19 Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Spouse Before Divorce

19 Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Spouse Before Divorce

Divorce specialist Natalie Maximets
Natalie Maximets is a certified life transformation coach with expertise in mindfulness and sustainability. She is a published author focused on the most progressive solutions in the field of Psychology. Natalie helps people go through fundamental life challenges, such as divorce, and build an entirely new life by reframing their personal narrative.

In today's world, divorces have become a popular solution to break free from a relationship that no longer brings you joy. However, ending a marriage is a much more serious issue than simply swiping left on Tinder. In fact, this means quitting the relationship you have been building for so long and breaking up with the person you once loved. Are the issues you are currently going through really that serious – or might you simply be overreacting?

The fact is, we live in a consumer society that might sometimes make us think that even non-material things, such as a relationship, can be easily replaced. Nevertheless, numerous people regret making quick decisions and wish they had never split up with their spouse. Both men and women often complain that they started missing their ex-partner when their marriage was over. They realized that they had made a mistake – but it was too late.

Thus, it is essential to think twice before filing for divorce. You never know what your life will be like when you become single again. What if you end up being a lonely person who can't imagine having anyone by their side besides their ex-husband or wife?

You will be probably surprised at how often couples mistake temporary discomfort for insurmountable obstacles in a marriage. And you’ll be even more surprised to find out that many partners make false estimations regarding their spouse’s reaction to a possible divorce.

Stay Realistic to Avoid Incorrect Estimations

According to results from the National Survey of Families and Households, conducted at the end of the 1980s, numerous men and women were completely wrong in their judgments about their spouses’ level of happiness after a possible divorce.

Over 4,000 officially married couples participated in the survey. 54% of wives and 59% of husbands mistakenly believed that their spouse would be much more unhappy if they split up. Nevertheless, their partners didn’t consider a possible separation to be the end of their life. In six years, around 7% of marriages ended. Which marriages were those you, you ask?

Believe it or not, but the highest divorce rate was among the people who overstated the level of their partner’s happiness in the marriage. Divorce affected less than 6% of “realistic” couples who correctly guessed how unhappy their spouse would be if they split up. 13% of men who were too convinced of their partner’s unhappiness without them became single. 14.5% of women who made similar incorrect estimations also ended up alone.

So it’s essential to stay realistic and analyze your relationship as a whole if you’re thinking about a divorce. You may find out that you’re not the only one suffering. The marriage might fail your partner’s expectations, too. And you’ll never know for sure whether your spouse is happy until you honestly talk to them.

After all, when something goes wrong in a relationship, it’s often the result of major miscommunication between partners. Resolving conflicts is actually a part of married life – so don’t take it too seriously! Disagreement is rarely a reason to quit a marriage - try bargaining first.

Don’t overestimate your partner’s commitment, especially if your frustration is palpable and you’re likely to start a big fuss. You don’t want to be blindsided by divorce papers and see your spouse walking out the door before you decide on separation, do you? Thus, don’t take a series of ordinary problems that many couples face as a robust reason for divorce – there might be easy solutions!

Seek help in cases of abuse!

Please note that you should consider divorce if you are being abused by your partner physically, emotionally, or financially. Dr. Susan Hanks, Director of the Family and Violence Institute in Alameda, claims that domestic violence occurs due to internal psychological struggles which result in abusive behavior. However, you should not tolerate any violence from your partner, no matter how attached you are to them. Please contact a 24/7 helpline to get instant help from professionals who will also provide you with a safe space if necessary.

How to Make a Balanced Decision on Whether to Divorce Your Spouse?

No matter how frustrated you might feel, it’s crucial to discuss your concerns with your partner. However, before you sit and talk to your partner, it’s essential to deal with your negative emotions and overcome any kind of resentment to make your interaction fruitful.

It’s highly recommended to do a little “homework” before approaching your spouse. It will help you understand whether your partner’s behavior is really the root cause of your dissatisfaction, or whether you can fix it on your own.

Remember, divorce is a serious step which you should never take in an emotionally charged state of mind because it might negatively affect your life in the future.

