by Andrea Morgan of Morgan Divorce Law Firm, PLLC

Very often, I hear from my clients they are considering divorce but cannot understand or explain exactly why.  They are unable to find words they consider accurate to express their desire to dissolve their marriage.  Their spouse has not cheated on them, become violent or otherwise violated any of the tenets of matrimony.

They describe in vague terms a feeling of lack of support from their partner, and their partner’s disinterest in their overall well-being.  There are glaring inconsistencies in the words versus the actions of their partner.  Confusion in the relationship is the norm, and communication is at ground zero.  They often express feeling guilty for wanting out of a marriage that has no “obvious” flaws.   Yet, they understand on a very deep level that they want and need out in order to be happy and healthy within themselves and with life in general.

This is far more common than you’d think.  You are not crazy or being over-demanding when you know something is amiss in your marriage, even though it is difficult to put your finger on to describe.  It does not help if you have tried to communicate about it with your spouse, and he or she minimalized or denied there is anything at all amiss with their behavior.  Or worse, accused you of being the problem.

I call this phenomenon the hot and cold spouse.  When dealing with one, there is an expression I have found to be accurate: when they’re hot, they are being manipulative.  When they’re cold, they are being themselves.

Here are some things to consider in reaching the decision of whether to stay or go:

1. There is an underlying medical or psychological reason for the volatility.

If your spouse suffers from a medical condition or alcohol or substance dependency, co-dependency, narcissism, border-line personality disorder or a form of depression, his or her behavior in your relationship could easily manifest as hot and cold.

If these root causes are addressed and adequately treated with counseling and therapy, there is always the possibility the hot and cold behavior will dissipate to a lesser degree or even completely.  Getting your spouse to get the treatment he or she needs is tricky business, however.  Like asking if a leopard can change its spots, the answer is no.  Not unless the leopard wants to change.

The first step in this process is for the hot and cold spouse to recognize and acknowledge that room for growth and change exists, and that he or she is willing to step out of a harmful pattern.  While I do not advocate ultimatums generally, in this scenario if the hot and cold spouse realizes the alternative is being left or divorced, their reaction is a good barometer for you to make the decision of what is best for you going forward.

2. You and your spouse are not aligned.

Let’s face it.  We are human beings and as such, are all looking to grow whether we consciously realize it or not.  I personally believe we came into being to do just that – expand our self-awareness, heal our buried psychological wounds, develop into our highest selves.

Anything that prevents this process causes spiritual set-backs; blocks in personal fulfillment; feelings of discontent and stagnation; and over-all misalignment with our growth path.  This is particularly important with our most intimate involvements with other souls, those closest to us physically and emotionally.

In most marriages and domestic partnerships, your spouse or partner (and of course your children) is the energy you come into contact with far more frequently than other family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  If you are in a constant state of confusion due to the inconsistencies in the behavior of your spouse, it could mean that the growth path you once both shared simply no longer exists.  If you are struggling to find any meaningful common ground with your spouse and experience a constant vague feeling of being stultified, it is important to listen to your inner-self for guidance.

3. The dynamics of your marriage have changed.

Before you consider throwing in the towel, assess whether there have been any major or dramatic changes in your married life or partnership.

Has a new baby come into your lives? Have your children grown up and moved out of your home?  Has there been a death or illness of a close family member?  Have either of you recently suffered a physical illness or emotional crisis?

Life-changing events such as these utterly re-configure your marital dynamics, in which case re-assessing them and reconnecting with each other is likely the best solution.  The closest romantic relationships I am aware of have sustained times of trauma.  The spouses that chose to work through life’s difficulties together have the strongest bonds and level of trust with each other.

When you are dealing with your unhappiness due to the inconsistent, hot and cold behavior of your spouse, it is extremely important to remember that you are not the cause of this behavior.   The services of an experienced couples’ counselor or individual counselor is invaluable and will give you far greater insight into how you should move forward.  I know what my clients describe they are feeling with a hot and cold spouse is very real and valid.  If you are experiencing this, be sure to seek professional counseling first in order to separate your feelings from the larger decision to go through a divorce.

Something like, If you think your partner’s hot and cold behavior may be due to infidelity, take a look at my article, 5 Reasons Cheating Might Not Be the Death of Your Marriage.

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