Marriage is incredibly complex, so asking a question like, “is it time to get a divorce?” isn’t easy. There is no set of rules to govern your decision. All you can do is fully evaluate your decision and go with the decision you feel most comfortable with.
Despite your best efforts, you will most likely still experience periods of strong internal conflict.
If you are the one who first broached the topic of divorce, you might feel pressure to make sure you’re ‘right’ about it. After all, the decision impacts your children, lifestyle, economics, emotional self, etc.
If your spouse suggested the divorce you might feel out of control and find yourself trying to cling to the familiar. But you may be clinging to an illusion.
And sometimes it becomes more about identifying yourself as the victim of the other person’s failings. In these situations, fear, anger, and frustration take over and make it difficult to evaluate the situation objectively.
If you think it might be time to get divorced, or your spouse does, there are a few initial steps to take to see your situation more clearly:
1.1 Talk to your spouse
When you feel unsatisfied in your marriage it can be tempting to seek advice from family and friends. However, talking about your spouse with other people, especially in anger, isn’t fair to them. It taints other people’s opinions of them, even after you’ve forgive them.
Tell your spouse about the issues you’ve noticed and give them the opportunity to explain their view. Be sure to frame the discussion around how you feel instead of pointing fingers.
1.2 Consider what else is happening
Big life changes like having a child or moving to a new city can put pressure on a relationship. But these pressures are usually temporary as you find your way back to a consistent, comfortable routine.
Give yourself time to rebound from the shock a big change before making life-altering decisions about your relationship.
1.3 Be open with yourself
It’s natural to fear the unknown. And it’s also natural to try to suppress thoughts that could result in everything familiar slipping away, even if what is familiar isn’t what you want.
You deserve to be happy.
Give yourself permission to internally explore the options, and know that you will probably feel completely differently on different days. Be as honest with yourself as you can.
1.4 Get professional help
Making the decision to get divorced becomes easier when you know you have done everything in your power to make your marriage work. Develop your communication skills through therapy can help you discover each other’s values and motivations. Seek the help of a marriage therapist.
You may realize there is something left to salvage or that divorce is the right option. But either way, it will open the lines of communication and help get you and your spouse on the same page.
1.5 Accept confrontation
People don’t argue about things they don’t care about; it’s a waste of time. If you refuse to argue with your spouse or vice versa, this is a bad sign. Some confrontation is inevitable, so don’t stay silent because of apathy, ambivalence, or a fear of the consequences.
Making the final decision can be overwhelming. Some people lose focus as they talk or think about the same points for the millionth time.
You can regain focus by asking yourself the following 5 questions about your situation:
Did we ever act as a team? Some couples get married without ever learning what it actually takes to be married. You can live under the same roof as your spouse and live completely different lives. If either or both of you are more concerned with your own goals than meeting each other’s needs, divorce may be the right option.
Do I still have feelings for them? If you can honestly say you still have strong feelings for your partner, it’s better to put your effort toward working on your relationship instead of ending it. Let your spouse know how you feel and discuss whether your relationship can be improved and how.
Do I want a divorce or am I making a threat, hoping they change? Are you asking for what you really want or are you shielding your true feelings with the threat of divorce? If it’s the latter, be open with your spouse. Let them know why you brought up divorce and what you really need from them.
Is the decision based on a logical evaluation of the situation or purely emotion? Lashing out is common when you feel hurt. But damaged emotions can be fixed most of the time. Are you discussing divorce as an emotional reaction or because you have thought through your situation and decided this is the best option for both of you?
Are you ready to be responsible and emotionally mature? If your focus starts to shift to revenge or what you can get from the divorce the process will be even more painful. You are only ready for a divorce if you can focus equally on both of your rights, needs, and desires and prioritize the needs of your kids.
Even after you’ve evaluated the situation with your spouse and asked yourself the tough questions about your marriage, you may still feel conflicted. While there is still no one-size-fits-all answer, if you identify with one or more of the following, it’s a good indication divorce is the right choice.
1. You believe you’d be better off alone: Being independent is admirable, but if you find yourself fantasizing about not having to include your spouse in major life decisions, it might be time to consider whether staying married to that person is in your (or their) best interest.
2. Your needs aren’t being met : In an ideal marriage, both people will work as a team to ensure that each person is getting what they need. If you feel like your relationship has become one-sided or neither of you are considerate of the other, it may be a sign that you should not be together.
