4 Questions to Ask When Deciding to Divorce
As a divorce lawyer, it’s not unusual for people to come to our office multiple times before finally deciding to divorce. Sometimes, the decision process even takes a few years! They’ll come one year, then come back a year later, then finally come back a year later and say, “Okay, it’s time to do this.”
Deciding to end your marriage is a huge decision. It’s completely understandable to take your time before taking action. But sometimes, you probably wish there was a bright light that would start flashing like crazy, telling you that now is the moment to do it. Unfortunately, there’s not. However, there are specific questions you can ask yourself that may help you arrive at an answer.
Divorce Dialogues’ guest, Nancy Colier, is here to discuss some of the essential 4 questions to ask when deciding to divorce. Nancy is a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, author, and public speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. A longtime student of Eastern spirituality and awareness, these practices ground her work with her clients. She is the author of the book “Can’t Stop Thinking: How to Let Go of Anxiety and Free Yourself from Obsessive Rumination.”
What is Essential in Your Marriage?
When it comes to the decision to divorce, only you know the answer. You’ll feel it in your guts, in your bones. Nancy says that, in her practice, she’s noticed that people don’t choose divorce because they feel optimistic about their post-divorce future, but rather, they feel overcome by their present. They simply can no longer continue with the marriage.
That earth-shaking moment doesn’t usually come without some serious reflection and probing. Considering 4 questions to ask when deciding to divorce, Nancy tells her clients that the first question to ask yourself is, “What’s really important to me?” What one person considers a marital essential, another person might find they can live without. For example, some people might be satisfied in a marriage with a spouse who is attentive to the children and handles the taxes, even if romance or an emotional connection is lacking. Others could tolerate the reverse. Sit down and think hard about what you absolutely need–what’s non-negotiable–in your marriage to be happy.
On the flip side, the next question should be: “What am I willing to do without?” Even if you’re unhappy, your marriage is probably bringing you some benefits: perhaps financial security, emotional security, a certain social status, or something else. So, think hard about all that you’d be giving up by divorcing and whether you’re willing to do without these advantages.
Next, put these two questions together and ask: “What am I getting, and what am I giving up?” Think about whether you’re getting the non-negotiable things you need and want in marriage and whether you’re truly willing to let these things go.
What is Your Pain?
Now, we get to the heart of your considerations. Nancy says to ask: “What is the real suffering that is bringing me to this question of divorce?” If you’ve arrived at the point of considering such a life-changing rupture, you’ve got a serious wound. Probe your feelings to identify the real source of your pain. Nancy urges clients to ask follow-up questions such as: “Where am I feeling abandoned? or Where am I feeling deeply disappointed, mistreated, not loved, not paid attention to, not cherished, not valued.”
Once you do this deep, emotional work, something will probably wiggle loose and give you perspective on the precise nature of your suffering. This process may give you an earth-shaking moment about whether to divorce. But even if it doesn’t, it might allow you to bring this new understanding of your pain to your partner to assess whether there’s any path forward for healing.
Stay tuned for our next discussion with Nancy Colier, where we’ll be discussing the coping mechanisms we use in our marriage and how to understand when coping is no longer enough.
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