Becky Whetstone’s Huff Post Divorce article entitled “Is Your Marriage Dying? Know in 3 Minutes Using this Diagnostic Tool” triggered me to reach back into my memory. What happened when I recognized I was discontented in a relationship or marriage? Lo and behold, I actually traversed the four stages of a dying marriage Dr. Whetstone talks about every single time I, well, again wanted to be single.
Just as Dr. Whetstone described, the process would begin with the first stage, disillusionment, the realization that I was sad and frustrated, followed by, “Oh, well, if I just keep my head down and try harder, this unhappy feeling toward my partner will pass, and so will his emotionally abusive behavior."
I would simply keep quiet and adopt a fake smile as I went about my daily business, hoping this was just a phase that would lead me to the safe side again. But really, I recognized that the perfect storm was brewing in my relationship; this was the second stage, erosion. And then, the real and present danger of the third stage, detachment, would appear. I started living an imaginary new life, fantasizing what it would be like to be with a partner who really loved, respected and admired me. And, although most people thought I was a “Goody Two Shoes” as pure as the driven snow, I must say I drifted on occasion (with thanks to Mae West for that unforgettable quote).
I did keep myself occupied with work and friends, but I dreaded Friday nights, when I would have to go home and spend the entire weekend walking on eggshells. Then stage four, the point of no return, would set in. The cumulative effect of all those hurtful remarks and actions would crescendo silently, awaiting the moment when the unforgiveable insult would fly, followed by the unforgettable argument that would finally help me muster up the courage to proclaim that I was throwing in the towel. By then, there was no turning back. And speaking of back, the door often hit me in the backside as I was running out to seek a safe haven and a better life somewhere…anywhere...hopefully, with someone else.
I wonder how things would have turned out if, every time I experienced extreme unhappiness in a relationship or marriage, I hadn’t chosen to keep it all a big secret? My friends and family often had no idea I was suffering or contemplating a sudden, dramatic move. And, more importantly, neither did my partner or spouse. I figured it was my problem, and I would have to deal with it myself. What if I had had the courage to address the relationship issues head-on at stage one, disillusionment? I might not be wearing the MM (Multiple Marrier) Scarlet Letter today.
So do yourself a favor. Don’t keep your secret fears and plans to yourself when the winds start howling and the waves start rising around your relationship. Speak up early, be transparent, and give yourself and your partner a fair chance to find a solution together. Taking a small step toward resolution during the disillusionment stage may prevent your marriage from becoming a full-blown casualty.