Are You a Leaning Out Spouse?

You've been worried about your marriage for a long time.

Or maybe you’re in a crisis after an affair comes out. Either way, you’re seriously thinking about divorce but you haven’t made a final decision. Maybe you’ve told your spouse directly, or maybe you’ve either kept quiet or just dropped hints. But you’re past the stage of what we call “marital doubts” into sustained thinking about divorce.

We’re here to talk about your options and what you can take from the research on people in your same boat. For starters, the majority of leaning-out spouses are wives.

Women initiate two-thirds of divorces.

This divorce fact surprises most people.

Don’t get us wrong. If you’re a husband right now, leaning out is no less stressful for you.

Another research fact: leaning-out doesn’t mean that your marriage is doomed. Lots of people come back from the cliff edge and work out a better marriage.

But for now you are in an emotional storm. You think about your marriage all the time. The last argument with your spouse demoralizes you for days. You may feel like a failure, or you may continually reassure yourself that you’ve done everything you can—and that your spouse is the failure. You worry all the time about the children if you have them, or about how your parents will react. You are embarrassed to let other people know what’s going on.

If your spouse knows you are leaning out, things can be even worse. He or she may react with alarm, panic, and anger—which makes you feel even more hopeless about your marriage. The emotional firestorm grows stronger.

Here's some emotional first aid for you right now:
  • Don’t beat yourself up for leaning out. You got here for reasons, and they won’t go away if you tell yourself you’re a bad person for considering divorce.
  • Try not to blame your spouse for either being clueless (if you’ve not directly shared where you are) or for acting poorly out of fear of rejection. You may not be doing any better if you were in their shoes.
  • Tell yourself that you don’t have to decide anything quickly. You can take your time to make a decision. (An exception would be if you are in danger.)
  • Don’t go through this alone. There are resources to help you.

If you’re interested in professional help, the very best place to go is to a Discernment Counselor. See more about this short term counseling service designed specifically for couples on the brink of divorce.