Should I Leave My Marriage if It No Longer Sparks Joy?

A recent blog on – the lifestyle website from tidying expert and Netflix star Marie Kondo – applied the “KonMari Philosophy” to not just excess books and overstuffed closets but also human relationships, providing advice on “What to Do When a Relationship No Longer Sparks Joy.”

Based on interviews with a clinical therapist, author, and “interpersonal architect” named Dr. Judith Coché, the blog provides advice in addressing non-joy-sparking relationships such as: asking whether there is a possibility of change in the relationship and a willingness on the part of the other person to change; determining whether you and the other person have fundamentally differing values or not; being grateful for what you had in the relationship even if you decide to move on; and, should you decide to stay in the relationship, committing fully to it.

From a general perspective, these are wise if not necessarily controversial approaches to relationships, but notably the article does not specify whether it is addressing a marriage relationship or even a romantic relationship more broadly. But certainly many readers in marriages that no longer spark joy will no doubt go to the question of whether it is time to consider a divorce.

No divorce attorney’s opinion of your marriage should be the final word or even a significant factor in your decision to seek a divorce. Deciding to end a marriage may well be the most significant decision of your life – for better or worse, or a mix of both which is often the case – and it’s one that you should discuss with the people in your life who know you and your marriage best, who have your best interests at heart, and who have the wisdom and courage to tell you what you need to hear. [Note: domestic violence should never be tolerated in a marriage, and in such cases contacting law enforcement and obtaining a restraining order is generally a more pressing priority than a divorce, even if divorce is a long-term result]. A seasoned divorce attorney will point out the importance of addressing relationship concerns with a licensed competent mental health professional.

Ending a marital relationship is not like ending a relationship with a good friend or a significant other. You can’t just  donate your spouse to Goodwill like used clothing. To put it bluntly, the law is involved. Both spouses have certain rights and obligations to one another under the law with respect to the property they own, their children, the ongoing need to financially support the children, and the need for one spouse to financially support the other after the marriage ends. If there is no money and no children, then perhaps the spouses can just walk away with minimal legal issues to be sorted out, but in most cases, the spouses will need to work together, perhaps with the assistance of attorneys, to negotiate and create an agreement that deals with all issues related to distribution of property, child custody (including holiday schedules, what conditions and rules should apply to each parent during custody time, vacations, and so on), child support, and spousal support. And if they can’t, they’ll need to go to court and present their positions to a judge who will decide these issues. Though the relationship is over and these legal questions  must be addressed, we can treat  our spouses with gratitude for those positive experiences we had even though it’s time to move on. Easier said than done in some instances. The negative feelings may be difficult to purge.

When negative feelings are difficult to purge, consider reading and watching videos on forgiveness. See Learning to forgive is said to bring health benefits and greater peace in your own life.

While a good divorce attorney will not tell you whether to get divorced, they can tell you many stories of marriages that fell apart and why, and probably a good number of stories of marriages that survived and why. Which does not necessarily mean that either those who went through with a divorce or stayed the course in marriage made the best or “right” decision, but it may well provide perspective on your situation, and you can determine for yourself through consultation with those closest to you on whether your situation is fixable or whether ending the marriage is a better alternative to staying.

In considering a divorce, it’s also best to remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and what glitters is not always gold. It can be easy to fantasize about what your single life might be from the trenches of a difficult marriage, but the reality of it – which might include increased financial responsibilities, challenging coparenting routines, disappointing attempts at online dating, and generally figuring out life on your own without a partner – could be a whole different story. That said, many people think of their divorce as the best thing that ever happened to them. But it’s best to talk to others who have similar lifestyles and situations as you who have experienced divorce to get their perspective and advice before barreling headlong into it.

In any case, one important point to remember is that spending the money to have a consultation with a divorce attorney about your situation and what divorce might mean for you from a legal perspective does not mean that you are signing a contract to get divorced. Every divorce attorney has clients who come in for a consultation or two to learn about their options, but decide to remain married. In the end, your joy and how best to spark it is your own responsibility, but a trusted attorney can help you sort through your options and provide guidance, no matter what decision you make. Zonder Family Law Group works with allied professionals including therapists who have experience working with divorcing couples.

Guidance on Your California Family Law Questions From a Westlake Village Family Law Attorney

If you would like to learn more about how our office can provide guidance on any California family law issues you are facing in Ventura County or Los Angeles County, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at (805) 777-7740 or (818) 877-0001, or schedule your strategy session using easy-to-use online form here.