More than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Before you break your wedding vows and decide to be part of that statistic, Dr. Phil suggests you answer these five questions, which he calls his “Divorce Readiness Test”:
1. Have you done everything you can to save and rehabilitate your marriage?
Have you exhausted all avenues of help for putting your marriage back together? That could mean reading books, going to a marriage counselor, speaking to a clergy member and spending time focusing on your own role in the demise of your relationship.
- What was your marriage like when it worked?
- When did it go wrong? Why?
- Is what you're fighting about worth breaking up your marriage?
- What do you want?
- What is it costing you to be in your relationship?
- Are you willing to put in the effort to make the relationship work?
- What are you doing to contaminate the relationship?
2. Do you have unfinished emotional business?
Dr. Phil says: “The time when you're ready for a divorce is when you have the clearest of conscience, when you can say, ‘I am at peace about my decision. I'm at peace about myself. I'm at peace about going through the next phase of my life.’”
If you can walk out the door without anger, frustration or hurt, then you are ready. Unless and until you can look each other in the eye feeling no hatred or resentment, you’re not ready for a divorce.
Also, he suggests, “Do not make life-changing decisions in the midst of emotional turmoil.” Such consequential decisions should not be made when tensions are high. Get on flat ground first so you can look at things more rationally.
- Are you still in love with your spouse?
- Are you hurt?
- Are you scared?
- Are you angry?
- Are you confused?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you've failed the test. This is not the time to make life-changing decisions. You have more work to do.
3. Have you researched, planned, and prepared yourself legally for divorce?
Divorce can be complicated. It involves money, custody issues, child support, spousal support, and other legal aspects. You need to educate yourself, protect yourself and empower yourself; until you’ve done that, you’re not ready. For example, do you know how many bank accounts you have as a couple and individually? Any other marital assets you might be entitled to? Consult with at least three attorneys as you explore the option of divorce. “There are economic realities that you have to acknowledge,” says Dr. Phil, “but you are not powerless.”
4. Are you ready to adopt a new standard of conduct with your children?
“You don’t involve children in adult issues,” Dr. Phil believes. You should not burden your children with your emotions about the situation. Kids should not be put in a position where they have to help a parent cope and survive the turmoil. Don’t rob your children of a childhood and the freedom that comes from being a kid.
5. Are you willing to create a new relationship as a co-parent?
Just because your marriage may be ending doesn’t mean your relationship will end. If you have a child or children together, you will always be parents, and it is your responsibility to create a new relationship as co-parents, co-allies of your children. Although it may be difficult for you to interact with your ex, you must find a way to be amicable. You must be ready to set aside the emotions and put your children’s best interest above your own.
“If you want out of a marriage, earn your way out. Turn over every stone. Investigate every avenue of rehabilitation, so when the day comes that your child looks at you and says, `Mom, Dad, why did I have to grow up with just one parent?' You don't have to say, `Well, we just quit having fun,'” Dr. Phil says. “You need to be able to say, `Look, we did everything we could do. We went to counselors, we read books, we prayed, we did this, we did that, and we decided it was best for everybody if we lived separately but loved you kids together.'” If you can't say that with peace in your heart, you're not ready to get divorced.
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