One of the most-asked questions about divorce is, How to know if you should get a divorce? It’s not surprising. This very first step – deciding whether or not to divorce – is actually one of the most difficult aspects of divorce. For most people, it means choosing between life as they know it (the devil they know) and an unknown future fraught with fears and uncertainties.

question mark in mazeHowever, most people find that once they have actually made the right decision about whether or not to divorce, there are no bolts of lightning or clashes of thunder. Life has taken a step in new direction, and a new direction that may be challenging but feels right.

The big question is, how do you make the “right decision”? – how do you know if you should get a divorce, or not?

Before moving on to the answer it’s helpful to take a close look at the problem – why deciding to divorce is so difficult.

Why it’s so hard to know if you should divorce

It goes without saying that deciding whether to divorce or save your marriage is a life-changing decision – one of the most important you will make. This in itself makes it difficult and stressful.

What makes it harder yet is that unlike other big decisions, like moving house or changing jobs, there are few hard cold facts to work with, no easy apples-to-apples comparisons to make.

On top of this, there are lots of emotions in play that hamper decision-making abilities and leave us perpetually second-guessing ourselves. In fact there are two major bundles of emotions in play. There are:

  • All the emotions caused by a “failing” marriage – the day-to-day frustrations, resentments, regrets, conflicts, and…
  • All the emotions stirred up by thoughts of ending it – fears, concerns and uncertainties about the possible effects of divorce on children, of how a spouse will react or survive, on finances…

In the end, knowing if you should get a divorce or not involves much more than deciding whether or not to end a marriage – a relatively straightforward (though not easy) decision.

It is complicated by other concerns that leave people struggling to make the “right decision” all round. The fact is, this is extremely difficult if not impossible – there are so many variables in the mix that what seems like the best decision one day seems completely wrong the next.

So what is the best way to know if you should get a divorce?

Odd as it may seem, the best way to know if you should get a divorce or not is to forget about “divorce” altogether. That is, put aside your fears and concerns about divorce so that you can focus on the real issue, which is the state of your marriage.

The reason you need to do this is that the “right decision” for the future will be the one that best reflects the true state of your marriage. Once you know what this is, your options for the future will be based on reality, leading you to a decision that may be difficult but feels right.

The trouble with the “D” word is that it muddies the waters with all sorts of issues, fears and concerns that are actually unrelated to the state of your marriage. These unrelated issues lead people (and potentially you) to make decisions for the future that are out of sync with what matters most – the reality of their marriage, and how they really feel. And the end result is a great deal of unhappiness.

You are probably wondering, “How on earth can I put aside thoughts about divorce?”

Well, a few “home truths” about divorce may make it easier than you think.

The fact is, fears about divorce muddy the waters unnecessarily – they are either unfounded or entirely manageable, if and when you decide to divorce.

  • For example, concerns about the effects of divorce on children are valid but have been unduly heightened by high-profile research now known to be fundamentally flawed. They also overshadow the effects of subjecting children to the fall-out of a failed or failing marriage. What’s more, research is by nature “general”. There are many ways to ensure that your children cope well, and a great deal of expert advice is easily available to help you with this.
  • Similarly, fears about practical matters – finances, where you will live, and so forth – are natural but entirely manageable. Legislation, legal expertise and whole host of divorce-related agencies are in place to ensure certain outcomes. Family Courts have also introduced many new services and procedures designed to protect children and promote fair outcomes with minimum conflict.

With the “big bad boogeyman” of divorce seeming not quite so big and bad after all, it should hopefully be easier for you to put it aside and focus on the fundamental question – what is the true state of my marriage?

Once you unearth the answer, the question, How to know if I should get a divorce? may or may not be relevant. You may find that there is more hope for your marriage than you thought and, on analyzing how this makes you feel, decide that you would like to give saving your marriage your best shot. Alternatively, you may find that you have been deluding yourself, thinking that it could or should be saved and that painful and difficult as it may be, you now know you should get a divorce.

Either way, you will have a set of options based on the reality of your marriage. In short you will be in a position to do the right thing, and feel confident that it is the right thing.

This is how you will make sure that you do not end up in two, five or twenty years with regrets, wishing you had left a loveless marriage, tried harder to save it, or given your spouse – your marriage – that second chance.

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