Should I Ask For A Divorce?

angry couple

( — Not all relationships last forever. For many different reasons, couples decide that the best, and healthiest, thing they can do is not be together.

But just because a breakup may be healthy doesn’t mean it’s pain-free.

Q: Dear Spirit,

What advice can you help me offer to my best friend? She and her husband separated more than two years ago. A few months after he moved out, he began living with his new girlfriend on the other side of town. They share time with their daughter without much conflict, and seem to have adjusted to being apart well enough, but when my girlfriend asks for a divorce, he becomes angry and refuses to give her one. I don’t get it…

Confused Friend
Chicago, IL

A: Dear “Confused Friend,”

Ending a relationship, especially a marriage, can be an extremely difficult – and confusing – decision for most people, so don’t feel too badly that you don’t understand what’s going on with your girlfriend’s husband.

The truth is that he may not understand his feelings and actions either. While on the one hand it may seem that he has “moved on” with his life, beginning a new relationship and being serious enough about his level of commitment to move in with the woman, he still may likely have a lot of unresolved feelings toward his wife and their relationship. It may be that he is so conflicted by these feelings that he isn’t willing to completely let go of the relationship and willingly give your girlfriend the divorce that she now desires.

Regardless of how conflicted your girlfriend’s husband might be, however, his marriage doesn’t mean enough to him to resist confusing things further by beginning a new relationship — before resolving his former one. His relationship also doesn’t seem to mean enough to him to salvage, since he’s introduced his daughter to the fact that Daddy is involved with someone else (which means that, at least for now, Daddy is not interested in trying to work out things and remain a vested partner to Mommy).

My advice would be that your girlfriend stop asking for a divorce and take the initiative to file on her own. She doesn’t need his permission to get a divorce – two people being in agreement on the terms of a divorce would simply make for an easier transition.

Rather than your being too concerned about your girlfriend’s husband’s reasons for not wanting a divorce, perhaps you may want to step back and consider the possibility that since your girlfriend hasn’t filed for divorce on her own (since she probably knows that she can), she likely doesn’t want one either, at least just yet. While it may be hard for you to imagine (and equally confusing for her to accept), there may be a part of her that wants to remain married to her husband, and her reason for asking for a divorce is an attempt to have him “tinkle” or get off of the pot, for lack of a better phrase.

Many relationships are able to survive one or both partners being with other people during separation. It’s quite possible that your girlfriend may be one such woman who is willing to forgive, forget, and move on (for reasons that you may or may not be aware of).

The best thing that you can do for your friend is continue to be supportive, but not enabling, as she goes through what may be one of the most trying times in her life. Ending a relationship with someone who you thought that you’d be spending the rest of your life with is an extremely difficult, and at times, extremely painful thing to do. One moment you may be absolutely sure that you want it to be over, the next you might be willing to fight tooth and nail to hold on to it. If you haven’t yourself been through a divorce, it may be an experience that you can’t quite understand. If you have, then it may be equally difficult not to judge how she attempts to navigate hers based on your own personal experiences.

Another thought…if you haven’t suggested it to her already, you may want to recommend that she consider a session or two with a therapist, minister, or life coach, etc. who specializes in working with individuals and couples who are separated and/or going through divorce. It might be just what she needs to help her determine what she really wants to do with this chapter of her life.

I wish you both the absolute best.