Divorce decree with gavelWhen a spouse chooses to file for divorce, they usually know that they are unhappy. Most of the time, they know that they have been unhappy for a long time. But when a person files for divorce, they cannot always communicate why exactly they are unhappy, or how their spouse contributes to their unhappiness. Prior to asking your spouse for a divorce, it is imperative that you ask yourself the tough questions and ensure that a break from your spouse is what you need. Once you request a separation, you cannot take back the hurt and anger they may experience from finding out you want to end the relationship. Thus, it is important to consider why the end of a relationship may lead to the filer’s happiness.

Is there a clear reason for asking to separate from the relationship?

Asking for a divorce can be much simpler when there is a clear reason why the relationship has broken down. It may be that the marriage has experienced infidelity, and one or both partners do not want to work out the rift. It may be a fundamental difference in important beliefs or life philosophies such as differences in religion, politics, parenting styles, etc. Partners may not agree on issues regarding how to spend money. Or there may be abuse or mistreatment in the relationship. While it is not necessary to define “why” a relationship has broken down, it can help to ensure that there are no regrets later down the line. When both partners understand that there is a specific issue, or issues, that they cannot agree on, it can make digesting the separation easier, and lead to quicker closure.

Have you explored the reasons for your unhappiness?

When there is not a clear reason for being unhappy in the relationship, it can feel harder to make the decision to leave. If the spouse is not already in therapy, it may be useful to explore their feelings with a therapist prior to leaving the marriage. When two people are married for a long period of time, it can be easy to start blaming the spouse for all sources of unhappiness– even if they are not the cause. As life changes, it can be easy to get stuck in a dead-end career, not set aside time for hobbies or personal interests, stop practicing self-care, or feel like you are ‘losing yourself.’ A qualified therapist can help find the root of unhappiness and help to determine if the issues are coming from problems in the marriage, or if the individual can make changes on their own. A therapist can also help a person talk to their spouse and see if their spouse will help support them in any individual changes they wish to make to their own life. A counselor can also diagnose a man or woman with any underlying mental health disorders that may be affecting them, such as depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders. When a spouse’s feelings are more existential, and less clear cut, working with a therapist can help explore the root cause of their feelings and ensure that they do not make a drastic life decision without fully thinking it through.

Do you have realistic expectations for how life will be different?

Prior to filing for divorce, it is important for a spouse to have realistic expectations for how they believe their life will change. Perhaps they are envisioning a new and exciting life for themselves, that involves them dating a lot of new people, living in an upgraded apartment all to themself, and going out every night. Depending on their circumstances, this may or may not be realistic. It is important to consider what your day-to-day life will look like, and how it will change. If one spouse takes care of certain things, such as all of the cooking, or managing all of the finances, one should imagine what it will be like to have to do that on their own. If the couple has children, it is important to imagine what it will be like not to see your children every day. Or what it will be like to have to take care of them all on your own, when you do have them in your care. At the end of a marriage, it is human nature to begin to not give the other spouse credit for the contributions they make. Prior to filing for divorce, one should make an effort to recognize any good that the spouse does bring to their life, so that they are sure that they are prepared to live without it. By doing this, a spouse is less likely to have regrets that they cannot take back once they take the step of filing paperwork.

I am a pre-divorce coach who can help individuals determine if they are emotionally ready to file for divorce. I will help them imagine what their life post-divorce will look like and ask them the hard questions they may not want to ask themselves. If I believe that they could benefit from therapy, I will make those suggestions. Divorce coaching is done virtually, and I work with clients all over the United States. Contact me today to get started.