The question of whether to get divorced or not is a big one. Especially if you have kids, getting divorced could affect your family dynamics for the rest of your life. Here are some thoughts for you to consider as you try to make this decision.
Are you married to a real jerk or just a normal human being?
Every human being makes mistakes. A ton of them actually. Every human being can act like a jerk at times. And if humans are constantly criticized and given very little love, they start acting like jerks. But there is a difference between being married to a normal human being and being married to a real jerk.
A real jerk is someone who consistently puts their own interests above anyone else’s. They are selfish. They want things done their way all the time. They don’t think about anyone else. If you think you might be married to a real jerk, try out these exercises to see if it changes them at all.
The Positive Reinforcement Exercise
For 3 months, try to look for the good in your partner. When you see something good about them, compliment them. Praise them. Do nice things for them. When you see something you don’t like about your partner, ignore it. Don’t bring it up. Don’t criticize them. If it is something really serious and destructive, then yes, talk to them about it. But talk to them in a soft, concerned way – not a self-righteous “you are wrong” type of way. And if the things you don’t like in your partner are just annoying but not seriously damaging, then just ignore it.
Every night, write down all the things you like about your partner in a journal. This will train your brain to look for the good in your spouse instead of the bad stuff.
Then wait and see what happens. A normal human being will react really well to this treatment. They will start being more motivated to be kind back to you. They will be buoyed up by all of your compliments and start seeing you in a more positive way as well. If you are consistent about seeing the good in them and ignoring the negative, it might even make a difference in their overall health and career success. Everyone loves to be loved. It feels so good to know that someone knows you – with all of your faults and weaknesses – and still loves you and is cheering for you. That kind of love is truly transformational.
But if you are married to a real jerk, then they will use your compliments and love and positive energy to take advantage of you over and over again. They will continue to belittle you even when you are only showing love and compassion. They will not reciprocate. They will turn again and again to their addictions for fulfillment instead of having a healthy relationship with you.
Characteristics of a Real Jerk
Here are some other token characteristics of a jerk. These would also be red flags for someone who is dating.
- They can’t keep a job. A real jerk often can’t keep a good job. They don’t have a job and they don’t do housework either. When a spouse doesn’t have an income and also doesn’t do housework, you know that something is wrong.
- They are addicted to a substance or activity. People that are addicted to alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc have a hard time having a healthy relationship with anyone because they don’t have a healthy relationship with themselves and their physical desires.
- They are repeatedly abusive. If your spouse hits you on a regular basis, then you are definitely married to a jerk. Physical abuse is easy to identify, but verbal and emotional abuse are harder to pinpoint. If your spouse is constantly belittling you and telling you that you do things wrong, that might be verbal abuse. If they are trying to control you through threats, criticism, and manipulation, that is also verbal abuse. If you are in a relationship where your spouse repeatedly abuses you, that is a sign of a real jerk and you should take steps to get out of the relationship.
- They have very low impulse control. A real jerk often often has very little self-discipline. They want what they want NOW and cannot wait for things. They can’t delay gratification. A good way to test this during dating is to not have sex with the person until you are married. A good human being can wait to have sex with someone they love. A jerk cannot wait. They want it now. And that is how you will know that they are a jerk.
How is staying in this relationship going to affect your children?
A lot of people want to stay in a relationship because of the kids. They seem to automatically think that staying in this bad relationship is better for the kids. It all depends. If the relationship actually gets better and you are able to have your kids raised in a healthy relationship in a year or two, then maybe it is a good idea to stay. Staying also teaches your kids commitment and that we can do hard things.
However if nothing is changing and the jerk spouse isn’t trying to be better, keeping the children in a bad relationship might be the worst thing for them. Kids learn more from what they see and experience than from what you tell them. So if you tell them “Don’t do this” but you do it, they will most likely copy your behavior, not your advice. Thus, staying in a really bad marriage could be teaching your kids to marry a jerk someday. Your kids will marry the people they feel most comfortable around. And if your kids feel like it is normal to live with a jerk that treats them badly, they might choose a spouse that is similar.
If you want to explore more questions about whether to get a divorce or not, take a look at yourdivorcequestions.org. This website was created by marriage researchers to help people answer their questions about divorce.