According to Dr. Phil, you are only ready to split up when you feel at peace with this solution, and your thoughts are straight and clear. However, if there still are lots of feelings, then you actually have a chance to save and even strengthen your marriage by overcoming them in a self-compassionate and, at the same time, respectful manner.

You may be scared, angry, hurt, and confused, which might make you feel that you don't love your spouse anymore. However, those feelings might indicate that you are deeply attached to your partner and just need to work on your relationship. In other words, the only way not to regret your radical solution afterward is to calm down and restrain yourself from making decisions when you are at the brink of despair.

But what can you do if you feel like a thundercloud ready to burst with sarcastic and judgemental claims? Remember that it’s okay to experience intense emotions in a relationship. However, it’s totally not okay to drown your spouse in the cold lake of emotional turmoil.

In childhood, we were able to start and stop games whenever we wanted, but as adults, we have to take the rules of life more seriously. We can’t afford to break them easily as by doing this, we can also break the heart of someone dear. A marriage is a long-term game, and it’s quite unreasonable to stop it simply because one of the players isn’t able to clearly communicate their desires and concerns to their partner.

Nancy Colier, a psychotherapist from Manhattan, New York, suggests asking yourself a set of questions and then approaching your spouse in a similarly ethical and non-abusive manner. Asking yourself several questions and finding the inner strength to talk to your partner doesn’t seem that difficult now that you’ve realized that the consequences of your emotional reaction might be detrimental. How can you make a balanced decision you won’t regret later?

Use Mindfulness Meditation Before Making a Decision

Meditation will significantly help you reduce stress and stay mindful while making important decisions. If you're overwhelmed with negativity and can't pull yourself together, try Bell Meditation.

There's no need to look for offline practices involving a Tibetan singing bowl – you can find it on the Internet! The key thing is to concentrate on an external stimulus – this will help you withdraw the focus of attention from your inner turmoil.

You can also use a guided Bell Meditation to deal with stress. For instance, check out the Bell of Mindfulness Meditation – it can take you out of the loop of gloomy thoughts and emotions and bring you back to a reality that is probably not as bad as you think it is. We are the ones who provide meaning to what happens around us. So you’ll feel so much better if you simply change your attitude.

If you feel hurt, try out the Rain of Self-Compassion Meditation by Tara Brach, or any other teacher. Surround your inner child with love and care so that you can act like an adult later, when you feel ready.

Finally, Anger Management Meditation will help you release your intense frustration so that it ruins neither your mood nor your relationship. You can also find other meditations all in one place by downloading an application on your cell phone. A few good ones are Headspace, Calm, Buddhify, Sattva, Insight Timer and Stop, Breathe & Think.

Remember, it's better to tolerate the temporary discomfort of making an effort to calm down now than to deal with the consequences of your wild mood swings later. By meditating and achieving peace of mind, you will make sure that you don’t regret any choices you make.

Moreover, your partner will presumably appreciate the decency with which you maintain self-respect and balance, so get on flat ground first. When you focus on what you need without accusing others, people will be more likely to help you fulfill your desires. So use these “homework” questions before you sit down to talk!

9 “Homework” Questions to Ask Yourself Before Talking to Your Spouse

1. Are You Worried About the Present, Past or Future?

Although it might seem absurd, you might be worried not only about the present moment but also about the future or even past. Thus, be honest with yourself – what are your fears, exactly? Are they rooted in the past, present, or future? Can you tell your fears from the real facts that matter now?

Roy Bennett, author of The Light in the Heart, wrote, “If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.” If your partner made a mistake earlier, it does not mean that they are going to repeat it. Just pay close attention to how they behave today to understand if they’ve changed.

Likewise, numerous obstacles that we consider problematic in the present or dubious from a future perspective often have solutions. Shadeen Francis, Marriage and Family Therapist, suggests collaborating and sharing experiences with your partner to make things work.

If you're still considering a divorce, think about what your biggest fear is regarding a breakup. Are you afraid of ending up alone for the rest of your life? Are you uncomfortable with being single? Are you scared of losing intimacy with your partner? Try to answer honestly and analyze the pros and cons of each consequence you might face, and you’ll figure out whether divorce is the right option.

