Difficult Discussions: How to Talk About Divorce -- Without Getting Divorced

In The Dance of Connection, best-selling author Harriet Lerner explains that even if you're on the brink of divorce, you can use your hurt and frustration to actually turn your marriage around. Read this excerpt to find out how you can improve your relationship:

Don’t Threaten Divorce - Do Talk About It!

To say, "If these things don't change, I'm not sure I can stay in this relationship, " is to voice the ultimate bottom line. People threaten to divorce or break up in the heat of anger, which isn't helpful or fair. Nor should you bring up divorce as an attempt to punish, scare, shape up, or shake up the other person. And surely you shouldn't feel compelled to mention divorce simply because it passes through your head now and then. Many married folks entertain fantasies about divorce yet are far from acting on it.

That said, talking about divorce is important if you're thinking seriously about it -- even ambivalently. If you're going back and forth about it in your mind, you need to consider sharing your struggle with your partner. If you do eventually terminate the marriage, a partner will be better able to handle a loss that can be anticipated and planned for. Everyone has the right to know just how high the stakes are if they choose to continue to behave as usual. You owe your partner honesty about a matter that so deeply affects both of you.

I've seen any number of devastated men in therapy who tell me their wives left them out of the blue. The wives, however, claim to have voiced their anger and dissatisfaction for a long time. Both are right: he hasn't listened well enough; she hasn't shared her thoughts about divorce clearly enough or early enough in the process. Often the wife does not make a serious issue of divorce until she's finally made up her mind to leave. Any changes the husband then agrees to make are too little, too late. In the end, neither spouse has had an opportunity to test the potential for change in their marriage.

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