I know, I know. You've been thinking about asking your husband for a divorce for nearly a year. Really even longer than that. You've considered every angle. Explored every other alternative. You've suffered countless sleepless nights, worried about the impact on your kids, your friends and your family. Even your mother-in-law.
You've tried everything you can think of to save your marriage. But here you are. Ready. Ready to have the most difficult conversation of your life.
But here's the thing: you're not ready.
You may feel ready. You may think that, because you've spent hour upon hour imagining every possible scenario for the conversation and it's aftermath, you're ready. But you're not. And nobody -- especially those of us who work with divorcing couples day after day -- should expect you to be.
How am I so confident you're not ready? Well, in my work as CEO of online divorce company, Wevorce, I've helped hundreds of people walk through the divorce process both in our local offices and over the Internet. Many reached out to me months or years before they were ready to discuss the issue with their spouse. I've walked alongside them as they journeyed down the path from discontent with their marriage to deep unhappiness and, ultimately, divorce.
I've been with them as they sought counsel from pastors and therapists. I've provided tools to improve their communication. And in the end, after all of that failed to produce meaningful change, I've discussed with some of them how best to prepare themselves and their family for the divorce.
To a person, they're not ready. After years of helping couples, I now think it's safe to say that nobody is really ever ready. More importantly, it's OK not to be ready. Why should you be? Chances are you've never done this before. Heck, before the pain set in, you probably never even thought about divorce.
Nobody marries intending to get divorced. Nobody.
So how do you get ready? The first step is to acknowledge that you don't know what you don't know. Commit -- from the very beginning -- to forgive yourself for the mistakes you will inevitably make. Then work your tail off to make as few mistakes as possible.
Here are a few tips on the first step in preparing yourself and your family for divorce:
Take it slow. Wevorce's research shows that there is a window of about three years around a divorce which includes about a year-and-a-half of one spouse getting the courage to say something, and then another year-and-a-half for the other spouse to process that reality. Even though the spouse who is ready for a divorce may believe they have been communicating the serious thoughts they have been having, the other spouse may not have received the information in the manner expected or may have just thought it was another argument that would pass. Except in cases of abuse, rarely does rushing the process help it go any smoother.
Aim for the best possible outcome. Divorce is tremendously painful for everyone involved. Nothing can change that. However, you should know that an amicable divorce that reduces the impact on children and couples is possible. Common even. But the only way that happens is when both spouses seek the best possible outcome. Start with yourself. Commit to an amicable divorce.
Remember the good. You got married for a reason. Anchoring to some of this good -- no matter where the relationship has gone -- is a powerful tool to walking through this process with dignity. I often suggest that before you discuss the possibility of divorce, you write down three of your favorite things about your spouse and how you want your divorce process to go. Beginning with good intentions about how you want your marriage to end will give you a focal point to return to when (not if) things feel like they are spinning out of control.
Research. As cliché as it sounds, knowledge is power. So go get some. But beware: it's easy to be led astray by writers and bloggers with an axe to grind. Look for reputable experts who share your values. Few things in divorce are absolute. If your research leads you to authors who use language like "always" or "never" it's wise to keep digging -- weLife and divorce 360 are good resources.
Get help. Counselors, therapists, or clergy can help you reflect on the "why" behind your decision. But they shouldn't shame you or require you try to save the marriage. Often, these professionals (along with mediators) can also help walk you through the discussion with your spouse.
Be gentle. The dynamics that lead to divorce often manifest raw emotion. Be gentle not only with your spouse, but also with yourself. Forgiveness makes the weight of the process a little bit lighter and easier to bear.
Now for the hard truth: even if you follow all these ideas word for word, and even if what you learn leads you to exponentially more learning... you still won't be ready.
Scratch that. You won't feel ready.
That's alright. Everyone with any sense feels the same way. But I know, from years of experience, you can do this. More importantly, you can do this with dignity, respect and kindness. And that's all you can ask of yourself.