Your marriage has gone cold, or at least lukewarm. You remember the good old days, when things felt fun, hot, and life was exciting. Where did they go? Is it just the reality of getting older? Is it that your marriage needs stoking? Or is it time to leave? Read on for 5 important things to check when you’re considering leaving.
(Bear in mind, this checklist looks completely different if you’re in an unsafe situation – there will be a blog for you soon. The important thing for you right now is to make a plan and stay safe).
So, if leaving is on your mind, take some time to think about these five things:
1. How you’re feeling
The first place to check when you’re considering leaving is with yourself. How are you feeling? If it’s full of rage, despair, or sadness, then recognise that.
Think of emotions like flares: they are sending you a bat signal that something’s wrong. BUT the time to make big decisions isn’t when you’re in the very heat of a flare. It’s when you can take a step back, and coolly observe what’s happening. It doesn’t mean you have to wait for everything to be okay again. Just that you need to understand what your emotional temperature is, to ensure you’re acting consciously, not reacting governed by emotion.
2. What’s changed?
Most relationships don’t start out as disaster areas: if we recognise a red flag early on, hopefully we run for the hills. So if your marriage is rocky now, it’s because something has changed. That will be one of three things, or a combination:
- You: you want different things out of life than you did when you got together
- Your spouse’s behaviour: they now behave in a way that you don’t like
- Your insight: there were cracks in the relationship right from the start, and now you can see them for what they are
3. Your spouse
What is it about your spouse that means you no longer want to be married to them? Try to get to the bottom of what’s making you pull away. It might be that some of these things are superficial, or caused by temporary circumstances. Equally, it might highlight that you no longer have shared goals and values, and this is not the person you want to journey through life with.
4. What’s going on in your lives?
External factors such as illness, extra burden on caring responsibilities for parents, problems with children or financial issues can all put strain on a marriage.
These strains can do one of three things:
- Help you see that you want and need to work through things together, even if it’s difficult
- Cause a temporary, but resolvable, problem in your marriage
- Show you that you’re no longer good partners
So take a moment to think about all the external stressors in your life. Are these things that, if resolved, would have your marriage back on track, in a way you’re happy with? If so, you might want to focus your attention on these, and on reconnection. I’m not saying your marriage will be fine – who knows? But, like emotional flares, unless you’re in danger, it’s worth pausing and reflecting about periods of high stress before jumping into a big decision.
5. Your plan
The first thing I tell all my clients, and readers of my book once they have decided to leave, is… nothing. Don’t even tell your spouse. Just sit with it for a while. This is because the decision to leave is huge, significant and needs respect. And it also gives you time to think about your plan. You don’t need to have all the answers straight away, but it is worth starting to think about:
- Where each of you might live
- Your financial situation
- Gathering any paperwork or personal items together
- What you will say, to your spouse and others
- How open you are to changing your mind
The main thing I’d love you to take away from this is that the decision to leave shouldn’t be taken lightly. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t mean settle for ‘well, it’s not that bad’. That’s not what I stand for at all!
But I do mean, it’s an important process to really grapple with, and take ownership of. And it might be something you come back to time and time again.
If you want to learn about how to make smart, informed decisions about whether to leave, and what that might entail, you need Should I Be A Lady Who Leaves.
A comprehensive, no-filler online course helping you navigate your decision-making with your eyes open. Sign up here.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready, the online self-study programmes, and the newly released ‘Should I be a Lady Who Leaves?’. For More Information on Should I be a Lady Who Leaves? click here. Doors Close Midnight on Thursday 25th January 2024.