1. Quit viewing your years of marriage as some sort of investment. It’s not.
You inherently know when it’s the right time to end a marriage. Stop thinking of the time you have put into your marriage as a non-refundable down payment. It isn’t one.
In a healthy and happy marriage, time spent together is beneficial– you have good memories and a beautiful life. But once the marriage unravels, you cannot invoke those years spent as a justification to stay in a relationship, especially when the relationship both partners are no longer invested in it.
2. Accept that you deserve better.
Your life and happiness are not a commodity that you can barter. Unless you are practicing the piano or an Olympic athlete, erase the idea that time put into something (even a marriage) = a guaranteed return. Your life is not a commodity subject to negotiation, and treating it as such will only hurt you.
3. Those married years taught you a lot, but they don’t owe you anything.
You probably have some good memories, and it is important to acknowledge them. They helped you grow. Yet be cautious of your selective memory. You must also recognize that the years in between those memories–the not-so-good-ones– are not collateral and an excuse to remain in a marriage that is no longer working.
You may have been married for years and made sacrifices during that time. You may think that you are owed something because of those unhappy years. But to treat those sacrifices and unhappy years as a bargaining tool, thinking it entitles you to happiness, gets you nowhere.
You must think of those married years as experience; you learned about relationships, families, and yourself. Be grateful for those lessons, but do not attempt to use them as a bargaining tool to remain in a marriage that is no longer sustainable. To do so denies you the opportunity to move on.
4. You may think you have to stay in your relationship because you are scared and you don’t know how to start over.
It’s okay to feel scared. Fear is what makes you human, but it’s the courage to give yourself another shot at happiness—that makes you truly remarkable.
You may feel that the years invested in your marriage, even if you weren’t happy, you were at least comfortable. Your life, for the most part, was predictable. Moving on can be scary because it ends the vision of life you had for yourself. You may be afraid to start over, afraid to go “back to the beginning”—whatever that means—because you think you are too old, too financially unstable, or too emotionally distraught to do so.
Give yourself more credit than that—recognize that you are smarter, more organized, more adaptable, and stronger than you even know.
5. Just because you spent years, even decades in a marriage does not mean you will be happy in it.
Marriage is not a vending machine, where, if you put in a certain amount of money, you are guaranteed a certain item. In this case, putting in time does not mean you are necessarily guaranteed security or happiness. But you can find those things on your own, no matter what stage you are in life. It’s okay to move on, okay to start over, and okay to find happiness on your own terms.
As you start or continue to make a new life for yourself, you are given a choice about time. You may choose to spend it angry, bitter, or heartbroken about the end of your marriage, or you may choose to invest time in yourself and your own happiness.
You are not destined to live a life of hurt and misery because you are separating or divorcing. However, you can be destined for greatness and the opportunity to move on and become stronger, more compassionate, and a happier person. And putting your energy into that happiness is time well spent.