2. Are There Alternatives to Ending the Marriage?

Reflect on the time when your marriage worked – what was it based upon? What went wrong and why? Think about the reason behind your wish to end the marriage. Are there any other options besides this radical solution? If you feel that the connection between the two of you is wearing off, think twice! Maybe your partner just didn't hear what you've been trying to communicate.

According to Nancy Colier, sometimes speaking out your concerns is not enough to be heard, simply because we are all human. Your partner isn't perfect and might not always understand what you need to feel happy. Maybe you just weren't clear enough or might have been secretly hoping that your spouse would read your mind.

3. Have You Agreed Upon the Roles You Perform in a Marriage?

We all have subconscious expectations for a partner, rooted in our beliefs about how a man or a woman should behave. The latter might come from our family background, our past relationships, or our dreams about an ideal marriage. Nevertheless, make maintaining a genuine connection with your spouse’s true nature a priority.

When you accept other human beings as they are, they feel your love and will be much more likely to satisfy your cravings. Just don't impose your beliefs onto your partner as the only true way to build a marital relationship! Two grown-ups can definitely reach an agreement regarding the roles in a relationship.

Review your expectations and bring them to the table when you feel that you're ready to talk. You might also take the initiative and suggest new experiences if you want your partner to share what you love.

Imagine for a second that you're playing a game. If you're a man and your wife needs help with chores, why not do them for her? If you're a woman and your husband is eager to share an outdoor experience with you, why don't you forget about your manicure and climb that mountain with him?

New experiences are actually fun if you stay open-minded and loving! It's crucial not to forget that you are not only husbands and wives but also unique personalities.

Of course, you shouldn't violate your personal boundaries by agreeing to try out something which you repel. However, in most cases, couples just need to convey their expectations to each other. So don't suffer silently, assuming that your spouse will guess what’s on your mind. Tell them what you want and ask them to help you.

4. Are Both of You Able to Bear the Same Amount of Responsibility?

Separate yourself from your expectations for a moment and reflect upon your role in the relationship. Do you act responsibly when it comes to solving issues in your marriage? Does your spouse accept responsibility? Is it a fair balance, or is one of you pushing harder to make things work? If so, what can you do to change it? Are both of you ready to take action?

Please note that some situations may be out of your control, so think clearly whether you are capable of solving a given problem. For instance, certain people are addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc. If your family has a history with those issues, it's time to put some pressure on your partner. Of course you should make them feel that you love them and want to help them, but stay firm.

Hayden Lindsey, Couple and Family Counselor, claims that an ultimatum can be justified if you want to help the person heal without losing yourself in an unhappy marriage. Suggest that your spouse receive treatment and if they refuse, consider moving on to save yourself and your children.

5. What’s Your Role in the Problem?

Might you have contributed to the issues you’ve been dealing with? This question might be the hardest to answer but if you are honest with yourself, it can be a game-changer for your marriage.

Recollect your reactions and actions to make sure that you didn’t frustrate your partner. You might feel that your connection has weakened but in reality, your spouse could be withdrawing due to emotional pain or a lack of understanding, especially if he or she is an introvert.

Are you sure that you have listened closely to what your partner fears, hates, wants, expects, and loves? Were you emotionally approachable when your spouse needed help? Did you ask for help when you needed it, or did you start a big thing because your partner couldn’t read your mind?

Moreover, if you're running from certain problems in a marriage, you might face them in the next one. This is certainly a bitter pill to swallow, but if you find it difficult to tolerate boredom in this relationship, you might get bored with another partner, too. Erika Doukas, a New York-based clinical psychologist, claims that running from these issues without trying to resolve them can tie you to a vicious circle of the same problems in another relationship. However, realizing how you may have contributed to the family conflict can save your marriage and even bring it to a new level.

6. What Are Your and Your Partner’s Archetypes?

Carl Jung delineated 12 major archetypes that determine our behavior and choices. Don’t underestimate their power over your fate – archetypes can create a narrative arch for your life, and it’s essential to understand what forces you are driven by most of the time.

