Contemplating Divorce? Do These 5 Things First
If you’ve started seriously contemplating divorce, how will you know if it’s time to move on from your marriage – or any significant relationship?
The conventional wisdom is that it’s time to divorce when one or both people have stopped trying to fix the problems in their marriage. But how do you know if divorce is the right answer if you are the one who stopped trying?
1. Do a Self Check-In when You're Contemplating Divorce.If you're questioning your relationship and whether you should stay or you should go, chances are that the a big part of the struggle you're having with the other person’s behaviors and beliefs is actually a mirror of your own inner conflict. When contemplating divorce, before making any life-altering decisions or jumping into divorce proceedings, you need to pause and do the inner work necessary to know yourself; your pain, your core wounds and beliefs, and your own lack of self-love. Whether or not you decide to move on, this self-awareness will serve you in this or any other relationship that comes after. Take time to understand past conditioning and why you chose the partner you did. What are the family dynamics and core beliefs about your lovability that were passed down from your family? What are the “shoulds” you have about being a good partner? A seasoned therapist or coach can help you to discover which of your own inner pain your spouse is reflecting in his/her behaviors helping you get clear about what you are bringing to the table in your marriage. And most importantly, learn tools to support yourself and get to the heart of what you truly want. Practices like yoga, meditation, journaling, and self-reflection can help you get to the heart of the matter. Take at least 10 minutes each day to quiet your mind and connect with your own inner wisdom. Don't be discouraged if nothing much happens the first times you try this new daily practice. Keep at it! Seek support from a professional (or download an app if professional help is beyond your budget) to help you learn how to see through the clouds of fear and old conditioning. Only then will you know which actions to take next.
2. Contemplating Divorce? Slow Down and Take Good Look at Your Relationship.Once you begin to understand your part in your relationship conflict, you'll start to see how your old conditioning has been contributing to the dynamics of the relationship. Are there old patterns that can be reprogrammed through processes like couples therapy or relationship training? In other words, can you change the dynamics through personal growth and couples counseling, or are one or both of you creating blocks that are standing in the way? When contemplating divorce, you need to figure out if and how the relationship can be restructured to serve your highest desires and intentions for fulfillment and happiness before calling it quits. If there’s a will, there’s often a way. But if love has truly left the table, and there are non-negotiable blocks, it may be time to take the next step into the divorce process. I recently listened to an Oprah interview with Glennon Doyle Melton [ed. the author of Love Warrior (Flatiron, 2016) and the creator of the online community Momastery, and founder and president of Together Rising, a non-profit that has raised more than four million dollars for women and children in crisis] that pretty much summed it up. She said: “If you have to choose between saving your marriage or saving your soul, choose your soul.”
3. Get the Facts and Know what to Expect when You're Contemplating Divorce.It’s vital to have an understanding about what the divorce will mean for you not only emotionally but logistically. As you navigate the stormy waters of the emotions and fears that arise once you know the end is inevitable, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights and how you will start over as a single person. I always encourage people to consult with an expert, most often a family lawyer (make sure to choose a lawyer who will be realistic with you about the chances of achieving particular goals – not one who is ready to wage war against your spouse, rack up their hourly charges, and achieve nothing), who will clearly outline the state laws about how property and finances will be split, what parenting schedules might look like, and how long the actual process might take. Having this information will give you an idea of what the next steps are, and keep a worry and “what ifs?” at bay. Ask yourself important questions, such as:
- Can and will we continue to live in the same home going through the process?
- Is my spouse open to working amicably through mediation or will I need to secure an attorney to protect my rights?
- What is the best situation for the children and how can we support them through their own grieving process?