Your marriage seems to have turned into a disaster. The relationship isn’t working, you are arguing all the time. And it seems that there is nothing else you can do to fix your family and still be together as a couple. So now you are thinking about getting a divorce. It could solve the problem and finally give you a happier life.
But this isn’t an easy decision to make. You shouldn’t rush into it right away. Everything needs to be thought through really carefully. Divorce isn’t as simple as a choice of a meal for dinner. It’s a decision that will create lifelong changes not only in your life but for many other people too.
So there are lots of things you need to consider before you actually file the papers. And some of them might not be obvious for you. In this article, we will cover the questions you need to answer honestly for yourself to make the right decision on whether or not you should start the divorce process with your spouse.
1. Why Do I Want It?
Naturally, this is the first question you need to be able to answer honestly when considering a divorce. And there is only one right reason for it - to end a marriage. But there are also lots of other ones people have:
- because they are angry and frustrated
- because they want to control their spouse and make them see the situation their way
- because they want to be taken seriously
- because they want to give their marriage a shake
- because they want their partner to treat them better etc.
So take an honest look at your motivation for a divorce. You need to understand that divorce is not a way to fix the other person. Even when you threatening it without actually intending to do it, it won’t make your marriage work. The only thing that a divorce can do is to end your marriage.
2. Do I Still Love My Partner?
You need to know the answer to this question. Your decision doesn’t fully depend on it, but sometimes anger and resentment come when you still have feelings for your partner and want them to change their behavior. And if there is still love, it would be a good idea to see a marriage counselor and try to save the relationship. You definitely don’t want to realize that it was a mistake after you have gone through all the pain and struggle of the divorce.
3. Am I Rational or Emotional?
Breaking up with a partner is a harsh move to make in your life. And you need to make sure that it’s a rational decision rather than an emotional outburst. There are situations that can influence our ability to think rationally and calmly. They include sadness and grief over a loss, anger, love and infatuation, and personal crisis too.
And at moments like these divorce may seem to be a solution to the problems you have. But one should always remember that strong emotions of any kind (no matter if they are positive or negative) distort our ability to think and consider options rationally.
Divorce is quite a drastic move in your life to use it as a solution for your midlife crisis, for example. When you are experiencing it, it’s absolutely normal to think about ‘what if’ and play alternative scenarios of your life in your head. But on the other hand, it should all better stay in your head only because it’s often not about your marriage but about you personally.
Another case that often makes people start the process is having an affair. It’s always about lots of positive emotions, euphoria and the feeling of having finally found your one and only love. But these feelings don’t last for long. And they definitely shouldn’t be a reason why you ask for a divorce because you might regret destroying 10 or 15 years of marriage for a short infatuation later. So make sure it’s not your hormones thinking about divorce, it’s your rational and mature part of the brain. And in any case, give yourself time to think.
4. Am I Reasonable?
Getting married to a person you love makes you think that everything will go smoothly in your marriage. And it’s a popular thought that a happy marriage isn’t a hard one. But actually, it’s just a myth. Happy couples are the ones that go through hard times together hand in hand without splitting up. And before you make the final decision you need to think about your expectations of the marriage, the ones it meets and the ones it doesn’t. And clearly find the ones that aren’t realistic. They might be the reason why you want to divorce. And in this case, the problem isn’t your marriage, but things that are impossible to get at all.
5. Have I Made My Feelings Clear?
Most of the marriage issues are just communication issues. “You may think that you have communicated, but your partner may not have really heard,” said Sherry Amatenstein, a marriage therapist. So when you are unhappy with what your spouse does, maybe they pay little attention to you or you would like them to spend more time with you, make sure your partner knows about your concerns. They can’t change their behavior if they are not aware there is something wrong!
Don’t assume that your husband or wife knows that you are dissatisfied with some aspects of your marriage. People don’t know how to read each other’s minds. This is why we need language and communication. So before asking for a divorce, make sure you had a long and deep conversation with your spouse. And while telling about your feelings, be ready to hear your partner too.
6. Is There Anything My Partner Can Do to Change the Situation?
It doesn’t matter if it was a situation that happened only once or an accumulation of many factors over the years that made you think about a divorce. And when there are lots of dissatisfaction, broken expectations and pain, feeling unhappy in marriage, not being heard and being unvalued becomes a process. But is there something that can be changed?
This logically follows from the previous item - when you let your partner know that you are hurt by their behavior or behaviors, explain what they can do, say or change to make it better. Maybe it’s not the wrong partner, it’s just the relationship that went wrong. You can give up on the marriage in the way it exists right now and divorce. But you also can build a better relationship with the same partner.
7. Have I Tried Everything I could?
When considering a divorce, you need to make sure that you have put all humanly possible efforts in saving your marriage first. Separation may seem an easy thing to do, especially now, when every second marriage (according to the most optimistic statistics) falls apart. But don’t be deceived by this simplicity. It’s still a difficult decision and there will always be room for regrets and doubts.