Are you an Explorer, a Sage, a Creator, an Innocent, an Outlaw, a Magician, a Ruler, a Lover, a Hero, a Caregiver, a Jester or a Regular Person? Please note that the more balanced people are, the more archetypes they embrace. However, self-reflection might help you determine your and your spouse’s dominant archetypes (there might be one or several).

Ancient mythology contains answers to numerous questions. Think about the fate of mythological characters with your dominant archetypes. What were their strengths and weaknesses? Is there anything in common between their life and your fate? What would you like to avoid or change? Remember that you always make a choice unlike those characters, because you are human and can switch archetypes if you need it.

You might also investigate what your partner’s archetypal characters did, and explore their relationship. This will help you analyze and adjust compatibility with your existing partner. For instance, Aphrodite, the Lover, was married to Hephaestus, the Creator, but she cheated on him with Ares, the Warrior. If Lover is your dominant archetype, maybe you need a little more fire in your sex life – so why don’t you try a role play with your spouse?

Athena was a Sage, but she had no partner because she seemed detached and unapproachable for men. Athena is traditionally associated with a virgin or a woman that doesn’t need a man at all. If this is your case, try to develop other archetypes to boost your emotionality and spontaneity.

Given that mythological characters possess hyperbolized archetypes, you’ll be able to find common traits in your life and draw parallels to take the best features and drop the ones that ruin your relationship.

7. Would You Feel Happier Without Your Spouse?

Is there any sacrifice you’re making to stay in a relationship? In other words, what does it cost you? Would you stay in the marriage if your partner changed some patterns and fulfilled your expectations?

Perhaps your partner has drawbacks, but are you sure that they outweigh the positive features? For instance, you might have an emotionally cold and completely unromantic partner who, at the same time, provides for your family so that you can afford lots of things that other people can only dream of. In this case, it's essential to take matters into your own hands and suggest some romantic adventures to show your partner how much they are worth. Of course, you shouldn't overtly “promote” them, but you can take your spouse outside and show how great it is to hold hands while watching a starlit sky.

Additionally, many people are misled by the prospect of divorce because they start feeling like a failure. They suffer from a negative self-image instead of coming up with creative solutions to save their marriage. However, the world is not only black and white, so try looking on the bright side! Say to yourself that you're doing your best while trying out a range of alternatives to find out what options work well for both you and your spouse. Even if divorce is inevitable, a positive attitude will make it less stressful and more amicable.

8. Can You Afford a Divorce Both Psychologically and Financially?

Not only is divorce extremely stressful; it is also financially exhausting. When you split up, you'll have to pay all your bills without any support from your spouse. This is another reason why it's essential to keep calm and make rational decisions.

Sit down and calculate how much money you’ll need to cover your monthly expenses or ask a financial advisor to help you. If children are involved, decide how you and your partner will split the financial responsibility to keep potential conflicts to a minimum. Remember, starting a quarrel, filing for divorce, and then coming off as needy is the least preferable way to end a relationship.

9. Do You Need Someone Else’s Advice?

Don't be afraid to seek outside help before you’ve actually made a decision. It is better to consider several points of view before radically changing your life. Consult your friends that you trust and ask your relatives’ opinion if you consider it appropriate to do so. You might also want to visit a marriage and family therapist (MFT). Again, it is better to try out all your options now than regret your decision later!

10. Questions To Ask Your Partner Before Divorce

Whenever you're ready to approach your partner, make sure they also feel like talking. If they are not in the mood, wait for an appropriate time when you are on the same wavelength. The following questions will help you make a final decision on whether to stay in the marriage or leave. Moreover, if your partner is willing to talk and you do it naturally without any pressure, who knows – maybe discussing these questions will help strengthen your marital bonds.

1. Is Our Relationship Facing Difficult Times?

This is a polite way to ask your partner about how they feel in the marriage, especially if you’ve noticed that they are suffering, too. However, before you ask this question, get some information on the phases any marital relationship goes through. Counselors who help families get through difficult times often say that it's okay to fall in and out of love in your married life. So, don't mix up a typical phase, common for many couples, with a problem you can’t solve.

