longer period of time. For a long term marriage, you each owe it to the other to consider your choices carefully.

Collaborative Family Practice

The model of how parties become divorced is usually quite dire as presented in our society. However, there is a relatively new paradigm that was created here in Minnesota in 1990, and now literally encircles our whole world. That model is Collaborative Law, and it provides an opportunity for parties to choose a process that supports them proceed at the pace they need. At the onset of this process, couples have a choice to slow down enough to spend a short time considering options.

Discernment Counseling

Discernment counseling is neither marriage counseling nor divorce counseling. It is simply the chance to slow down for a short time to process all of the options that are available. When you are NOT aware of a choice, you do NOT have a choice.

In our world most people are not aware of these choices until confronted with the reality of being in a marriage on the brink of divorce. Most have a vague awareness that they can get an attorney and sue the jerk, but usually have no concept at all of what it means to get an attorney and sue the jerk.

Don’t be that person. Contact any collaborative professional to find out more about the healthy options you may choose.

Bruce Peck

Bruce is one of the founding members of the Collaborative Law Institute.
Back in the Wonder Years, this small group was trying to figure out what a new way of practicing family law might look like. Today the collaborative law concept has exploded, not just throughout the United States, but also internationally. For over thirty years Bruce has continued to hone his skills to provide the highest quality of services to family law clients. He helps good people make tough choices during difficult times.

Bruce is a laid back and easy going person who listens well to others. He is a shameless optimist who can always see possibility and opportunity. Being very curious by nature, he is a voracious reader. His love for words has drawn him into being an avid poet.

Bruce’s skills supports clients interests without alienating their spouse. When the parties reach agreement, it is not under duress. They have the time to discuss all decisions with their attorneys before signing the agreement. Once completed, the stipulated divorce is filed with the court for a default hearing in which neither party, nor their attorneys, ever have to set foot inside a courthouse. Learn more at

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