Another way to ask this question is: Can people change? Can my spouse change? Can I change? If you adopt the principles of Determinism, the theory that our character has been determined by our genetic history, family and upbringing, then the answer is no. If you adopt the principles of Free Will, the theory that regardless of the choices we have made thus far, we get to make choices in the future that can change our character, or more importantly, how our character is perceived, then the answer is yes.
Of course, in a relationship, it takes two people, not one, to effectuate real change. Both partners must be willing to look forward, not back, in order to give change a fair chance. If either partner thinks change is impossible, then no amount of couples counseling or individual counseling will fix the problem.
Socrates said, according to Plato, ask a lot of questions. Aristotle said, before you start asking questions, ask if there is an expert in the field, and if there is an expert, defer to the expert; however, if there are no experts, either everyone gets to be an expert or no one gets to be an expert.
One of the things we know in the 21st century that was not known by our ancient philosophers is how our hormones and brain chemicals affect the way we think. Sometimes we make poor decisions when our hormones are off balance, or when we are impaired by alcohol or drugs. Sometimes our behavioral patterns induce poor decision-making. Ultimately, the question is: Can we train the brain? Some experts say yes, others say no. There is no universal opinion regarding this matter. My opinion as a Portland, Oregon divorce attorney with 20 years experience is that it depends on a person’s attitude.
Psychotherapists, among other social scientists, are trained to diagnose their patients based on objective categorical criteria, yet we are all individuals who experience life subjectively. While we do have commonalities, we are all unique. Nevertheless, we each have the capacity to adapt to our ever changing social environment. Look at how the cell phone has changed our culture over the last ten years. Moreover, we have the capacity to effectuate social change as a society, as evidenced by the enactment of civil rights laws over the last 100 years. If we have the power to change the way we behave and think as a society, then we have power to change the way we behave and think as individuals. In other words, we know people can change. We have seen people change. It begins with an open mind.
Back to the original question: Should you get a divorce? The answer lies in your and your partner’s willingness and ability to make changes in the relationship, and in yourselves.