I love this phrase, unnecessary divorce. Not a single one of us who has ever considered divorce thought ours was unnecessary. Not unless something convinced us to take another stab at loving the person we vowed to love—and we succeeded.
How in the world can we tell, in the heat of our anger and fear and frustration, whether ours would be an unnecessary divorce? I have a way you might try. It comes from my own awful experience of reaching the conclusion we should, of necessity, divorce, completely unaware our marriage was only one day away from "until death do us part."
I recited to my first husband, at the age of 34 and thick into dealing with career and motherhood, my long list of unmet needs that night. I thought they justified splitting up. I believed somehow these needs might be better met if we split up. A day later, I had full custody, all the assets, and no drawn-out battle of the lawyers, and I learned how wrong I was about my list of needs.
If your list of unmet needs includes the need to feel safe from violence and psychological manipulation in your own home, skip this one. Seek help meeting those needs first. If you need to get right with your morality and cannot do so in your current marriage, skip it. But if, like me, you feel you desperately need things like emotional support, more income, mowed lawns, washed dishes, more time off the couch and out in the world, more conversation, more help with the parenting, etc., this just might change everything.
I got none of those when my marriage was over. It was eleven years until I even met my second husband. Divorced, you can get them for yourself. But married, you can get them for yourself even more easily. Divorce over such unmet needs qualifies in my book as unnecessary divorce. Once you take those needs off the table, it turns out to be a lot easier to love and be loved.
I won't write it all out here. You can download a worksheet for free from my Enjoy Being Married website. Look for "Clean Up the Clutter of Unmet Needs" on page 4. Allow an hour or so for the exercise. And please share your insights in the comments below. You might prevent another unnecessary divorce as well as freeing yourself to enjoy being married.