So, here you are, googling ‘should I get a divorce?’
Maybe you’ve just had a blow-out fight, maybe you’ve generally been unhappy for a long time, perhaps you’ve been consistently arguing with never a resolve, maybe your facing infidelity… A lot of things can prompt a person to contemplate the ominous D-word.
Maybe you are eighty percent sure a divorce is exactly what you need, but there’s still that twenty percent that feels there’s still some love left, or that things can be fixed, or that he/she will change their wicked ways.
Perhaps you’ve been blindsided by being asked for a divorce by your spouse. When divorce is forced, the shock and devastation can seem like a nightmare from which you can’t awaken. That out of control, helpless feeling can be paralyzing; You’re suddenly transformed into a victim of an unwanted fate.
Or, you’re not so blindsided at all. You’ve seen the writing on the wall for a long while but just looked the other way, or swept all the uneasiness under the rug.
Ideally, you are both in the same headspace and both ready for a divorce and new lease on life – together, but separately. This conscious uncoupling, Gwyneth Paltrow style, would be the divorce of your dreams (as-if), but it’s rarely the case.
Whatever divorce contemplating conundrum you’ve found yourself in, here are some things to mull over…
When is divorce the right answer
If you are even slightly thinking about something as final as divorce, ask yourself some tough questions first.
1. Is there ANY love left for your spouse?
Petty power struggles can lead to a huge gap in communication and intimacy. Your once awesome connection can seem impossible to get back, and your rough patch seems insurmountable.
Times of financial stress, teenagers at home, or of sleeplessness when babies come into the picture, are particularly taxing on marriage.
Though I can’t quote any finite statistic here, I know from experience that sleepy and stressed new parents contemplate divorce at some point during baby’s first year (if only for a little minute). There’s an unwritten rule that says anything said to each other after midnight doesn’t count.
Every marriage goes through peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows. Even if this particular valley seems deeper and more despondent, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a peak just around the bend, a way back on track.
If you find yourself in a marriage slump, it’s best to cover all the bases first. If you still have some love for your spouse, there are many ways to fix your marriage and climb yourselves out of that hole. You don’t want to regret a hasty, emotion-fueled divorce.
You will want to know you tried everything humanly possible to make it work; That you didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
A good therapist can help you set clearer boundaries, communicate more effectively and less harshly, and know when to hold em’ and know when to fold em.’
It’s true what they say, that marriage is work. And if you are not mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready to let go of your spouse, then there is still work that needs doing.
2. Have you been ‘separated’ under the same roof for years?
Maybe you’ve been living separate lives for as long as you can remember. Sometimes you ask yourself: Wait, am I even married anymore? To whom? I barely know that person and they hardly know me anymore – we just stay in the same place.
You’ve basically become roommates, sexless ships passing in the night, going about your lives as two people meeting your own needs, living your own lives.
Perhaps your kids are grown and out of the house and it feels as if you’re already all alone anyhow.
Ask yourself: is it best to go about doing what you’re already doing? Do you not want to mess with your financial situation, way of life, or familial traditions? Is THIS enough for you? Does this work and are you not completely unhappy about it? Though if your curious eyeballs are gazing upon this blog, it’s doubtful that is that case.
Are you just clinging to your safe zone, to what feels familiar? Do you want more than a make-believe marriage based on delusion and denial? Do you want a second (or third) chance at love? You could live until ninety for heaven’s sake!
Is it finally time to get your life back together, but separately, truly separately?
3. Are you just throwing around the D-word to gain power in an argument?
Are you just threatening? Wanting to make your spouse see that you are serious about wanting a real solution or change? To really be heard? To drive your point home?
Or, do you really mean it?
Or, do you mean it at the time, full of anger and frustration, but not mean it the next morning?
Throwing around the D-word is definitely a wake-up call that something is out of whack in your marriage. But be careful with crying wolf so often, spouses who constantly threaten divorce lose credibility real fast.
