Deciding whether you should get a divorce or try and save your marriage is an immensely difficult, frustrating and often long-winded process – long-winded because most people find themselves driven in circles by a complex mix of issues and emotions.

Ideally there would be some kind of quiz that automatically spewed out the “right answer” – just told you whether or not you should get a divorce. But even then, many people would still find themselves bouncing back and forth, not quite sure about whether or not to actually follow through and do what they need to do.

You’ll be pleased to know that the advice below does include links to something of a “should I divorce quiz” - reasons to divorce (or not) that will steer you in the right direction. Their purpose is to help you realistically assess your marriage as a critical “first things first” step.

Here is an overview of all the key steps in deciding whether you should divorce or not (with links to additional advice), to help you make the right decision and feel confident about taking action. Although they are numbered 1 to 5, they are best applied all at much the same time.

1. Get to Grips with the Reality of Your Marriage

As you can read in How to Know if You Should Get a Divorce, the better question is, what is the true state of my marriage? This is the better question because it is most likely to guide you to the right decision – a reality-based decision that you won’t regret. On the other hand, when people think in terms of “divorce”, they often make the wrong decision, influenced by what they feel about divorce rather than the real issue: whether or not there is any hope for their marriage.

For instance many people are so frightened and distracted by the “D word” (and for the most part, unnecessarily) that they stay in a marriage that’s best ended. Others are influenced by the punishment potential of divorce (and quite often, friends and family too) to end a marriage worth saving and, too late, wish they had given that second chance. Either way, they have set themselves up for long-term unhappiness.

So, the first step in deciding whether to divorce is to assess the real state of your marriage and what you really feel in your heart and soul about that reality. This can be difficult – we all have lives to lead – and chances are it’s not something that you’ve really be able to do. However, when you stop thinking in terms of “what to do” – and all the associated fears and worries – and focus on first coming to terms with the reality of your marriage, the right options will start to reveal themselves.

To help you assess your marriage, you can see our Guidelines for Deciding Whether to Divorce which introduces two sets of self-help questions – or quizzes:

These work together – be sure to read both – to help you assess your marriage.

2. Be Prepared to Follow Through with What You Decide

Secondly, you need to be prepared – up front – to “honor” the outcome of this “divorce or not” decision process. There is no doubt that the outcome – be it divorce or trying to save a marriage – will be challenging, emotional, stressful but, as with many things in life, it’s the first step that’s the hardest. Be assured that when the decision made is the right decision, things will fall into place surprisingly easily, and will not be complicated by nagging doubts and regrets that throw you off track and/or come back to haunt you later.

So, if all indications are that you should try to save your marriage, then that’s what you need to do. You will end up thank your lucky stars that you did, or – if divorce proves unavoidable – feel reassured by the fact that at least you really did try.

Similarly, if all indications are that you should get a divorce, then that’s what you need to do. There is every chance that if you don’t, you will be asking the question over and over again – should I get a divorce? – and in the meantime living a life that could be happier for you, your spouse and children.

3. Be Prepared for Self-Doubt About Your Decision

In order to commit to your decision and take action, you need to be prepared in advance for the “grass is greener” effect.

  • Once you have decided whether to divorce or not, it is virtually 100% guaranteed that you will second guess yourself, even though you know the decision you have made is sound, based on the true state of your marriage.
  • To make matters worse, it’s also highly likely that you will find yourself under pressure from your spouse, as well as friends and family, to change your mind.

When this happens, you will need to remind yourself that the decision you have made is the right decision. Recognize that it is natural for self-doubt and other emotions to kick in at this stage, but not wise to act on them.

4. Get Non-Biased Advice and Support

If you are lucky enough to have a good support system in place – valued friends, family and colleagues – take advantage of this but limit their influence while you are deciding whether to divorce or not, and once you have made a decision. Their thoughts and opinions may be well-intentioned but the ultimate reality is that they don’t have to live with your decision – you do.

Encourage those who love and care for you to support you in non-opinionated ways, for example as sympathetic listeners or  pleasant distractions from the day-to-stress of your troubled marriage.

At the same time, get independent support systems in place – the most reliable way to get access to realistic and impartial support and advice. For instance, there are many online forums where anonymity allows you to be thoroughly honest and open, as well as many excellent free self-help divorce clinics and relationship services.

5. Get Educated

Once you have made a decision about whether you should divorce or try to save your marriage, take steps to educate yourself as soon as possible. There is no need to actually take action – the idea is to investigate what will be involved and what help is available, to bolster your confidence on your chosen path.

For instance, there are many books on how to save a marriage, including step-by-step plans that work even if your spouse isn’t interested in trying. There are also some great books available to guide you through the process of divorce.

Tools like these will help you see that your decision is achievable, and quickly eliminate a great number of concerns and fears.

Filed under: Deciding to Divorce

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