Should I Stay or Should I Go? Maybe this game will help you decide.

by | Jul 10, 2024

A few months ago, I worked with a divorcing couple to help them set an amicable and intentional foundation from which to coparent and communicate with friends, family and each other as they transitioned their relationship. A few months after they completed their divorce I checked in, and Jamie (names have been changed to protect privacy) generously shared with me an amazing game that he and his now ex-wife created as they faced tremendous social pressure not to divorce.

With his permission I am sharing it here, hoping that it might be a valuable tool for others who are also considering divorce but struggling with societal “shoulds.” 

From Jamie:

“The social pressure we perceived to remain married – when it was clear our time had come to part ways – was intense. And the pressure was mostly generated by our own perceptions of divorce, and anticipating how it would affect and be perceived by other adults in our universe. So, we flipped the script and imagined for a while what it would be like if every marriage license came with a small surprise card – that held within it the expiration date of the marriage. People would get 1, 3-, 5-, 10- or 20-year marriages. And when your time was up, your marriage was automatically over.

And in this imagined world, everyone’s marriage operated the same way. Thus, divorce in that world would in fact be inevitable and no-fault. Couples just got what they got and there would be zero shame, failure-feeling and no negative social judgments. Only in extreme cases would people be allowed to petition for a marriage extension – and you would need to make a really strong case for why you should be allowed to stay together. By playing out this little imaginary scenario for a while, we were able to see ourselves and our marital situation more clearly for what we really had – absent thoughts for all the rest of the people who were not, obviously, parties to our marriage. It became clear to us that we would not be petitioning to stay together.

And if the world completely embraced us divorcing, and the world was designed to expect and support it, we would prefer to be divorced. It was – and remains – hard to accept the divorce. And it was the right option for us.

This little exercise proved to be very helpful in helping us find the strength to follow the path that was very disappointing and difficult – because it allowed us to better see ourselves and our marriage for what it really had become, absent the additional confusion of worrying about what the rest of the world was going to think.”

WOW. There are so many things I love about this exercise.

First, it recognizes and addresses head on how conditioned we are to give in to societal expectations, despite knowing that something isn’t right. So often our sense of should I or shouldn’t I is based on what others will think, whether or not we realize it. This process acknowledges and then removes that pressure from the decision.    

I also love how this game isn’t one of absolutes. If you want to petition to extend your marriage, you can. If this is your situation, engage in that exercise to remind yourself and each other what brought you together. Hopefully that will be a meaningful process that helps you learn about yourself and your partner.   

Finally, this is so creative. Sometimes using hypothetical situations allows us to consider possibilities we’d otherwise rule out. Playing this game makes it safe to consider something very difficult. It’s a great reminder that perspective is one of our most powerful tools.

Do you have creative ideas like this that have helped you navigate life’s challenges? I would love to hear about them! 

A special thanks to Jamie and his ex-wife for sharing this innovative idea.