01/12/2011 03:10 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Resolve to Solve or Dissolve Your Marriage in 2011

With the ushering in of a new year, it's time to set goals for what you'd like to accomplish in the twelve months ahead.

Anyone who has had to grapple with the unfortunate choice of whether to stay in a troubled marriage or leave, knows that this is not an easy place to live from. And those who have been in this place of indecision for a while know that it becomes increasingly draining the longer you stay in this middle ground.

Yet, I have seen people remain undecided--unhappy in the marriage but unwilling or unable to create the change they need to improve or to get out of the marriage - for years.

They get caught in what I call the "Marital Indecision Cycle," and anyone who has been in that place for over 24 months, needs to know that it's probably not just another "rough patch" that every marriage experiences, and that it's in your best interest to get out of the indecision.

Being in a place of nuptial neither here nor there causes stress and a reduction in productivity and presence. It is the equivalent of a ship sailing the ocean trying to stay afloat with a gaping hole in its hull. Additionally, anyone who has ever said or felt, "this indecision's killing me," should know this may be truer than you realize.

There is ample scientific research that points to the fact that chronic stress can cause a whole host of maladies--everything from suppression of the reproductive system to cancer, heart disease, hypertension, depression and insomnia.

While we all have stress in our lives to some degree whether we are married or single, have five kids or no kids, most of the stress we have is manageable, meaning low level and/or time limited.

Having problems (such as marital discord) that have no easy or apparent solution can push tension levels through the roof.

For most people, leaving a marriage is no small decision--and it shouldn't be. Marriage is a serious commitment--especially if you have children.

But the longer you stay stuck, the more your health suffers, the more you role model an unhealthy relationship for your children, and the greater tolerance you develop for being unhappy and unfulfilled.

Make 2011 the year of change.

Here are three tips to help you gain clarity in your decision of whether to stay or go:

1. Do everything in your power to create the change your marriage needs (read self help books, seek out counsel from therapists, clergy and friends), attend self improvement programs alone and together to work on yourself as well as the relationship.

2. If your spouse is not working with you to get the marriage back to a good place, then there is nothing to work on. Nothing you do will be effective because it takes effort from both partners to create a workable, healthy marriage.

3. Because you won't get new mental and emotional information until you take different actions, try something you haven't tried before - if you haven't gone to couple's therapy, seek out a therapist to work on your communication or conflict resolution skills; if you've never physically separated, try that for three to six months to see what that feels like. You will also get a new set of emotions when you recommit to your spouse, make the therapy appointment, move back into the bedroom or when you go out looking for apartments, talk to attorneys and download the paperwork you need to file for divorce.

Three books I recommend on this subject are:

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, Mira Kirshenbaum
How to Know When It's Time to Go, Dr. Lawrence Birnbach and Dr. Beverly Hyman
And my first book, Contemplating Divorce, A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go, Susan Pease Gadoua

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