Making a decision I can live with
Photo of Carol Fare

When you’re not happy in your marriage, it can be really difficult to know what to do about it.

Do you stay and give it another try?

Should you call it a day, leave and start rebuilding your life?

What if I make the wrong choice and then later regret it?

Mums tell me this is all they think about.  It stops them being able to sleep at night.  They can’t concentrate on their work.  They’re not the kind of mum they want to be.  And they constantly notice everything they don’t like about their husband.

And sometimes this builds up to a boiling point, something happens that tips them over the edge and they decide they can’t go on.  This is it.

In a storming rage, or floods of tears, they decide their marriage is over.

If their husband is around, they may tell him – or probably yell it at him.

This is what I hear often happens when a marriage ends.  The thoughts and worries build and build, until the mum can’t take it anymore.  And splitting up seems the only option.  The only thing that makes sense.

And in that heated moment, whether it’s during a row with your husband or when you’re on your own and sat in tears, it does make sense.

But what I hear is that later on, whether it’s that day or the next day, when the heat of the moment has passed, the doubts creep in.

Should we really split up?

I wonder if there is a way back from this?

What if we give it another try?

And if you’ve already told your husband, you’ve let the genie out of the bottle and possibly passed the point of no return.

And the thing is that when you’re in the heat of the moment your brain is not at it’s best for making decision.  When you’re feeling scared, upset and afraid your brain’s survival instinct kicks in. This switches off the part of your brain that makes rational and logical decisions and can see solutions to problems and work out a way forward. 

Not a great set up for making one of the most important decisions of your life. 

And being stressed and under pressure make it more likely that your survival instinct kicks in.  I think living in a pandemic in a marriage that’s not working counts as stress and pressure. 

So this is why I think you shouldn’t make a heat of the moment decision about your marriage.  And resolve that you decide about the future of your marriage when you’re feeling calm and rational.  When you’re able to engage the parts of your brain that are designed for making these kind of decisions. 

Now if you’re reading this, and it’s sounding like what’s happening to you, you may well be thinking ‘that’s ok for you to say, it’s completely different when you’re living it.  How on earth can you stop the survival instinct taking over’

And I get that.  I get that when your marriage fills your every waking thought, there are lots of emotional moments when your survival instinct kicks in.  And you can’t feel sure you won’t make a decision in one of them.

So I want to explain to you my 6 step process to help

Step 1

Make a commitment to yourself that any decision you make about the future of your marriage, will be made when you’re feeling calm and in control.  Write this down somewhere, a note on your phone or in your purse – somewhere that is easy to access

Step 2

When thoughts of making a decision come into your head, check in with yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how calm and in control you feel, where 10 is as calm and in control as it’s possible to feel.  This allows you to check whether your survival instinct is in control or your rational and logical part of the brain – and remember you want the rational and logical part to be in the driving seat. 

Step 3

If the answer to that question is 6 or below, your survival instinct is in control and it’s not the time to make a decision. 

Step 4

Get out your note from step 1 and remind yourself of your commitment that any decision will be made when you’re feeling calm and in control.

Step 5

Allow yourself to feel upset, cry, rant or whatever you need to do so that the emotion you are feeling can be expressed

Step 6

When the emotion has passed, go and do something. Go for a walk, sort the washing, play with your children.  Something that will occupy your mind and help you to feel calmer again

Mums tell me that having this 6 step process helps them to feel more in control.  And less afraid that they’ll make a decision in the heat of the moment.  Which they could go on to later regret.  Because this is the biggest fear of mums who are grappling with making a decision about the future of their marriage – that they make a decision they later regret.  This 6 step process will help you avoid that.