Even people in healthy marriages sometimes fantasize about divorce after a heated argument. It’s great escapism to think of freedom from your spouse. Sometimes living alone, surrounded by cats, with no one to bother me, sounds sooo goood!
And maybe taking some time to yourself is all you really need, a reminder that your spouse isn’t so bad after all, and perhaps you’ll miss their company and even their stupid jokes.
Or, maybe you need more time together. Life gets busy with kids and work, and date nights go by the wayside.
It’s hard to appreciate your spouse during the humdrum rhythm of daily life, especially when they forget to take out the trash after you asked them to five times – nicely and said please. Sometimes I feel like head chef and bottlewasher, just a part of the house, and no one gives a hoot about me as a person.
But then, I’ll book a sitter, and spend some real time with my husband, and I’m reminded that this guy is kinda cool, funny, and quite sexy… perhaps I am too.
But sometimes stuff runs deeper, and a little breather or weekend getaway just isn’t going to cut it.
I also know what that is like. I knew I needed a divorce a week after I married to my first husband. It only took me six miserable years to do it, sheesh.
4. Am I being strategic?
Charging to, and through, a divorce is simply not strategic. Take some time to evaluate your yoyo-ing feelings and thoughts. And practically speaking, think through your options carefully and objectively.
The decision to divorce is a very serious one, with consequences lasting far into your future. With such a life-changing contemplation, it’s best to mull it over with professionals: lawyers, financial advisors, and therapists.
One meeting with a lawyer can open your eyes to what you are up against legally.
A therapist can help you be prepared for the emotional process you’ll face.
And a financial professional like a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Advisor) can map out what the financial impact will look like for your life going forward.
And remember, keep your emotions out of your bank account. Heightened emotions can lead to hasty, unsustainable agreements. You’ll just trade one set of problems for another. That fast-food divorce you so badly wanted, could turn into a drawn-out, ugly litigation that could take years (and thousands of dollars) to finish.
If you are really going to go down this road, going into a divorce wide-eyed, and on the same page ideally, is best for everyone.
Being educated on the process and impact can either prevent your marriage from ending prematurely, or lower the possibility that your divorce deteriorates into a nasty, adversarial, expensive, pissing contest.
5. Divorcing to make your spouse change?
If you are contemplating divorce to get the desired result from your spouse, that’s wishful thinking.
You may think that by divorcing they will change their ways, never mistreat you again, and finally realize that you are the love of their life and they can’t survive without you.
While a small percentage of couples remarry each other after divorcing, it’s not worth the expense and the drama. Besides, most of the couples who do remarry each other eventually divorce – again – as issues in the marriage(s) don’t actually get resolved.
Divorce is powerless at righting wrongs or changing hearts. Divorce is best for one purpose only- to finitely end a marriage and move on.
6. Are your loved ones telling you to get the heck out of your marriage?
My friends and family hinted for years that it might be time I get a divorce. They’d witnessed the disfunction and abuse and were disappointed I let it go on for as long as I did. Even a therapist told me point-blank: “divorce his ass already.”
If your marriage is particularly bad, you may feel pressure from yourself and others to get the heck out, like yesterday, and move on with it already.
And while they may be right, there is no such thing as ‘rip it like a band-aid’ with divorce – emotionally, legally, or financially. It is a lengthy process that, by design, that takes many months to settle.
Take the time to prepare yourself for the whirlwind of feelings, the labyrinth legal system, and the major changes that your whole family will go through. Just don’t take six years.
7. Can you handle the real, and perceived loss?
Divorce isn’t simply unpleasant; it’s all-encompassing and will blow up your life (though not entirely in a bad way).
Can you wrap your head around letting go of the plans you made as couple, as a team? Your dreams of a happy family? Can you acknowledge that the sacrifices you made for your collective future were a sunk cost? With nothing to show for themselves. That the seeds you planted never took root, or grew the way you expected? That the fruits of your labor have gone rotten? All that work and love you put into the marriage… just poof. It’s a lot to digest, and accept. But accept you must.
