It's a sad but true fact of life that around 1 in 4 couples that say "I do" today will end up divorcing.
While lots of these marriages are torn apart by things outside of the average person's control (money problems, for instance) more often than not a simple failure to communicate or see eye-to-eye with your partner winds up ending the relationship.
It can be a painful experience, but also a freeing one. As anyone who's lived through a divorce will tell you, it's a lot more complicated than it seems from the outside looking in.
Unfortunately, I know a thing or two about divorce. Here are seven lessons that were shared with me which I wanted to pass along.
1. After a split you'll feel sad AND happy (and everything in between)
When you're living in an unsustainable relationship it can feel so refreshing to finally end it, but your emotions are a little more complicated than that. In fact, sometimes both partners realize that a separation is exactly what they need.
People who haven't lived through the experience will question how you can feel both happy and sad about the outcome, but it's only natural to miss what you once had - even as you're grateful for the chance to move on.
2. Your relationship doesn't end after you break up
When Billy Flynn Gadbois shared a story about celebrating his ex-wife's birthday on Facebook, people had confused and surprised reactions. His post, which quickly went viral, explained the situation perfectly: he still has to set a good example for his kids, whether or not he's married to their mother.
Even if you and your ex-partner don't have children together, you'll stay bonded in lots of unexpected ways after the split. Divorce isn't an "off switch" for your relationship, it's just the start of a new chapter.
3. Strong couples can imagine their future together
One of the warning signs many people recognize after their divorce is they could never imagine their relationship lasting into the future. If you and your partner seem to constantly be preoccupied with arguments about the present, it could be a hint that you're not meant to be together.
4. Judge not lest ye be judged
When you're in a happy relationship it can be so easy to look at a couple that have split up and imagine they must have done something wrong, or that you would never find yourself in the same situation.
Even today, divorced people are judged harshly by society, and lots of them report that it's harder to find a new partner after the split. The truth is it can happen to anyone, so don't go making judgments unless you've walked in someone else's shoes.
5. It takes two to make a relationship work
This sounds obvious, but so many divorced people say they committed to a doomed relationship for way too long, expecting that their partner would eventually pick up the slack.
If you give, give, give all the time and don't get anything in return, despite your warnings, it's probably time to call it quits on your marriage. Remember: it's easier to live life alone than with a partner who's checked out of your relationship.
6. When it's time to split, you'll know
Of course a divorce is a last resort, but when it's time to pull the trigger on your marriage you shouldn't hesitate. It's a big decision, and it will seem unthinkable until it's definitely time. Divorced couples (or at least one half of them) say they knew in their heart when enough was enough, so trust that voice and let it guide you towards the right decision.
7. Relationships are about the small things you do everyday
Everyone makes a huge promise at the start of their marriage: to stick with one person in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, no matter what. But living up to those lofty goals takes a lot of work.
Successful couples put an act of kindness in the bank of their relationship every day, and overtime it grows into an unbreakable bond. If you're drifting through the days, it's time to get proactive about your relationship before it's too late.
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