To avoid drowning in them after and blaming yourself for destroying your marriage, do everything you can to save it. Talk to your partner about how you feel, discuss your feelings and possible solutions for the problems you have.
Admit that you have made some mistakes and change your own behavior that you see is harmful to the relationship. Read a book about healthy relationships and happy marriage. There are also some questions you can ask yourself to try to rehabilitate your marriage:
- When your marriage was a happy one, what was it like?
- When and why something went wrong? What exactly was it?
- Is the reason for your conflict serious enough to give up on your marriage?
- What do you want?
- What is the cost of staying in the relationship for you?
- Are you ready to work on your relationship?
- What do you do that makes the relationship worse?
Offer your spouse to visit a family therapist or find a counselor for yourself if the partner is not willing to see a specialist. Talk to your priest or someone else you trust.
And only if you see that nothing works and you have tried as hard as you could - leave.
8. Is This the State or a Stage?
Every relationship and marriage go through certain stages in their development. It always starts with bright positive emotions, love and what is called “the pink glasses period”. But after a while, a crisis comes when you start seeing not only good things about your partner but also all their flaws. And suddenly the person you loved becomes someone who irritates you with the fact they are breathing somewhere near you! And it may seem to you that this anger will never go away, which is not true. It’s a normal stage of the relationship and it needs to be gone through.
Other typical crisis periods for relationships include:
- 1 year - getting used to each other is never easy. A couple now isn’t just two separate people, they have become a whole. And of course, there are conflicts in a new family. Many experts say that if a couple survives the first year of marriage, things will go smoother after.
- 3 years - it’s the time when two partners know each other well enough to see each other’s weaknesses and strong sides. They know that their spouse is not a perfect hero or princess they tended to see in the very beginning. And accepting this fact might be a tough moment for the couple. Many couples divorce at this moment and this is why there is a popular thought that love lives only for 3 years. Living through this crisis successfully leads to more realistic expectations and a stronger relationship.
- 5 years - by this time couples often have children and this puts extra pressure on both partners. Add financial problems, work, housekeeping, and daily routine and you get a perfect recipe for difficulties in a family. Many psychologists say that this is the hardest year for a marriage and divorce statistics confirm that.
- 7 years - one more barrier to overcome in a marriage. The reasons why people divorce on this stage include childcare problems, household issues, work, and finance. Family life becomes a routine and people tend to look for fresh emotions elsewhere.
- 12 years - at this moment partners doubt if there is anything that unites them apart from children and official marriage. Communication becomes crucial as its time to know your partner in a new way - this is the key to going through this crisis.
- “Empty nest” period - there is no particular year for it but still every family with children goes through it. When kids grow up and leave, parents have to find a way to become partners again. And if there is nothing to glue them together, the family falls apart.
Of course, it’s not a comprehensive description of all the difficult stages that marriages go through. And a statistically hard period doesn’t mean that every couple has overwhelming difficulties on this stage. But you need to be aware that the thoughts about divorce you have right now are normal and they might be caused but a temporary crisis in your relationship.
9. Do I See Only One Side?
There is nothing in this world that would be absolutely good or bad. When people start thinking about divorce, they often fall into seeing only negative things about the family and give up looking for the positive ones. When this happens, the history of a relationship is rewritten in a negative way and one sees no reason to stay married forgetting that there were probably lots of reasons in the first place.
The reasons for this negative thinking can be different: unresolved conflicts, resentment, and concerns can make us underestimate all the good about our partner. In some cases, finding someone ‘better’ is a reason we get a negative look on the marriage (which is very often unrealistic). Whatever the ground is, you shouldn’t forget about the positive aspects of your marriage when considering a divorce. Rational decision is possible only when you see both sides of the issue clearly.
10. What About the Children?
Actually, it’s not one question, but two at the same time. First of all, you need to think about when and how you will tell your children about the decision to divorce. It’s really hard to find the right words in this situation. There are many things you need to understand clearly for yourself frost to be able to explain them to the kids: what you will say, how you will explain the reasons for your decision, what they will think about you, your partner and the end of the relationship. You need to be ready for this conversation long before you start it. It will allow you to be honest and open and not burden your children with emotions at the same time. They are not the ones to discuss your emotional problems with but they need to be informed about the situation because it’s going to change their lives dramatically.
The second part of this question is both about your kids and your relationship with your possible ex-partner. You need to understand in what way you are going to build a relationship with them as co-parents because ending the marriage doesn’t mean ending any relationship if you have children. And even if there is a conflict between you and your partner, when it comes to bringing up children, your emotions have to be set aside. You may not be married anymore, but you will always be parents and your kids deserve having a mom and a dad to grow with. So think about the format for your parenting cooperation before you divorce.