However, be sure that you express your needs to your spouse before deciding to end the relationship. It may seem that they don’t care, but they may genuinely not know your expectations.
3. You’re only staying for one reason: It could be your kids, the fear of being alone (or with someone new), finances, or anxiety about what others will say, but if there is only one flimsy excuse between you and making a final decision, it’s a good indication that divorce may be the right choice.
Know that your kids will be happier when you’re happy, the future isn’t guaranteed for anyone (and it could be better alone or with someone else), finances can be negotiated and sorted out, and people will only gossip so long before losing interest.
4. You’ve tried everything and still can’t make it work: Your marriage deserves every attempt to make things work, but if you have already given an honest effort to everything you can think of (talking things out, counseling, etc.) and nothing is working, it is a sign that it may be time to file for divorce.
5. You’ve lost trust or respect for the other person: It doesn’t matter how it happens, if you can honestly say you don’t trust or respect your spouse, this is a major indication that it’s time to walk away from your marriage.
However, make sure this loss of respect and trust isn’t based on imagined transgressions. Talk to your spouse and give them an opportunity to explain their side of whatever has made you feel so differently about them.
6. You’re being abused: If your spouse calls you names, tells you you’re worthless, tries to isolate you from loved ones, or puts their hands on you for any reason, do not feel obligated to try to make things work. If you need support, call a support line for help getting out of the situation.
You are not alone. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline,“1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”
There can be a temptation to get your divorce over as quickly as possible and move on with your life. However, rushing through the process leads to a poor understanding of your rights or how to properly move through the process. It also leads to making snap, unsustainable decisions that you’ll regret later.
Slow down and take time to thoroughly think through every decision and how it will affect each person involved. Read about how to prepare for divorce meticulously.
4.2 Get educated and make goals
Learn as much as you can about what to expect for each stage of the process and what you are entitled to.
At this time you will also need to form a mental image of what your life will ideally (but realistically) look like after the divorce, with respect to your spouse’s rights. There are many things to consider. For example:
1. Distribution of Property (Assets/Liabilities)
2. Child Custody and Parenting Time
3. Child Support/Maintenance
You’re entering an emotional minefield, and it’s impossible to avoid all negative feelings. Reach out to people you trust to get the emotional support you need to make it through.
4.4 Agree to mediate
Divorce mediation is an excellent tool to help things end peacefully. Instead of going through a typical adversarial trial, you and your spouse can work together to find a solution that works best for both of you.
Mediation is a form of structured negotiation where a neutral third party, the mediator, guides two or more parties in dispute through the process. The mediator does not take sides or make decisions for you; you have complete control over the outcome.
The mediator will identify the factors blocking you from reaching an agreement with your spouse and help you remove them.
Mediation is a flexible process, and as such, the time it takes will depend heavily on the details of your case and how quickly you and your spouse want to move.
You may want to move more quickly if you have children or work obligations to take care of, but you may decide to slow it down if you have considerations like health insurance or you need more time for emotional preparation.
On average, mediation takes 3-6 months. Most of this time will be spent collecting the proper information and documents needed by the mediator. You can also expect anything from 1 to 5 sessions with your mediator (average of 3) lasting 1 to 4 hours each.
Most mediators charge for their time by the hour. These hourly rates can vary vastly depending on the mediator’s training and experience. For instance, some mediators are also attorneys or retired judges who will charge much more.
Most mediation rates will equate to about $1000 to $2000 per day, and will most likely be split evenly between you and your spouse unless you decide on another arrangement.
So what will it cost by the end?
If your mediator charges $2000 per day and it takes 3 sessions, your total is $6000 and 3 days of stress. If you decide to litigate, you can expect $350,000 to $400,000 (with court fees, court reporter fees, attorney fees etc.), and potentially years worth of stress.
Divorce isn’t easy. Just coming to a final decision about whether it is the right step for you takes a massive amount of consideration.
Getting through it peacefully requires carefully considering everything from both sides, making sure your kids are prioritized, and trying not to let strong emotions get in the way of evaluating the situation.
If you do decide to go through with divorce, mediation is one of the best tools you can employ to make it easier on you.
Instead of being pitted against each other and giving decision making power to someone else, you and your spouse can work together with the help of a neutral party to find the solution that works best.
To prepare for divorce and to find a qualified divorce mediator in your area, check out the divorce mediators members. You can ask questions, send your spouse profiles of potential mediators, and hire a mediator directly through the website.
Please leave a comment below whether you are thinking about divorce or not.