Deciding if You Should Get A Divorce
It’s one of the huge moments in life — that moment when, however briefly, the thought of divorce passes through your mind and you realize what a significant decision point it is for you and your family. Ultimately, no one can make this choice about your marriage except you. Not even your spouse can decide whether the divorce right for you. Ironically, divorce is often a personal decision; both spouses may not agree. So how do you decide if you should get a divorce?
There is no one-size fits all formula or survey that can make this decision for you. The factors involved are far too complex and numerous to cast them as a set of simple yes-or-no questions. Instead, consider the factors below as things to think about as you weigh this very important decision.
If the Marriage is Not Working For You, It’s Not Working
Marriage is a two-way street. Far too many people stay in a marriage that is not working for them, because the other spouse seems perfectly happy with the marriage. A friend once told me that she must be the problem in her marriage, because her husband was perfectly happy with it. To her, this meant that she was responsible for whatever dysfunction existed, and she needed to remain until she fixed it. But marriage may mean different things to different people, and was meant to be a relationship of love between partners — each seeking to serve and meet the needs of the other. If that has become one-sided, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the dissatisfied partner is to blame, and it certainly does not mean that the whole burden of repairing the relationship lies with that partner either.
Try Everything Before Divorce
Marriage counseling is a common first step. Many couples find success by seeing a licensed therapist who specializes in Marriage and Family Therapy. Couples who are religious often find that pastoral counseling is also helpful. Through that process, some therapists will recommend a trial separation — or ask the couple to spend some time apart — and this exercise is also helpful for many couples. If your spouse is willing, and is not abusing you, then try these things before deciding that divorce is the right action. You have nothing to lose by giving it a shot, but if you don’t try then you may always wonder if it would have been possible to work things out. Having said that, it is not safe to stay in a physically abusive relationship. If your spouse is physically abusive to you or your children, you should take urgent and immediate steps to protect yourself, as this type of violence tends to escalate unexpectedly.
Would You Want Your Children to be in a Marriage Like Yours?
If the answer to that question is “no way!” then you should seriously consider divorce. If you have children from your marriage, the decision to divorce is more complicated. When you think of the impact a divorce will have on your kids, you really must think of it like a balance: weighing the impact of both choices. Staying in an unhappy and unhealthy marriage is stressful on children, just as going through a divorce or custody battle is stressful as well. Many people underestimate the impact that their dysfunctional marriage has on their kids, and overestimate the impact a divorce will have on their kids. The reality is that many parents do choose to divorce, and still very much co-parent in cooperative, positive ways that demonstrate respect for each other and a dedication to the children. It is possible. When people choose to stay in an unhealthy marriage just “for the children” they sometimes fail to recognize the subtle things that their faulty marriage relationship is teaching their children. So when you have kids and you’re in a bad marriage, the one thing you should not do is ignore the problem. Either dedicate yourself to fixing your marriage, and take real and concrete steps to do so, or get the divorce. Your children will thank you one day, by having their very own healthy marriage.
If You Decide to Divorce
Amicable divorces are possible. And friendly, respectful co-parenting arrangements are as well. A positive divorce is one where the parties have done what they can to work on the marriage, but have decided that divorce is in their best interest. Positive divorces are not born out of anger, fear, or a sudden bout of rage, but are well-planned and thought out to minimize impact on children, and provide a safe and peaceful separation between the parties. If you’ve reached the state where you think a divorce is the right choice, consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney right away. There may be some early steps you can take to make the process smooth, even before you’ve fully discussed it with your spouse.