Though you know what they say about doors: when one closes another opens. It may seem like a devastating loss, but if you really can just let it go, you’re on the right track.
8. Are you just bored with your spouse?
Your life and love may feel sluggish. Perhaps your spouse gets dryer and more unexciting with each passing year.
You remember when your relationship was energetic, alive, and seemed limitless. You watch love stories on tv and crave the passion, adventure and frenzy of new love. Have you become swept away in the ‘grass is greener’ seduction?
For starters, think of all the reasons to consider staying married when you think you want a divorce. Reasons like the tender hearts of your children, and the immense financial impact.
Then think what you can do to add some spice and fresh blood into your marriage (I’m not implying swinging…but maybe actually…that’s a whole different blog).
Also, contemplate what you can do for yourself? What zest can you add to your own life fulfillment? Maybe it’s time you got some new hobbies, new friends, or resurrect old interests, or start traveling. Maybe you’re feeling restless and unfulfilled with yourself, and you’re projecting that onto your spouse.
Do some soul searching, then re-evaluate after you’ve been hot air ballooning, taken up ballroom dance, or ridden a Harley cross country…mid-life crisis anyone!?
Things to Consider Before Divorce
Now let’s consider the divorce predicaments, and contradictions if you will…
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.
You may think it will work out a certain way, but divorce doesn’t always go according to your well-thought-out plan.
Going into your divorce, you may be positive that your spouse will be reasonable and civil, but when the divorce wheels start grinding, you find they’ve turned into a vindictive monster. Put your control issues aside, way way aside. Life (and divorce) will always keeping you guessing.
You may think that after your divorce you’ll finally be happy.
Be happy! What does that even mean to you anymore anyways!? Happiness doesn’t come as automatically as you expect sometimes. Divorce puts you through the wringer. And happiness is something you must work towards, and perhaps even re-define. Will you ultimately be happy!? Well that’s entirely up to you. But, if you do the work, the answer is yes, you’ll be happy, or happier. Knowing you’ve been to hell and back and survived, should bring you some happiness, or at least pride in your tremendous inner strength.
Your spouse is not to blame for everything.
Your spouse is not the only cause of your marriage failing. Maybe you chose poorly to begin with? Maybe you took your spouse for granted? Maybe a million things. You must take stock of your life, and responsibility for where you went wrong and for the bad decisions you made. Be honest with yourself, it’s the only way to prevent history from repeating itself in future relationships.
Fear remains and anger lingers.
Even after a divorce, you may ask yourself, is this the right thing? What I am going to do now? Dating seems terrifying. Shot am I responsible for everything in the house now? I don’t know how to do fix the internet, put up Christmas lights, or set up Bluetooth. Good news is you’ll either learn, or find a good handyperson. But there is a learning curve, so be patient with yourself. Accept that there will be times of insecurity and fear, but that you can face the issues, figure out the solution and march on.
Inner conflict is one of the worst kinds.
Divorce is riddled with conflict- obviously outer conflict but it’s the inner that keeps you up at night. Feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, and hope are cooking up contradiction soup in your mind. Sometimes you are seething with hatred, then find yourself reminiscing about the young love you felt when you first got together. You can feel betrayed and culpable simultaneously. The struggle is real, and you’ll be struggling with different emotions at different times, or different emotions at the exact same time. Recognize the conflict, sit with it for a bit, and try to understand where your emotions are coming from.
Divorce is much needed, but your poor kids…
You can’t help but feel horrible for your children, the innocent victims. As much as you may be ready for a divorce, your children never are, and that’s something you have to be ready for as well. Seeing your children sad, angry, and in pain is one of the toughest consequences of divorce. Striving to keep the divorce process non-combative and civil is best for everyone. And the support of friends, family, and a good therapist is a lifeline.