If you're unhappy about your marriage, it's important to find out more about your partner's feelings and plans. It’s crucial to be open-minded and accept your spouse’s response without resentment or judgment. You should talk like two mature adults and decide whether you want to stay together or start a new life.

Be persistent in asking direct questions – don't be misguided by general answers like “I’m not sure” or “I guess so.” It's crucial to find out what exactly your spouse feels regarding your marriage, if you want to make things work. Additionally, if your partner feels rather pessimistic about your relationship but you’ve realized that you want to save your marriage, consider seeking professional help together.

2. What Are the Main Problems in Our Marriage?

Many couples split up because they fail to find a balance between each other's values. In other words, the things that are crucial to you might be insignificant to your partner. For instance, you might crave attention while your spouse thinks that being too intrusive would violate your personal space. At the same time, your partner might be secretly wanting to spend more time on their own but is afraid to tell you because you don't seem to have similar needs.

Thus, ask your partner what they see as the most significant issues in your relationship. Also, make sure to clearly communicate your needs to your spouse so that they hear and understand you. It is essential to respect each other's needs in a marriage, no matter how weird they might seem. At the same time, fulfilling your partner’s desires should not be equal to crossing your personal boundaries. Collaborate on finding a compromise but don’t hurt each other. Both you and your partner should provide constructive solutions, suggesting what can be done to improve the state of things. And remember to keep your partner's concerns in mind after you’ve come to an agreement, in order not to get on their nerves again. Sometimes it's useful to treat a relationship like it’s a project at work. When a meeting is over, a follow-up usually lands in your inbox. It contains the most crucial points that were discussed. So why not make a list of the activities you would both relish? This would remind both of you of how you can make each other's life better!

3. Have You Thought About a Divorce?

This question implies numerous possibilities to deal with your and your partner's dissatisfaction. So don't rush or push your spouse to provide a “yes” or “no” answer. It would be more mature to listen quietly to your partner’s concerns. Don't forget that the temporary discomfort of facing a bit of uncertainty will bring you more benefit in the long-term.

On the contrary, if you put enormous pressure on your spouse and force them to decide now whether they would like to stay or leave, they might be more inclined to leave. So be the best friend to yourself and your significant other and fully accept their experience instead of accusing them, even if you feel hurt deep inside. Then voice out your concerns in an ethical manner, respecting your partner's boundaries. Only then can you decide if your marriage has come to an end or if both of you are willing to work on your relationship. Please be fully aware of the fact that it will be almost impossible to turn back once you’ve decided that there's no point of return.

4. What Bothers You the Most in Our Relationship?

Although you might not like the answer to this question, it could become a game- changer. In fact, this is one of the most powerful ways to find out whether you should stay together or part ways. Of course, it’s not about minor things like dirty socks or unwashed dishes (but you should discuss those, too, if you feel really bad about it!). It’s about foundational things such as trust, respect, and honor. For instance, one of the spouses might have disrupted their partner’s trust in the past and is now facing constant rejection due to a lack of confidence. In such a case, it’s very important to assure your spouse that you will never repeat the mistake again and surround them with care. It’s no less crucial for the other partner to forgive, and give a second chance if it’s acceptable. At the same time, neither of you should make promises that you are unable to fulfill.

If trust used to be an issue in your relationship, ask a separate question: “Do you trust me?” Trust is fundamental for building a connection – once it's lost, nothing else will help you stay close. If your partner feels a lack of trust, ask what you can do to win it back. If you find yourself in a position where you can't trust your spouse, voice this out, too, especially if you see that your partner is willing to save the marriage.

5. Do You Feel Loved and Accepted?

Romantic love is great, but in a marriage, you can sometimes feel disconnected from this chemistry. Nevertheless, the bonds between you and your spouse may be even more profound than the fascination you experienced at the beginning of your relationship. Thus, don't judge too quickly that you no longer have feelings for your partner, or that your spouse has “fallen out of love”.

Love in a marriage is lasting, and lies deep, but you should make sure that your partner feels that you care about them. Ask directly whether or not they feel loved and if they have any concerns about this. Also, ask them what you can do to improve the situation.

Likewise, if you don't feel loved, ask your loved one to express their care by providing you with the things or experiences that will help you feel appreciated in the relationship.

