Filing for divorce, or even bringing up the topic of divorce, stirs up incredibly heated and painful emotions for most couples. Sometimes divorce is the right choice to make, even when there are children involved, however, ending a relationship with someone that you once loved is a huge process. Here are some questions to ask yourself, and some thoughts to consider, before you file for a divorce.
1. Are current life stressors contributing to negative attitudes and interactions between you and your partner?
2. Have you and/or your partner fundamentally changed since you first fell in love?
3. Are you no longer IN love, or has your loved changed form/evolved into something different?
4. Do you long for the relationship that you once shared?
5. How long did the relationship feel easy, and how long has it felt difficult?
6. Is there, or could there be, an emotional injury keeping you from getting close?
7. Have you tried couples/marriage counseling?
Often in working with couples, I find one or more of these questions helps a couple find clarity regarding the future of their relationship. The answers to the questions are not necessarily the key to whether or not a divorce is the right choice, it is the process of answering which helps couples understand what is happening in their relationship and why it hasn’t been feeling very good. Ultimately, clarity around what is happening in the relationship helps both members of a couple move forward more peacefully whether that be working harder on the relationship or moving toward divorce.
Talking about our relationships feels scary. When our partner isn’t happy with something in the relationship, it cuts to our core, and whether we like it or not, we tend to feel, and act, defensively. This is why conversations about our relationships often end up in unsatisfying and heated arguments. Ideally you, and your partner, could sit down together and ask yourselves the above questions. You could talk together about what you miss, what you long for, how you feel you have both changed, and ultimately what you hope for. But for many of us, we need help having these conversations.
Obviously, as a marriage therapist, I am biased regarding the importance of couples therapy. However so, it simply makes sense that sometimes we need help having these tough conversations. Its natural and normal for us to become reactive and/or shut down when the idea of divorce comes up. Many of us desperately want to explore these questions, and more, with our partners, and some part of us believes that if only we could talk about some of these feelings, everything could be better; divorce wouldn’t be necessary. Many of us deeply long for that connection we once felt with our partners, but we can’t seem to find the words. This is how marriage counseling can help.
Before you file for divorce, or even strongly consider divorce, I encourage you to try couples/marriage counseling. If you worry it will be too expensive, shop around. Ask for reduced rates. Imagine this as potentially the greatest investment of your life. Also, in reality, divorces (especially those with custody disputes) cost both parties many thousands of dollars while therapy might cost several hundred over the course of many weeks and months. Besides the cost, there are other reasons why going to marriage counseling feels scary, however, most therapists understand these reasons, have probably gone through some of the pain you are feeling, and can help you and your partner have the hardest and most rewarding conversations of your whole life.