When To Pull The Plug

Dr. Darcy:

I have been married for 12 years. In the last two to three there has been nothing but fights and selfishness (one sided).  We tried therapy to no avail and I believe we are now road blocked. She continues to live life without me in many ways. We have a house full of kids.  When will I know it's time to give up?

ANSWER

There is no such thing as one-sided fighting, my friend.  That you operate under this misconception tells me that therapy failed not just with her, but also with you.

I think that you’re looking for me to give you permission to pull the plug.  You say that ‘she continues to live life without [you],’ but I’m here to say that in order to get to the point where you’re ready to walk away, you must have disconnected from her long ago.  So what I’m seeing is that you’re a big blamer:  It’s all her fault, you’ve tried everything and now you want someone to tell you that it’s ok to quit.

Sure, it’s ok to quit your marriage.  But you can’t quit your kids, and if you think it’s been unpleasant raising them married, wait until you try to do it divorced from their mother.  She’s not going to suddenly become reasonable and amenable to your differences.  And because you chose to breed with her, you’re stuck with her for the rest of your children’s lives, which I’m hoping will be the rest of your life.  In short, there’s really no quitting her.

I suggest that you get yourself a real couple’s counselor – try Imago therapy.  Here’s a link to find one in your area. No stellar couple’s counselor would allow one member of a couple to think that all the problems are attributable to the other person.

I really don’t care if you stay married or get divorced.  The only issue that matters to me is that you get some clarity on how to co-exist with her, whether that’s in a marriage capacity or as two divorced people who are co-parenting.  Right now, if you were to get divorced, the real victims would be your children, because you don’t have the skills to co-parent as divorced parents.  In short, you need some skills before you divorce in order to effectively parent, so either way, you need to get into couples counseling.  And if you pull the plug without following my advice, you’ll soon find yourself in need of the life support that you opted out of, and sadly, it will be too late.