Considering Divorce? Here are Some Factors to Consider Before Making the Big Decision
Divorce is never easy. When a couple or a family experiences divorce, there is often a mix of emotions including grief, loss, and relief. It should not be the first option for a family, but it definitely is an option that is valid given certain circumstances. Even when divorce is the best option for a family, there will inevitably be a sense of instability due to uprooting schedules, expectations, and traditions.
Fortunately, with proper guidance and emotional regulation skills, divorce does not always have to be high-conflict. Children, especially, do best when their parents continue to co-parent amicably and respectfully. As you can imagine, co-parenting requires a proper balance that is not easy to achieve and maintain. For those reasons, divorce is not something that should be taken lightly. However, if you are at your breaking point, or unsure of whether to proceed with filing for divorce, then here is a list of factors for you to consider beforehand:
- Consider couples’ counseling
Many times people wait too long before they reach out for help. It is recommended to reach out for counseling as soon as you notice challenges in the marriage. DO not wait too long. Couples’ counseling will not always result in the continuation of the marriage. Although that is a highly desirable goal, it may not be the ultimate result. Couples’ counseling is designed to give you the skills, introspection, and self-awareness necessary to fully understand your partner. If, in the process of understanding each other, you find that you actually would be better off separate, then that is still considered progress. Why would this be progress? Because it is better to understand the state of the marriage and the reasons for its dissolution, and respect each other, rather than to end it abruptly with loose ends. A messy end for a marriage can lead to a messy co-parenting situation. A cleaner end for a marriage, will allow for healing to take place and for the parents and children to have better communication throughout the process.
If your couples’ work facilitates understanding, and you are able to heal and feel affection and respect for each other again, then that is also progress! Oftentimes, it means that a marriage is even stronger than before. Knowing the ins and outs of a marriage can bring a whole new perspective on the conflicts that come up over the years.
- Consider your own emotional patterns
If you know you have the tendency to act on strong emotions, then you may need to reflect on what is happening internally for you. Do you consider divorce the moment there is a conflict or misunderstanding? If so, then you may be engaging in avoidance patterns by choosing to end the relationship abruptly rather than talking about what is bothering you.
No marriage is perfect. In fact, according to John Gottman’s research on marriages, 69% of conflicts in a marriage never resolve. What makes a marriage function is the emotional dance and dynamic that occurs between spouses. How you discuss issues and how you approach each other makes the difference in how you feel in a marriage. It is difficult, but take a moment to reflect on your own shortcomings, and consider your own contribution to the dynamic that has been established in the marriage. If you can identify your own strengths and weaknesses, great! That is one more step towards changing the marriage. If you truly, objectively, reflect on your part in the marriage, and feel that the problem falls entirely on your spouse, then you are working with a different issue.
- Assess if there is abuse in the marriage
When we are able to objectively determine that there is some form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse happening within a marriage, then there may not be a lot of room for safe negotiation. Sure, some people are able to acknowledge their mistakes while changing the abusive behaviors, but realistically, this is difficult to achieve without intervention. If you realize that the abuse is putting you or your children in a dangerous situation, then filing for divorce will not be the only step to solve the problem. This is where outside help, such as individual therapy, or resources for those who are in abusive marriages could be part of the preparation for divorce.
- Are your religious beliefs making it difficult to determine whether to divorce?
For many people, their religious beliefs and spiritual community may discourage divorce altogether. This can create an understandable dilemma. Many religious congregations and communities have leaders or counselors within the church that can provide spiritual guidance. It is important to stay true to your values, however it is also valid to take in multiple opinions, especially when your wellness is at stake. As therapists, we advise taking a holistic approach where you can take into account the spiritual/religious side while also taking a secular perspective. Being able to customize solutions by working with different professionals can help you make the best decision for yourself and for your family.