Divorce demands a hefty price – on all aspects of life – and should not be entered into without counting the cost.
Building a strong marriage is a life-long endeavor. It takes commitment, hard work, and sacrifice on a daily basis. When an imbalance of work, strained finances, or lack of communication slowly causes damage, or there is hurt and mistrust, it takes even more from each person to restore a marriage, but it’s not impossible. Typically, if you or your spouse are at the point of considering divorce, it’s going to take a good deal of hard work to get your marriage back on track.
“Your marriage isn’t doomed because you hurt one another, have difficulty communicating, or have disagreements over important issues… Ask other couples what it took to build a strong and successful marriage. Rest assured that their strong marriages did not develop overnight. They experienced some of the same problems you have.
One reason their marriages are strong today is that they were committed to the idea that no matter what obstacles they faced, they would learn to manage their problems and overcome the crisis on an ongoing basis,” says Focus on the Family.
Before deciding that divorce is the only option, do these five things first.
5 Things To Do Before Getting Divorced
Identify Your Role & Responsibility
“No one is perfect. No matter what the issues are, no matter how difficult a partner we’ve picked, we all contribute, in some way, to the problems we have. Perhaps we’re provocative, or dismissive, or we don’t keep our word. Perhaps we’ve been unwilling to speak up, or be honest, or tackle our marital difficulties head-on. Maybe we’re too quick to flare or to blame.
Taking responsibility for your part isn’t the same thing as being fully at fault. No matter what’s happened, you’re not responsible for your partner’s behaviors and responses. You are, however, responsible for yours.
Accurately assessing your contribution will help you identify behavior changes that might improve your marriage enough that you’ll decide to stay put and work on them,” according to Winifred M. Reilly, a psychotherapist specializing in marital therapy and relationship issues.
You can’t control your spouse’s behavior, you can only control your own.
Ask Hard Questions & Answer Honestly
Clinical Psychologist Bruce Derman, Ph.D., and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Wendy Gregson collaborated to produce a list of eight questions to ask yourself when determining if you are ready for a divorce:
- Do you still have feelings for your partner?
- Were you ever really married?
- Are you truly ready for divorce or are you just threatening?
- Is this a sincere decision based on self-awareness or is it an emotionally reactive decision?
- What is your intent in wanting a divorce?
- Have you resolved your internal conflict over the divorce?
- Can you handle the unpleasant consequences of divorce?
- Are you willing to take control of your life in a responsible and mature way?
Communicate With Your Spouse
Communicating in a respectful, calm, and non-accusatory manner will open the door for meaningful conversation with your spouse. Focus on the Family offers these suggestions for getting started:
Begin by approaching your spouse at the right time and in the right manner. Choose a time when he or she is not distracted or too stressed or tired.
Approach your spouse in a non-confrontational manner. An angry tone of voice or condescending “parent to child” approach will only cause him or her to shut down.
Make sure you bring up the topic in a non-threatening way. If your communication pattern has digressed to the point that when you bring up this topic, your spouse becomes defensive and “blows up,” you may consider writing him or her a letter to be read when you are not present. This gives your spouse time to think about what was said and respond without all the emotions.
Don’t say, “You need counseling.” Recognize and admit that “we” have a problem, and it must be addressed as a team.
Commit To Marriage Counseling
Committing to a minimum time frame for counseling gives you and your spouse the opportunity to work through the difficult aspects of your relationship without the threat of one partner quitting when things get hard.
Seeking counseling may seem daunting at first, but knowing what to expect and finding a quality, licensed therapist is worth the investment to save your marriage from divorce.
Attend A Marriage Intensive Experience
“Right now, your situation may feel like two people, too far apart, with too much damage done to save your marriage. But, before you and your spouse close the door forever, you owe it to yourselves, and possibly your children, to give saving your marriage another try,” says the Hope Restored website. “The Intensive format was designed to allow individuals to get to the root of their issues quickly, with ample time to focus on resolution and growth. The extended amount of time spent within the Intensive setting gives couples the opportunity to go deeper without many of the distractions of daily life, and time to stay long enough to consider the solutions available to them.”
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Know What to Expect
Most people contemplating divorce think they know what to expect.
Generally, you never know what will happen and the extent your life will change unless you have been divorced before. Even if that’s the case, divorces are different. Every divorce has its own unique parties, circumstances, timelines, and many other variables. So, understand in-depth what a divorce will mean physically, emotionally, logistically, etc.
