Making the decision to divorce is one of the most painful decisions you will most likely face in your lifetime. With so much at stake, especially if you have children, how do you know if divorce is the right move for you?
Thinking of ending your marriage? Read what our panel of experts had to say on this critically important question.
Question: What advice would you give someone to help them decide whether or not to end their marriage?
"Firstly, it's advisable that this couple get some counseling to help guide their decision. Secondly, they should ask themselves if there are any external stressors which might be temporarily influencing how they feel about one another that might resolve over time.
A good practice is to engage in a mental exercise by projecting out 5, 10, 15, and 20 years into the future and imagining how their lives would look both within the marriage and having left it. They would do this separately. This gives a simulated mental picture of various future scenarios. Their feelings about those different scenarios may help inform their decision.
The next suggestion would be to use this phrase: "When in doubt, delay." If there is any uncertainty about proceeding with divorce, they may want to delay the decision, perhaps giving an arbitrary amount of time (for example 6 months) to test the merit of the relationship. During this trial period they would make a commitment to themselves and to one another that there would be no harmful behavior or acting out. It would be a time in which they would be as committed to the relationship as possible to see if it stands the test of time. "
"My advice would be to take their time in making that decision and that even when they make it, they can certainly go back. People get back together. And there's a lot that can be done before you actually make the decision to get divorced. And I would say go slowly.
People usually report that their divorce goes better if they really felt like they tried everything that they could to first try to make the marriage work. And they were in just enough pain and discomfort that they needed to make that difficult decision. People usually think they have tried everything but often there's more that can still be done to try to salvage a marriage."
"It would be important to make sure that each individual understand their feelings and needs that have not been met in their marriage. I would want to inquire about whether or not they've had the opportunity to express these feelings and needs to their spouse and if they have had an opportunity to have conversations about those feelings and those needs to determine if they could get those met. For couples who had not done that, I would strongly encourage that they do that in or out of counseling depending on the situation.
It is important that couples understand that conflict is a normal part of marriage and that expectations are not always clear at the time you get married. I advise couples to take the opportunity to clarify expectations and needs, which is essential to healthy development of marriage. The process of talking together with or without a counselor would be for the purpose of helping the couple look at whether or not each of them are open to and/or able to shift unworkable patterns. I also believe that it is important to help couples understand what prevents them from responding to each others' needs and expectations. Sometimes, for example, patterns of stubbornness prevail and can block more positive interaction."
"I would say don't do anything too quickly and educate yourself first as to whether the problems in the relationship can be addressed and improved. There are resources available (books and websites) that are effective in helping people determine if their relationship is worth saving. In addition, attending individual and couples counseling will allow for the safe exploration of thoughts and feelings relating to yourself, your partner, and your marriage.
Many long-standing relationship struggles can benefit from the assistance of licensed and qualified therapists. Not every problem a couple faces is insurmountable, even those problems that are long-standing in nature. Some differences are reconcilable. "
If you're unhappy in your marriage, it's normal to think about divorce because getting a divorce might seem like the quickest or best way to get out of a bad situation. But making the decision to end your marriage will be one of the biggest decisions you will ever face in your life. So it's not to be taken lightly. There are many things you need to seriously consider before taking such a significant and life-altering step.
The first thing you need to focus on are the emotional considerations of divorce.
Many years ago when I was contemplating divorce, it was important to me that I not have any regrets about my decision. I never wanted to get to a point in the future where I felt like I made a mistake by ending my marriage. I wanted to be certain that I was doing the right thing by asking my husband for a divorce.
Before you do anything you might later regret, think about your own emotional considerations.
Then think about your children.
There's no doubt divorce is even more difficult when children are involved. Do you stay together for the sake of your kids? Or is it unfair to them (and you) to remain in an unhappy marriage?
Ask yourself if staying together will do more harm than good.
In addition to the emotional reasons, there are financial considerations. Especially because divorce only creates expense, not income and it costs more to run two separate households than one.
The decision to divorce is very personal and one that only you can make. So take your time. Focus on the emotional and financial considerations and think about what's best for your children. And if you do decide to proceed, learn what you can do to keep things as peaceful as possible.
Joe and Cheryl Dillon are co-founders of Equitable Mediation Services, a divorce mediation firm that specializes in helping couples divorce peacefully, cost-effectively and fairly - without lawyers.