So, you have gotten to a point in your marriage where you are seriously considering divorce. This decision has potentially serious negative consequences for you, your spouse and those you are close with in your life. It is a choice that must be thought through deliberately and carefully.
1. What has gotten you to the point where divorce is on the table?
This is complicated and it will be difficult for you to be objective.
Have your grown apart and become disconnected? Have your conflicts been handled poorly? Are you avoidant and unwilling to communicate?
Some people say that their "feelings are gone." This is a sad and painful place to be. If you are having an affair, then you will not have a clear idea about your feelings towards your spouse. It is completely unrealistic to compare your spouse with your new lover.
Feelings were once there or there never would have been a second date, much less a marriage. To get your feelings back, you must be willing to put behavior before feelings. Acting as if you have loving feelings may have a very surprising and positive impact on your interactions with your spouse.
If you are not willing to look at your own contributions to the state of your marriage, you will most certainly carry some of your problems into your next relationship. It is imperative for you to think about what you need to change.
Why not practice that with your spouse?
2. What have you done to try to fix the problems so that you did not get to this point?
If you have never been to marriage counseling together, then what would be the downside to trying? Alternatively, maybe you did "try" but it was not your best effort. Perhaps the therapist you chose was not a good fit for one or both of you.
Or, as is sometimes the case, one or both of you were not completely honest about everything.
At this crisis point in your marriage, I suggest seeking out a highly qualified marriage therapist. Now is also not the time to be cheap about it. This is too important a decision. Chances are you both have been poor problem solvers regarding your marital issues and need professional help. Go in with your own agenda for change in yourself, and not what you want to change in your partner, to have a much better chance of success.
3. What will the impact be on your children?
This may not apply to some readers, but if you have children that are still at home, you must think through how this will affect their lives. This will be something that will change them in significant ways regardless of how “smooth” you believe the divorce process will be for you and your spouse. Contrary to what you might be telling yourself, unless there is a significant amount of conflict, such as loud and frequent fighting or abuse, your kids just want a home with you both in it. Research shows that kids do better emotionally with you together, even if you are unhappy, than divorced. Having two households is not fun for them and it may actually not be for you.
You may even come to regret your divorce, as many people do. Will you be okay with your spouse's new romantic partner being around your kids? You will not be able to control this. "Blended" families pose lots of complications. The divorce rate is worse for subsequent marriages. Since the odds are not in your favor, why not try to make your current situation better?
4. What were the best of times in your relationship?
When have you felt the most connection with your spouse? What was happening when you felt the most joy and happiness? Think about what attracted you to your partner. What traits did you fall in love with (even if they may be making your crazy now)? Only focus at this moment on the positives. Are you able to imagine getting back to that place? If you can imagine it, chances are you can get there with the right process.
Do not stay in the bubble of indecisiveness for too long. It may seem comfortable, but you really just have three choices: (1) remain the same and continue along as-is, (2) move toward separation and divorce, (3) try an all-out effort to reconcile.
Ambivalence, or “sitting on the fence,” can be worked through and is best done with the right professional. In fact, a process called, ”Discernment Counseling” has proven to be highly effective at helping couples on the brink of divorce work through their decision rather than stay indefinitely in a place of indecisiveness and unhappiness. There are also a few books (see below) for those more interested in self-help. Even if you are both on different pages right now, it is time to face this difficult situation. At the very least, your vows obligate you to work on a troubled marriage before giving up.
Purchase on Amazon: Divorce Busting or Divorce Remedy both by Michele Weiner-Davis and Should I Try to Work It Out?: A Guidebook for Individuals and Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce by Alan Hawkins, Tamara Fackrell and Steven Harris