The process is plagued with emotions ranging from anxiety to anger, fear, resentment, doubt, and regret. Most of these emotions never really surface to the full extent until you know for sure you are divorcing your spouse. For this reason, understand that contemplating divorce doesn’t bring up the same emotions as an actual divorce.
What’s more, emotions are just a tiny part of the process. You have to think of the legal rights of a single person. This will involve understanding many aspects of single life once again. Before you ask for that divorce, you also need to think of state laws. What do Alabama laws say about divorce and related aspects like property division, custody, alimony, etc.? Are you ready to abide by co-parenting laws applicable in Alabama? How long does the process take?
You should also think about your living situation and how it will change. Can you continue living in your marital home? Do you have a place to stay, and what are the implications of moving out of your marital home? What if your spouse is willing to work things out, is that something you are willing to do? If your spouse decides to “wage war” what do you expect them to do? Are you prepared for a messy fight?
Having been married to someone, you can anticipate their reactions to a divorce to some extent. You should be asking yourself if you can counter every possible move they choose to react to your divorce request.
A common example would be anticipating child custody issues. Also, what kind of emotional reaction do you expect? Will your spouse be abusive or violent? What should you do?
In a nutshell, there are countless expectations when you finally decide to divorce. Unless you talk to a divorce attorney first when contemplating divorce, you can’t tell for sure what will happen. The actual divorce process is plagued by surprises, mixed emotions, loss, and other negative consequences.
While you shouldn’t stick to an abusive marriage, divorce should be thoroughly thought of beforehand. The best approach is to take your time and get expert help. You should also do your homework to reduce unpleasant surprises when you finally decide to proceed.
By anticipating what may happen if you choose to divorce, you can plan better for your journey ahead. This step should be taken before initiating divorce. You must think of “everything” while being guided by expectations. For instance, you need a plan on how to move on emotionally and physically. This is arguably the hardest part. How do you plan to leave someone while you are still with them?
What’s more, how do you erase or embrace decades of good memories? Spouses are usually significant parts of each other’s lives. How do you plan to disengage someone who has been your support system? Remember, once you divorce someone, you can’t go back for the “good side”. Seeking counsel or emotional support is no longer an option once you divorce someone. However, you must continue co-parenting if you have kids. How do you intend to maintain a healthy balance?
Have you thought about their future? Will it affect you to see them happy with another person? How do you wish to deal with such scenarios? This step is about preparing the next one to five years of your life which is usually the time it takes to get over an ex-spouse.
You can read books on divorce, do online research, speak to divorce attorneys, go for counseling, and talk to friends who have divorced as part of your planning process. Ensure you plan for every eventuality discussed above, from moving on financially to dealing with co-parenting issues. Planning for a divorce demands an unmatched level of planning! You must work or face regrets from going through a process that isn’t well thought of.
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Set Your Intention
If you know what to expect, plan ahead, and are still convinced that divorce is the way, you can pause and “listen” to your intuition before making a final decision. You can contemplate divorce all you want. However, you shouldn’t move on until the desire to leave your marriage is stronger than that of staying.
Your inner self usually knows what you want. If you know how to deal with the difficulties that come with divorce, talk to experts, answer every possible question on divorce from child custody to state laws and the effects on your children, you are bound to make a more prudent decision.
Embrace Life After Divorce
When contemplating divorce, the last and final stage is acceptance. You should accept the future and its uncertainties. For instance, expect to have periods of lows and highs despite having done everything in your power to prepare. What’s more, you should understand the permanency of divorce. The life changes will test you and your sanity. In many cases, you won’t like the outcome. However, you must be kind to yourself and move on.
Divorce isn’t the end of the world. If you’ve done something you can’t undo, move on! Embrace divorce recovery and find the support you need. After contemplating and going through a divorce, you must pick yourself up and face the challenges. Expect to second-guess yourself, feel like a failure, and face more challenges than before. However, life doesn’t stop after a divorce. You may not see it yet. Time will heal you. Most importantly, believe that the best is ahead of you!
Contemplating divorce can be scary. It’s an important step to avoiding problems when you decide on a divorce. You must do the work prior to making your decision. Most importantly, seek expert advice!
Resolving marital issues takes time and effort and it’s best to consider all of the options before approaching your spouse about divorce. A consultation with The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates can answer questions and help you understand your legal options for divorce.