When I got a question from a reader asking, Is it normal to have second thoughts about divorce? I smiled sadly, and answered to myself, "I don't think it's normal NOT to have second thoughts about divorce."
The question brought me back to the early days of my separation (and even to the end of my marriage) when I seemed to be all over the place when it came to the questions of:
Should we try to fix this?
CAN we fix this?
Should we fight for this?
Is this hopeless?
Should we separate for awhile without going through with a divorce?
Does he hate me?
Do I hate him?
Does he think I hate him?
Does he think I still love him?
Do I still love him?
Does he want out?
Why isn't he fighting for me?
Why am I letting this happen?
I could go on and on about how many times I had second thoughts, and I suspect my ex did too.
The reason people have second thoughts on divorce (in what I'd have to bet happens in almost all divorces) is that if you think about it, deciding to get divorced is the biggest decision you've ever made in your life -- other than the decision to get married and/or to have kids. Here are some reasons people experience second thoughts on divorce:
1. Hope: I truly believe that within all of us lives eternal hope, and that is the driving force when it comes to second thoughts. Hope makes us doubt if we should give up, which is what people are doing when they get divorced.
2. Fear: Fear of the unknown -- the life we will lead as a single person and/or single parent can drive us to want to stay in our comfort zone.
3. Kids: When people say, "I'm thinking about staying for the kids' sake," I think that is very honorable, but I think it's naïve to think you will survive it, being even remotely happy until they are older. And, like it or not, kids are going to suffer whether you get divorced when they are 5 or 50.
4. Low self-esteem: Men and women become unsure of themselves. They second guess that the conclusion they've arrived at -- that the marriage needs to end -- was the right decision. They lack the self-confidence to believe in themselves and their judgement.
5. Love: In many divorces, there is still love present, and that love is very, very hard to leave. It's gut-wrenchingly sad.
I truly believe having second thoughts on divorce is not only normal, but that it should be expected. Countless couples break up and get back together 25 times in some cases before they decide to permanently call it quits. There's a reason for that: they want to exhaust every possible and potential solution, and that is something that is understandable. In fact, it's very commendable.
If you are having second thoughts on divorce, my advice is to express this to your ex, no matter how difficult. That is your only chance of a reconciliation. Forget pride. It doesn't matter at all! What's important is that if/when you end up divorced, your second thoughts will be gone. Because no one wants to live with, "I should have tried to make it work again," right?
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, Love Essentially" for Chicago Tribune Media Group local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.