“I just want to be happy.”

We hear that regularly from people who want to end their marriages. The premise is simple: I am not happy in this marriage but I will be happy if it ends. Typically, they believe that when freed from this marriage they will develop a new and blissful relationship with someone else.

Sometimes a marriage should end. For example, it may be necessary to leave if a spouse or child is in danger. However most of the departing spouses I work with are not seeking safety; instead, they pursue an anticipated different life in which a new companion will make everything wonderful. More than twenty years working with marriages in trouble teaches me that typically the belief is a delusion. Unfortunately, for most of them, their anticipated “happily ever after” eventually evolves into “what was I thinking?”

There are several reasons that occurs.

A Faulty Assumption

People seem to have an underlying assumption that after divorce they will fall into the arms of the lover of their dreams.

Sometimes I think that I could motivate people to salvage their marriages if I could get them to understand some of the underlying reasons that 44% of the adult population in America are single. The rapidly rising ratio of singles to marrieds does not indicate that most people do not wish to be married; it more clearly represents the difficulty in our self-centered culture to develop a relationship with a person who genuinely cares about you.

It is easy to find someone who will use you; it is difficult to find someone who will selflessly love you.

I know many beautiful, intelligent women with great jobs and dazzling personalities who are alone, though that is not their preference. They have no lack of men who wish to take advantage of them, but cannot find the one who will love deeply and commit to a long-lasting relationship. I know many handsome, brilliant men with solid incomes and sparkling wit who dread going home to empty houses at night. They are tired of the single life. Though surrounded by women, they live in loneliness because they cannot find the one with whom they wish to share their future.

Before you end your marriage, consider how likely it is to find a solid, loving relationship. Is your future more likely to be happy by competing with the masses of singles searching for true love, or by working things out with the person you already know intimately? Every relationship carries risks. Solving your problems with the person who wants to be with you is far easier than sorting through strangers hoping to find one who will love you more than him- or herself.

An Unexpected Future

If you are thinking, “That doesn't apply to me. I already found the person I will be with for the rest of my life,” perhaps you should think beyond the present. You are not nearly as secure as you think. I do not have the statistics at hand, but twenty years’ experience working with marriages teaches me that relationships that begin through cheating have a very, very poor chance of success.

You likely think you are the exception.

Everyone does...until the terrible day they discover that they are not.

When one woman told me she and her lover were leaving their spouses for each other, I asked how they developed their emotional bond. She said they met on Facebook, eventually creating secret accounts their spouses did not know about so they could communicate freely. Her face fell instantly when I asked how she would know for sure he would never have another secret Facebook account. Or, for that matter, how she could be sure she would never have another. She indignantly replied, “He would never cheat on me. He loves me. I would never cheat on him. I love him.” I gently reminded her that she surely felt the same way about her current husband when she married him, yet she now was cheating on him. Similarly, her lover must have felt the same way about his current wife when he married her.