However, if you no longer care about how your partner feels and can't do anything about it, it's better to part ways. And if you’ve tried talking to your spouse but it didn't work, as they simply stopped caring, consider leaving and building a meaningful relationship with a person who will put in more effort to make you happy.

6. Are You Satisfied with Our Sex Life?

Numerous people avoid talking about sex because they are too ashamed to say that something has gone wrong. Naturally, pointing out your partner's drawbacks over and over will be detrimental to the marriage, but communicating respectfully can actually enhance your sex life!

Any couple may face a decrease in romantic chemistry at a certain phase. However, if you want more sex but your partner seems uninterested, try to find out what's going on delicately. Don't persist if your spouse isn't in the mood. It is also very important not to have sexual intercourse just because you feel obliged to make your spouse happy. If a couple has sex when one of the partners wants it but another one doesn't, this can lead to major problems in your intimate life.

If your partner openly says that he or she is dissatisfied with your joint sex life, find out how to improve it. Create an intimate atmosphere, prepare a meal, buy a bottle of wine, and discuss sexual fantasies. You can also try new positions and locations. Just recollect how spontaneous you used to be when you had just met each other.

7. Have You Considered Dating Anyone Else?

Sometimes partners ponder divorce when they meet someone else, so find out whether your partner has thought about dating someone else. If so, pull yourself together and ask what your spouse lacks in your marriage that is making them look for another partner, or even, gasp, cheat on you. Although it may be one of the hardest things to do, try not to take it personally, as your partner is a separate individual with their own needs. Honesty may be very painful in this case, but it’s probably the best way to find out whether you should stay together or not. Sometimes one of the partners might feel extremely lonely in the relationship, especially if the spouses don't spend quality time together or don't share common interests. Even if you're sure that your partner has been loyal, ask them if they’ve been tempted, and why that is. This will help you prevent similar situations in the future and become closer to your partner by understanding them better.

8. Do You Want to Work on Our Marriage?

Ask your partner the tricky question of whether he or she is willing to improve your relationship and, if so, why. If they answer that they love you and feel connected and attached to you, it's a great sign! However, if they want to work on your marriage for the sake of children or financial reasons, divorce might still be the better option.

If you catch yourself thinking in terms of others in this marriage, it may also be a good idea to leave. Reevaluating and rebuilding your relationship is worth the effort when love is still in place. The good news is, if you and your partner still share affection and are ready to change, you can definitely give your marriage another try!

9. What Are Our Plans for the Future?

Ask your partner to share his or her plans for the future and find out whether you are included. But before you ask this question, think about whether you see your spouse as a part of your life in a few years.

Is your spouse focused on separate plans? Even if this is the case, it's not always a reason for divorce, because those plans might be a part of a bigger plan to provide for your family. For instance, your spouse might have to move to another town and live apart for some time to earn money and buy a bigger house. So be as attentive as you can and don't judge your partner until you find out the truth.

10. Have We Tried All the Options?

You might want to ask this question when you've tried everything else to save your marriage, and also when you want your spouse to take an active part in resolving conflicts. However, you always have one more option, which is marriage counseling. If both of you are unwilling to divorce but can't find any other way out, you can still use this additional option. Remember, there were reasons why you fell in love with this person – so there is a reason to make an attempt to save what you've been building for so long!

EXERCISE: What Can Help Your Marriage Right Now?

You and your partner can come up with a bunch of great solutions on how to save your marriage by doing an exercise suggested by Kevin Wright, Minister of Education at the Riverside Church in New York.

Once you’ve realized that you should give your marriage a try, take a piece of paper and write down a list of things you consider to be “marriage saviors.” Then turn the paper upside-down and write what your partner needs to do to improve your relationship. Ask your spouse to perform the same task. Once both of you ready, exchange your lists and openly discuss the controversial parts.

You might be surprised at how easy it can be to make your partner happy! At the same time, your spouse will basically receive a manual on how to make your life more enjoyable. So why don't you try it instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your marriage? Building a relationship may be time-consuming, but if you and your partner are willing to work through it, it could be well worth the effort!

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