"Should I Stay or Leave My Marriage?"

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    In the course of any relationship there are going to be hard times. Surviving those hardships can be difficult, particularly if a fallout of the difficulties is broken trust. Trust is a cornerstone of any relationship and once broken can be very hard to repair. In fact, certain betrayals and violations of trust can be so devastating that they leave partners wondering if they should stay or leave the marriage altogether.

    Below is a question that came to Guy Stuff from someone wondering just that – should she stay or leave her marriage. Take a look at Heidi’s situation below and then my response. See if you can relate and what you can learn.

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    Reader Question:

    I don't know if I should stay or leave my marriage. I have been with my spouse since May 2004. We recently got married November 2009. Feb 2010 I discovered he had been cheating on me since 2005 and tried sleeping with another woman but she would not sleep with him due to it being casual not exclusive.

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    Ever since I found out about the affair our marriage has been a roller coaster! I can't stop thinking about whether I should stay or leave my marriage. We have good days, we have a lot of bad days. He expects me to believe it was just one woman when I know that is a lie. I don't understand why he won't come clean about his past he has been caught already why not come clean so we can move on. He has only sought help through websites like this one but he has not made any effort to seek professional counseling for us or just himself. As with everything else in our relationship he can turn something that is his fault and somehow flips it on me, how it's my fault and everything wrong I'm doing. His complaints with me are that I think I'm perfect, I don't listen to him, I don't validate his feelings, I assume the worst in him. To be honest these are almost my exact complaints about him. We struggle a lot with the double standard issue. He is also very much controlling when things are not going his way he has to twist the topic in his favor so he has control. He has even started recording our conversations just so he can go back through the recording if he has to prove his point, this is just insane to me. Its insulting. This is so difficult, I just don't know if I should stay or leave. There is so much more but these are the current issues at hand that we can't get past. Plus that fact that I just don't feel I can get past the cheating all together. I'll never look at him the same." -Heidi N.

    It’s clear that Heidi feels overwhelmed. There are many things going on in her marriage and most of them are far from healthy. It’s understandable that she would be considering leaving when the process of trying to sort through their problems and get to a healthy place seems so daunting. Leaving doesn’t have to be the only answer though, there still can be hope.

    My Answer:

    A lot of couples I work with in marriage counseling describe their relationship, emotions, and thoughts just like you - like a roller coaster. So it's no surprise that you're asking yourself, "Should I stay or leave my marriage?"

    Before you decide whether to stay or leave your marriage, spend some time learning to recognize and change how you keep putting yourself on the roller coaster. Whether you stay or leave, you'll be better off for learning to change this about yourself.

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    Here are a couple of things to consider:

    • Good insight in recognizing that his complaints about you are almost the same ones you have about him. This is a common psychological method people use to avoid issues and accountability.
    • You're also right in saying that he's controlling. But you also allow him to control you. If you learn how not to allow him to control you, you'll limit his controlling behavior.
    • Why are you only waiting for him to get professional counseling? Get it yourself. Marriage counseling doesn't require both spouses to be present in order to be effective and beneficial.
    • You're being controlled by his refusal to get help - stop allowing him to control you this way. Read some of the articles in the links below about other women in similar situations to yours for some encouragement.
    • There are a number of psychological issues going on that you need expert marriage counseling to help you see and show you have to respond to differently.

    Answering the question "Should I stay or leave my marriage?" is very hard. At least don't make the mistake of deciding quickly, emotionally, or without the objective and experienced guidance of a professional counselor first.

    What You Should Consider Before You Leave Your Marriage

    Ending a marriage is a very big decision. And despite the fact that it can, at times, seem like the only solution, it’s really not. For many marriages the problems that seem impossible to overcome can actually be dealt with, resolved or fixed, and a happier and more evolved relationship can be waiting on the other side. It just takes time and effort – from both of you. So before you make the decision to leave your marriage, consider a few more things:

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    • Problems aside, do you still love your spouse?
    • Would life really be better without them?
    • Does the thought of life without them make you happy?
    • Divorcing is expensive, complicated, and painful. Is it worth it, or could trying to work out your issues be a better use of your time and resources?
    • Are your problems often caused by circumstances, communication, or mistakes? Or are they with the person your spouse truly is?

    While the answers to these questions won’t tell you what to do, they can help provide some clarity for deciding your next steps – whatever they may be. What most people find if they are trying to decide whether to stay or leave their marriage is that taking the time to seek help and trying to repair thing is almost always worth it.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published April 22, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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