When thinking or talking about getting a divorce, it is very easy to fall into the cycle of who’s right, who’s wrong, what’s fair, what’s not fair and who’s to blame.  Yet, such judgments and score keeping are more of a distraction than a help.  What you most need is clarity to answer the question “Do I really have to get a divorce?”

Rather than focus on what is wrong with the other person or with the relationship, you need to first get clarity about who you are, what you value and what is really important to you.  In my experience as a personal and relationship coach over the past 20 years, I have learned that our greatest desire is to be who we are; and our greatest fear is that we cannot be ourselves – that we will have to sell out or compromise ourselves, our values and our desires.

Compromising yourself is very different than making compromises to settle differences for your everyday life to work.  If you notice you’ve been compromising yourself in your marriage, it’s important to go back to the beginning.  When you entered this marriage, were you excited about the possibilities and the life you would be creating together, or were you compromising or settling for other reasons?

If it was the latter, it doesn’t mean you can’t grow together and develop a deeply satisfying relationship.  On the other hand, it may be what my mom used to say: “two wonderful people but not for each other.” However, if your initial choice felt authentic and right to you, and you are now contemplating a divorce, there is a chance you may have been compromising yourself over time. 

We usually have learned to compromise ourselves – and for understandable reasons:  we are trying to make our relationships work, we are trying to get what we want, or we fear we’ll lose what we value.  Often, we are listening to the peanut gallery, or our partner, or the voice in our head that tell us “don’t be so……, or be more ……., or don’t rock the boat.”  Over time, we become so good at morphing ourselves into being who we believe we “should” be, that there’s nobody home in the relationship.  The further we travel from our authentic self, the more miserable we become.  

Constricting and compromising yourself eventually has to be unwound.  It’s not sustainable to be someone you’re not.  At some point, you are going to want your freedom and your life back. You need oxygen, and disentangling yourself from the marriage can feel like the quickest way to get it.

However, if there is a flicker of love and you both want to make the relationship work, there is a way through.  And whether you decide to stay in the relationship or divorce, learning how to stop compromising yourself and unwinding your compromises can be a silver lining in an otherwise painful situation. Whatever you decide, you deserve the freedom and joy of living as your authentic self.

Janice Campbell, CPA, CFP, CDFA is a relationship coach, the creator of the Receive Your Life coaching system, and co-mediates divorces with Nancy J. Foster, JD at the Northern California Mediation Center in San Rafael, CA.

Photo credit: Ann Buscho Ph.D.