Before You Get a Divorce You Should Ask Yourself These Difficult Questions
Deciding whether you and your partner should get a divorce is not an easy question to answer. There are many factors to consider, so making a quick decision is not in your best interest. Unless you’re in a relationship that is abusive (whether it’s physical, emotional, or financial), it’s best to carefully consider your next move. Here are the questions you need to ask yourself before getting a divorce.
Why am I ready to end the marriage?
Take time to explore what it is about the marriage that is making you want to give up. What exactly is motivating your decision?
“Whether you are unhappy or hopeless or too tired to keep trying, understanding your reasoning helps ground you in your decision. And the more that decision is grounded in you wanting something more or different and less about what your spouse did or didn’t do, the easier it will be to deal with the divorce, mourn the loss of this relationship, and move on,” advised therapist Rhonda Milrad, founder of online relationship community Relationup, to The Cheat Sheet.
Are there other options?
Divorce isn’t your only option. There are other arrangements that might work just as well for you and your spouse. One route that is slowly becoming recognized is an arrangement called “living apart together.” This is a situation where couples remain in a committed relationship, but choose to live separately.
Milrad told The Cheat Sheet that living separately could help diffuse and change some of the negative dynamics in the relationship.
What have I done to try to resolve my marital issues?
You might see divorce as a quick solution to your problems, or it could be your first thought due to years of anger and resentment. But it’s necessary to pause and take a moment to make sure you’ve done all you can to come to the right decision for you and your partner.
“Many of the couples I work with begin therapy and realize that they have never actually talked to one another about their issues! The therapy then becomes about sharing their experiences, healing from past injuries, and collaborating on solutions,” marriage and family therapist Shadeen Francis told The Cheat Sheet.
Have I looked at my role in the problem?
Use your dissatisfaction with the marriage as a time to engage in reflection. Think about some things you’ve done or said that could have contributed to your marital woes. If you changed some of the unhelpful ways you relate to your spouse, could the marriage be saved? Instead of shifting all the blame onto your spouse, try to understand how you might have introduced some conflict into your relationship and attempt to correct patterns that are causing discord.
Would I stay if my partner changed?
What is it that needs to change for you to feel good about staying in the relationship? If it’s an issue that can be easily resolved, you might be able to work through it together. Whatever you do, resist demanding that your spouse change, and don’t resort to making ultimatums. This behavior will likely cause your spouse to become defensive and do just the opposite of what you are requesting.
Couple and family counselor Hayden Lindsey told The Cheat Sheet it’s important to think about what your response to the following question would be:
If you woke up tomorrow and your partner was magically different, would you still want to be with him or her? If the answer is yes, your marriage still has a fighting chance. If the answer is no, then you are no longer in a place where you can cherish your partner. If you have truly decided that you will have no interest regardless of what your partner says or does, it is selfish not to let go.
How accountable is my partner?
Does your partner refuse to accept any responsibility for the marriage’s failure? Does he or she have serious issues but won’t address them? Although it’s generally not helpful to make an ultimatum, Lindsey said in some cases it might be necessary, particularly when it comes to addiction. If your partner is battling an issue that requires professional intervention, he said it might be time to exert some pressure.
“Addiction and other psychiatric conditions can be treated, and if you are at your bottom line then there is nothing wrong with issuing a ‘treatment or else’ ultimatum. But if your partner repeatedly refuses to seek or respond to help, it may be time to move on,” said Lindsey.
What support do I have, and what support do I need?
Going through a divorce can be financially and emotionally taxing. You’ll need all the support you can get. Take inventory of what type of support you currently have and what type of support you will need in the future. Family, friends, and a good therapist can help you weather just about any storm. “Your life may change during and after the divorce, and creating a network of support makes a huge difference to where you land. Examples of support systems include friends, a support group, legal council, your family, financial cushions, or a psychotherapist,” said Francis.
Seeking outside help
Are you having trouble figuring out if you and your partner should divorce? You might benefit from speaking with a licensed marriage and family therapist. He or she can help you try to work through any lingering issues and then decide from there. If you need help finding a therapist, you can start your search by visiting Psychology Today’s therapist finder.
[Editor’s note: This story was originally published July 25, 2017.]
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