Getting a divorce is a big step; but few of us know how to make this difficult decision intelligently. None of us likes uncertainty so we put off the decision or rush through it without thinking carefully. Procrastination, uncertainty, and second thoughts are natural because there is no guarantee we are making the right choice and divorce has serious consequences. There are pros and cons involved in making the decision to divorce. The key to making a good choice is to systematically review the pros and cons of your marriage, ask yourself if there is any likelihood of significant change, and then base your decision on the balance of the pros and cons.
Before you decide to divorce, explore your marital situation, ask yourself a series of simple questions, and think about the decision systematically. A good first step is to consider couples counseling. If you have already tried counseling and it didn’t work or if your spouse is not interested in counseling, that’s important information. If you are both willing to spend time and effort trying to fix the marriage, that’s a positive sign. Second, ask yourself why you are considering divorce. If the reasons are not clear, tally the positive and negative elements of your marriage on a single sheet of paper to clarify your current marital situation before making a decision.
A Trial Separation?
When a couple separates we usually assume they headed toward a divorce, but that’s not necessarily true. Some couples in marital difficulty need time apart to sort through their feelings and decide whether to stay married or get divorced. Separation does not always mean divorce. It can be a time of renewal, rejuvenation, and reunion. Sometimes being alone can help a person mature and change their attitude toward marriage. Couples who choose a marital time out usually need to involve a professional counselor. Having the courage to let go of the relationship and gain some perspective can give both spouses breathing room and a clear perspective on the marriage.
Other couples use a trial separation as a transition to divorce. The separation is a final testing period to make certain divorce is the right decision. When asked if there is a possibility of reconciliation, these couples often say yes, but give it a low probability. Deciding to divorce is not an easy choice; only in cases of abuse, addition, or serial infidelity is the choice clear. And even then, it’s not easy to divorce.
The Pros and Cons of Getting a Divorce
There are positive and negative reasons people stay in a marriage. Three good reasons to stay in a marriage are safety, love, and shared goals. In a viable marriage, both parties feel safe, and they share a sense of personal, emotional, and financial security. Love, shared values, and fidelity are also signs of a salvageable marriage. Finally, common goals help a couple grow together and make their marriage succeed. On the other hand, there are bad reasons people stay in a toxic marriage. Sometimes a person gets trapped in a marriage because they are insecure, have low self-esteem, and lack confidence. This type of marriage can be addictive and the victim often don’t realize the relationship is so destructive. Some people remain in an emotionally abusive relationship because they have little confidence and can’t break free.
If people don’t trust each other and can’t communicate, their marriage is in trouble. Moreover, if your relationship is based on fear, financial dependency, or abuse, you should probably get a divorce. Finally, contempt and physical, emotional, or sexual abuse indicate a failed relationship.
Answering the following questions can help you decide whether to divorce: Are you willing to try couples counseling? Do you know what’s wrong with your marriage? Are your fights constructive? Do you forgive and forget after a fight? Can you make up after a fight? Are you able to communicate important feelings? Do you and your spouse listen to each other? Are you working toward the same goals? Can you afford a divorce? Do you still love your spouse? If most of the answers are “no,” you probably need a divorce.