11. Am I Ready to Face the Consequences?
Divorce is a life-changing decision. All your life will be completely different from the moment when you decide to end your marriage. And also need to realize how much grief, sadness and loneliness you will experience because of your divorce. If you are the one to make such a decision, be ready to see the pain of your children, family, and friends. You will have to stick to your decision even knowing that it will affect many people’s lives. At this moment, you are extremely vulnerable and it takes courage and support to go through it.
If you are really ready for a divorce, you:
- are ready to change your lifestyle, habits, and traditions;
- understand that your financial situation will change;
- accept that your children will be angry and sad;
- accept that you will feel insecure, anxious and afraid of the unknown;
- let your ex go psychologically and physically.
In all other cases, you need to look for a different solution as divorce is not the one for you.
12. How Will I Act During and After the Divorce?
There are two possible ways of behaving in the process of divorce and after it. The first one is associated with feelings of bitterness and resentment when a person takes the victim position. The other one is built on the feeling of strength, mutual respect, and responsibility. And it’s up to you to choose which one you will prefer.
When you are emotionally ready for a divorce and made such a decision rationally, it will be easier for you to act in a mature way and have a collaborative position. And you benefit from it not only in the process of divorce but also after it as it will help you recover emotionally quicker and have a better quality of life. So be ready to make decisions that:
- respect both your and your partner's rights;
- suit everyone;
- give each partner what is theirs;
- need no legal intervention.
According to Bruce Derman, a clinical psychologist, such an attitude allows making string agreements with each other, resolve conflict situations, and develop a better relationship after the divorce.
13. Will I Be Happier After the Divorce?
Right now, when you are so angry or disappointed with your partner, a divorce might seem like a bright idea. But you need to ask yourself whether you will be happier without them. Of course, they have some flaws that drive you nuts, but probably there are some positive things that you appreciate about them. Nancy Colier, a psychotherapist, says that “You have to look fiercely and realistically at whether what you’re getting in the relationship is worth what you’re giving up.” Before asking for a divorce, you need to prioritize what is important for you in your marriage and your partner and get a clear idea of whether the deal is worth it.
14. What About Finance?
Let’s face it - divorce is not only about emotions and relationships, but it’s also about money. First of all, it’s really expensive. Paperwork, hiring an attorney (if you need one), etc. - it all takes money. But the financial saga isn’t over once all the papers are signed. Actually, it only starts there.
When you are married, you have a shared household with your spouse which means that all the expenses are divided between the two. From the moment when your marriage end, you will have to carry full financial responsibility for yourself. So if you weren’t working, you need to find a job before you divorce. If you were, you need to make sure you will be able to survive with your salary on your own. If you have children, your income should be enough to support them too. In a good situation, you will have alimony, but don’t expect your ex to be the only one who pays the bills after the divorce.
Another important consideration here is where you are going to live after the divorce. Will you stay in the same house? Will you rent a flat or buy a new place? Do you have enough money to afford it? As you can see, there are many issues as far as finance is concerned and you need to deal with them long before you decide to split. Nancy Colier says that “It’s important to feel grounded with as many financial facts as possible. You’ll feel safer that way.”
15. Am I Ready to Do What My Spouse Did?
Not to mention the financial side of the issue, there are many things that your partner does on a daily basis in your family. They might wash dishes or drive kids to school. You will have to learn to complete all the tasks on your own so make sure you are willing to learn how to do it.
Your new single life has to be planned very carefully, just like you prepare for a vacation or other major expenses. Otherwise, you will face real chaos and will be worrying even more about the divorce.
16. What Am I Afraid Of?
Divorce is always associated with strong anxiety and fear of the unknown. Being worried and scared is absolutely normal and natural. But when you are considering divorce, you need to know what your biggest fear is and how to deal with it. Maybe, you are afraid of staying alone, or your partner's emotional reaction on the news, or never falling in love again.
Knowing what frightens you is the key to dealing with this fear and getting the help you need. You can prepare for what is yet to come and deal with divorce with dignity.
17. How Can I Avoid the Same Mistakes Again?
Right now you might be thinking that you will never ever want to tie the knot in your life. But negative feelings go away and one day you might find yourself falling in love again. You need to make sure your next relationship won’t follow the same scenario this one did.
So it’s your responsibility to analyze the flaws of your character and change them. Dr. Erika Doukas, a clinical psychologist, says that spouses who were able to realize that they contribute to marital problems could sometimes change course and possibly save a relationship or, failing that, make a future one more long-lasting.
You can change a partner but if wherever you go, you take yourself with you. Use your unhappy marriage as a lesson and learn from it.
Having answered all the questions honestly, you can ask yourself one more time: do I really want to divorce? The decision is yours to make. And whatever it is, remember that there’s nothing a person can't handle if they want and do something about it.