"You absolutely cannot change your partner," says Barrow, "but just like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, if Ginger goes another direction, the dance looks different." What she means is to try something unexpected. For instance, you might get "a little divorced," a phrase Rachel Zucker coined in The New York Times, by escaping from your family/partner for a few days. (Or go for a long walk if this isn't possible.) A time-out, even a short one, will give you an opportunity to think about how you can make changes that will improve life in your world. Reconnecting with friends, limiting your commitments to your kids' school or taking a rock-climbing class at the gym could help you ease some of the tension in you and in your relationship.
4. How big will the ripple effect be?
We know some married women who fall into a "grass is always greener and full of mojitos" daydream of Life Without Him. Maybe you've envisioned whole weekends when you can decide what to do and when to do it. You may have even thought about the downside of how your day-to-day might change: Paying the bills could become more of a challenge, or getting to the gym for an hour after you've lost your built-in babysitter might not be possible. But have you ruthlessly considered post-spouse life? For one thing, your husband may want to take a more active role in decisions he previously left up to you, like playdates or extracurricular activities involving your children. For another, dating is not like it was when you were 25. If you're in your 30s (and beyond), do you imagine parties filled with a sea of smart, funny, charming fellas? You are not wrong. Except the men at these parties are often married, or encumbered with girlfriends (or boyfriends), or muddling through horrific divorces themselves. Barrow suggests you think about every aspect of the daydream and compare it to what you have: a guy who knows, among other things, how to hot-wire a Crock-Pot to a car dashboard. Okay—that's a little glib, but the point is that it's easy to tell ourselves that we've really thought out this other fantasy life. And it's supereasy to judge the imperfections in the person we've been with for ages. But it's not fair to your spouse (or to you).
You may find that it takes months to answer these questions and to decide whether the relationship is worth saving, not to mention months to actually save it. But trying to salvage the relationship after you've already severed ties, says Barrow, is next to impossible.