Aron Ralston, author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place, had to cut his own arm off to escape being pinned by a boulder while hiking alone. He was all alone, miles from anyone else. He tried for days to free himself before he finally knew that there was no other way but to cut off his arm.
For many people, their story feels similar. Not literally of course but the imagery is relatable and resonates as to why a person decides to leave an intimate relationship. Like Aron, one of the reasons a partner may leave is because they don’t feel safe. Aron knew his life was in danger and was terrified. The second reason a person may leave is due to a lack of connection. Aron too felt isolated and separated from the world around him. The loss of feeling safe and connection can be powerful motivators to leaving a partnership whether it is figurative or literal.
Here is how we will take the literal story of what happened to Mr. Ralston, and translate it to how a lot of people feel in their current situations: They were passing through when the rock fell on their arm and “pinned” them. The individuals in this situation may have tried for a long time to figure out solutions. Talking? They tried yelling. Crying. Being silent and hoping for something different. Maybe therapy would remove the rock? There are books on this topic right? Podcasts? YouTube might provide a solution that was not seen before. They have tried everything they could think of but are still feeling alone, abandoned, and hopeless. Their thoughts start to turn toward divorce. It’s not an option anyone wants, but it IS an option.
For many people the discussion turns to about how they tried to make their marriage work for years. Typically, the average is 5 or more years. Another common factor in conversations is that some have suffered verbal or physical abuse in silence. It may be for there was no abuse but financial issues. For some it is disconnection, loneliness, lack of intimacy, or a lack of physical interaction. Whatever the marital status; living together, engaged, common law, or married the factors that lead to a reason to leave the relationship is difficult.
What I know, from the stories of men and women I have talked to about what happened and why they decided to end the marriage, is that they felt like they had no other choice. It was either due to the lack of the feeling of being safe or due to the lack of connection. In both situations the person who leaves feels like, like Aron, didn’t have a choice because they were “pinned”.
For Aron the choice was clear and literal, it was either cut off a part of who he was in order to live, or stay in this situation and die. Like him, even when they see the choice to divorce as the only viable option, we keep trying to find another solution. While many try for years, Aron had only days to decide. But for both situations the time comes when the choice is clear and unavoidable. Both know that what they are about to do is going to be incredibly painful. Both have a feeling that might even feel like dying in some way. But one choice is a healthier choice rather than staying in the same situation. So starts the cutting. Sometimes the initial cuts aren’t as feared. Then they hit a nerve and it is more painful than ever have imagined. It is the point of no return. It is the choosing, despite the overwhelming agony, to continue with the same decision.
When I talk to a person that has initiated the divorce they have lots of reasons why. Most fit into the ones I mentioned earlier. But if you look underneath those “whys” there are one of two factors that are the underlying reason.
The first reason is that a person doesn’t feel safe in some way; maybe it is verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. Maybe the other person simply doesn’t show that he or she cares. Another way to say it is that he/she doesn’t trust. Trust that they can rely on you to be there for her or him. it may be an issue of how money was handled, he/she might feel that they are going to have a more stable, reliable, and safe future if they stop being in a relationship with you.
The second reason, is a loss of connection. Many people marry and are full of hope and excitement. They want to build a future with a life partner. But as they get older they learn better about who they are and realize that they aren’t meeting each other’s needs. They try to compromise, to find common ground, to connect. And then simply drift apart because needs are not being met. They aren’t trying to hurt the other person. They want to connect but they find that their values, beliefs, interests, lifestyle, or priorities are too different. Many people try to make it work for years but the bond of marriage is preventing them from being their true self.
In the end, almost no one I talk to wants to get divorced, but all have come to the conclusion that it is the only choice to survive. Yes, some value it less than others. But percentage-wise, very, very few people get married purely to take advantage of someone, such as to get someone’s money, to gain citizenship, or social status. Partnerships are hard to come by and even harder to leave.
If you are struggling in your marriage I suggest some coaching sessions to help gain clarity an the confidence to move forward. Sometimes relationships can be mended with the right tools. Sometimes they must be unraveled with grace and dignity. Either way, support is needed.