How Do I Know If I Should Divorce?


date published

4th May 2020

written by

Emma Heptonstall Image

date published

4th May 2020

How Do I Know If I Should Divorce?


‘How do I know if I should divorce?’ is probably the question I get asked most often. And it’s a tricky one. Because there is no right answer, only an answer that’s right for you!


If you’ve been thinking of leaving for a long time sometimes that decision gets harder, not easier! Overthinking is a real thing. But, of course, you don’t want to rush into a big life-changing decision. So in How do I know if I should divorce? I take you through some steps for answering that all-important question.


Leaving is hard


First up, let’s deal with the fact that this decision is hard, whatever you choose. If the question’s on your mind, either way, you have work to do. Leaving involves emotional and practical work, and so does staying if you do it in an empowered way.


I’ve yet to meet the woman who woke up one morning and decided to divorce. It just doesn’t happen like that. That first little whisper to yourself that something’s wrong – allowing yourself to hear it takes guts. Particularly if you have a spouse who is a ‘good person’. They don’t abuse you or financially control you. They love you and you still have feelings for them.


Yes, when you’re married to a good one it’s hard. You feel guilty for thinking about leaving. You also feel scared and often feel shame.


And when you’re married to a physically, verbally, emotionally or financially abusive person it’s hard. You feel guilty about leaving. You also feel scared and often shame.


Honestly, whatever your circumstances, you are likely to feel guilt, fear and shame at different levels and for different reasons as you consider divorce.


Trust me, I’ve worked with all of these women and no one has it easy.


You didn’t get here on a whim


If you’re thinking about leaving it’s because you’re unhappy – whatever your circumstances. It’s because you want or need more. And that’s ok. Really, it is.


No one deserves abuse of any kind – if that’s you, your priority is to ensure that you and your children are safe. You can contact organisations like Women’s Aid for support and advice – remembering to click the ‘cover my tracks’ button before you leave.


Equally, everyone deserves happiness and to live the life they choose. It’s okay to want to leave a ‘good person’, a lovely home and financial security – it makes you neither greedy or selfish.


Not every ‘good person’ makes the right life partner for you. Perhaps you’re just great mates now? Perhaps if you’re honest, that’s all you ever were? Maybe you just fell out of love with each other? It might be that you have fallen in love with someone else. These things do happen – and no, you’re not a ‘bad person’ because of it.


Is there anything left?


How do I know if I should divorce? Only you can decide whether there is anything left to work on. Do you have the energy or desire to do any further work? The chances are you’ve either been to relationship counselling or you’ve raised it as an issue. Are you open to trying that again?


Is there anything else which could be blocking your relationship on either side? Are there possible mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or bi-polar disorder that need additional support and therapy? Could you or your spouse have undiagnosed autism spectrum disorders or ADHD that are affecting your abilities to relate and communicate? You might want to consider and tackle these issues first, and see where it leaves your marriage.


If you could wave a magic wand right now, what would you wish for?


Think about the answer that just popped into your head – was it that everything could be as it once was, in a happy marriage? Or was it for a future full of possibility, with your divorce all sorted and behind you? Or something else entirely? That first response will tell you something.


Check-in with yourself


If you decide to leave, you’ll take yourself with you. By this, I mean that if you are fundamentally unhappy with you you’ll still be unhappy in a different home, town or relationship. You can never change your ex, that’s up to them, so focus on you.


If you need support in terms of therapy or counselling make yourself a priority and get it. Preferably before you leave unless you are at risk.


Think about what’s important to you in life. Your ingredients for a good life. Is your marriage contributing to those ingredients or taking away from them? Knowing what you want out of life, and how you want to feel can help you decide whether your marriage can support you in living that life, or if it’s actually in your way. This is one of the most vital areas of work I do with my clients.


How to be a Lady Who Leaves


Making the right decision to leave your marriage is important. It’s a big step and unless you are physically unsafe it shouldn’t be rushed.


When you know you’ve explored all options and possibilities, you can leave without looking back. That gives your brain clarity and certainty. It also enables you to be clear with your spouse and family that your relationship is over and you are moving forward with divorce. That clarity is a real gift to everyone – as painful as it might be, it’s far worse being in some sort of ‘will they, won’t they’ loop, especially for children.


The first section of my Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady who Leaves, the ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready is all about making a smart, well thought out decision. If you haven’t read it yet – do! It’s been recommended by clients and family lawyers alike, and it lays out in clear steps all the thinking you need to do to get to the decision that’s right for you.


Listen to your head, heart and gut


As human beings, we have multiple intelligences. Not just our heads – our heart and gut has intelligence too. If you’re interested in the science this article lays it out well.  If you want the short version, the same neural networks we find in our brains are also found in our hearts and guts. This means they know stuff! So it’s worth listening to all three of them.


We can follow our hearts and make poor decisions. We can ignore our gut feeling and miss out on an amazing opportunity. A rational pros and cons list can still end up with us feeling dissatisfied. So listen to all three. The ‘magic wand’ question I asked earlier let your gut answer first, and then your brain and heart would have got in on the action too. What did each of them tell you?


You may notice that you’re more of a ‘head’, ‘heart’ or ‘gut’ person in your decision-making. How often do you tune into the other two intelligences? What information and wisdom are you not allowing in and what difference would that make to you if you did?


Here are some quick ways to make use of your three intelligences:

  • Head: the good old pros and cons list. Or a mind map – get everything down on paper and see the connections
  • Heart: consider how each outcome would make you feel. Try some guided meditations, especially ones that open up ‘loving kindness’ heartspace
  • Gut: try free writing just after you wake up – no focus, just write everything and anything that comes up and see where your pen takes you. Or if I told you that the law had changed this second, and you absolutely had to get divorced – what’s your first reaction?


Use a divorce coach to support a good decision


Not every woman I coach goes on to divorce. Most do, in truth. Most clients who come to me uncertain about whether they want to leave aren’t really that uncertain. They are looking for permission. They need someone who’ll hold the space for them to share their truth and say that they want to leave – without the fear of being judged or of letting anyone down or disappointing them.


So How Do I Know If I Should Divorce?


That’s not to say I encourage you to divorce – far from it. A divorce coach like me has no vested interest in whether you stay together or part. We’re interested in supporting you to make the decision that’s right for you. Usually that decision will be the end of something – whether it’s the end of your marriage, or the end of bad habits and ways of communicating that led you and your spouse towards divorce.


If you decide to leave, I can support you further – right through the whole process and into your new life. Having someone neutral by your side can be a game-changer, giving you the confidence to make decisions that support you now and in the future.


So, if you think I can help you please do get in touch. I offer an initial 30 minute call free of charge so we can find out if we are a good ‘fit’ for each other. Perhaps using a divorce coach who has been divorced is important to you? I haven’t been divorced, so I’m not the right coach for you.


Perhaps using a divorce coach who is legally qualified and a family mediator, as well as an experienced and qualified coach is important? If that’s you – book a call.

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is 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 and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit


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