Goodbye, good riddance…but not really if you have children.
If you had a nasty marriage followed by a nastier divorce, and have kids – you don’t get to completely celebrate your freedom. Well, you can celebrate a little. You did it! You divorced that lousy sack of sh*t, that no good rascal, that constant thorn in your side! But, if you have children, that bastard will consistently rear his/her ugly head like a reoccurring wart. Get used to them. At least you’re not waking up to them every morning anymore. And more importantly, for the sake of your children, stay civil, put on your game face, and make it work, no matter how many crows you’ll have to eat in the process. It’s what your kids deserve.
Trial Separation!? Dipping your toes in the water.
Separation sounds a lot less threatening than the finite-sounding D-word. But know that almost 90% of separations are followed by a full-blown divorce. But maybe for you, it’s a better way to ease into it.
A small handful of couples simply stay permanently separated, never bothering to make it official, perhaps overwhelmed by the vast paperwork involved. This can work just fine for some. However, issues with inheritance can get screwy if wills and living trusts aren’t properly executed prior to one’s passing.
When my Uncle passed unexpectedly, all his properties and wealth went to his ‘wife.’ The problem was that they separated over 50 years prior, never bothering to go through the hassle of divorce. No one in the family even knew of her existence. She ended up a wealthy woman while his children and his new partner got the shaft.
Understand your divorce options.
With a divorce, sometimes what you put in is what you get out. The approach you take to divorce can determine your type of future.
If you come in hot, full of bitterness and vindictiveness, it usually doesn’t go well. What you should be bringing to the table is strength, reason, knowledge, and respect. Then you can carry on with what you brought in, knowing you took the high road and will stay on that road.
When is it time to get divorced?
Spring? Summer? When the kids are 8 or 18?
The truth is, there is no good time to go through a divorce. Divorce is always disruptive, profoundly impactful, and painful no matter when you pull the trigger. That quagmire of sadness, despair, and stress that comes with divorce is as hard to navigate at twenty as it is at sixty years old. Stress is stress.
But sometimes you just know when you know. For me, when I googled ‘should I get a divorce’ for the like the millionth time in my terrible marriage, the line that really spoke to me was: If your husband gets abducted by aliens and never returns to earth again, you’d need an onion to cry…. (something like that).
But I should have taken a cue from my psyche when I started to seriously envy widows. I was beyond ready for a divorce, over-due in fact.
I question why I didn’t leave earlier. I knew he was a narcissist, cheater, liar, etc. and knew he wasn’t going to change one iota.
So why did it take me six dismal years?
I suppose because I had young kids, and I didn’t have the confidence to do life on my own. I was out of the workforce, he was a good provider and not a terrible father. It wasn’t until the fourth couple’s therapist basically fired us, that got the fire burning in my belly. She said: ‘In my thirty years of practice, I’ve NEVER out-right recommended divorce to any of clients, I am doing it now. You need a divorce and individual therapy’.
And I was still on the fence, too paralyzed by my own fear to take the leap. The final push I needed came when I met Darren, and I realized that there are good men out there and that I don’t want to be stuck with a bad one for the rest of my life.
The divorce didn’t go as smoothly as I had fantasized; It was actually as bad as it gets.
But you’ve got to get through it to get over it. It’s a long, dark divorce tunnel, but there is light, love and laughter at the other end.
And that hard stuff makes you grow, and learn, and resilient, and stronger than you ever thought you could be.
So, Should You Get a Divorce?
In sum, you’re ready to get a divorce when…
- When you are truly at peace with closing this chapter of your life, because there is nothing more you can do or give.
- When you wish them the best, but just not with you.
- When your decision is based on sincere self-awareness.
- When you are okay with putting your anger and emotions aside to make clear, smart decisions about your future.
- When you are willing to take control of these next steps in your life, even though you’ll have a rough go of it for a while.