01/07/2013 12:28 pm ET Updated Mar 09, 2013

The Two Actual, Not Perceived, Options

Here's a little hope for 2013, for people who have to leave their marriages (people who have been left, you get your hope in a few days):

There's a point at which the decision seems unbearable. Staying in a marriage to give the kids a good family, or breaking up their home to get divorced. How could any decent person choose divorce over a happy family?

But that's not the choice you have. If you're reading this, and have been agonizing, it's because you are not in a happy family. You're not in a good marriage. And you've been working and working to make your marriage work -- changing yourself, praying, bargaining, going to therapy, going to counseling, trying to stop wanting what you want for yourself, telling yourself that you can live like this for a few months more and then maybe things will get better.

That's not a good marriage. Your choice is between staying in something that's strangling you and letting your children grow up thinking that alienation and sadness is what marriage means, or taking a chance that you can become healthy and whole alone and model that for your kids.

Both options suck.

There's no guarantee that you'll be happy if you get a divorce. If you don't work on yourself to figure out what put you in a bad marriage in the first place, you're going to be in the same situation again. A good therapist is the best investment you can make in your future, to help you figure out what needs put you in a bad marriage and how to fulfill those needs yourself so you don't end up in the same situation again. I also recommend the book Getting The Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, which is both a marriage counseling book and a book about figuring out what you individually need.

If you don't have a vision for who you can be and what you want once you're out of the marriage, you'll drift along and not be the anchor your kids need you to be. What did you want when you were 17? You can have a modified version of that now, if you're willing to do the work.

And you are going to have to work to make sure that you are giving your kids what they need and holding up your end of the co-parenting bargain. Many many of us are better co-parents when we're no longer married than we were when we were married. You can be, too. It is no joke, but you can do it.

Both options are hard. One is going to make you bigger, and the other will make you smaller, and only you can know which one will do which for you. But while you're making this decision, make sure you understand the decision you're making. It's not between a happy marriage and a divorce. If you had the option of a happy marriage you'd be in one right now. Your choice is between taking a chance that you can work really hard to create a happy marriage, and taking a chance that you can work really hard to create a happy life for yourself and your kids by leaving.

It's a hard choice. But you know which way has the best odds, for you.

You can do it, whichever one you choose.

I hope you're getting something out of these posts. I was you, six years ago. It's good here on the other side. If you want specific, structured support for creating a new vision and plan to come through the divorce process thoughtfully and with some light let into the process, consider my Flourish Through Divorce online workshop, which starts January 13. It's everything it took me six years to learn, with the structure laid out so you can use my roadmap to find your own way to a new hopeful life.