‘Should I Get Divorced?’ 5 Questions To Ask Yourself To Help You Decide


date published

3rd August 2023

written by

Emma Heptonstall

Emmaheptonstall.com Image

date published

3rd August 2023

Everyone has rocky patches in marriage. It’s inevitable in any long-term relationship. So, how do you know whether your marriage is salvageable, or whether it’s definitely over? In this blog I share five questions to ask yourself to help you answer the ultimate one: ‘Should I Get Divorced?’.

Before we get into the main questions, let’s deal with the critical issue of domestic violence and safety first.

Am I in emotional or physical danger?

If you are in an abusive relationship then your priority is to stay safe. Ultimately, if you have recognised that your spouse is abusive or dangerous, then I hope you will want a future without them. However, the sad truth is that the most dangerous time in abusive relationships is at the point you try to leave.

So your immediate priority is to make a safety plan, not to declare your intention to leave. The best way to make a safety plan is with a domestic abuse professional. Refuge has a National Domestic Abuse Helpline, and a wealth of resources to help you plan. If you are worried about your spouse discovering that you have been seeking help, try to get a secret phone you can use for research and calls.

Try to locate and gather important documents together, such as passports, birth certificates, and bank statements. If you have joint assets or legal agreements, make sure you have these too. Also pack yourself an emergency bag, with a change of clothes for you and your children, plus some cash if possible, just in case you need to leave in a hurry. If it’s safe and possible to ask a friend, they could store belongings for you.

Get the help you need and focus on your safety. Divorce can wait.

If your relationship is not abusive, here are the key questions to ask yourself.

1. What’s important to me about a relationship?

If you’ve asked yourself the question ‘Should I get divorced?’ then there’s clearly something wrong in your relationship. But what does ‘right’ look like? Unless you have your answer to this question, it’s likely you’ll repeat unhealthy relationship patterns into the future.

Questions of ‘what’s important’ come down to values. Values are our touchstones for living well: they are the foundation of everything else. When we are living in a way that’s not aligned with our values, we feel flat, unhappy, angry. And when we can come back to our values, we feel a sense of belonging again.

The great thing about working with values, is that how they show up in the world can be very flexible. Let’s say you have a value of ‘companionship’. It’s important to you that you spend quality time with the person you’re in a relationship with. But what this can look like could be all sorts of things: watching a favourite series on Netflix could achieve this value, as could going out for a meal, or on holiday together. But if companionship is your value, and your spouse isn’t interested in spending time together, it’s likely to leave you unhappy.

So ask yourself the question: ‘what’s important to me about a relationship?’, and notice what comes up. Do you see a way you might achieve those things within this marriage, if you worked at it?

2. How easy is it to talk to my spouse?

When marriages become unhealthy it’s usually because communication isn’t happening. Communication doesn’t usually stop overnight, it’s more a drip, drip, drip effect of not noticing or listening to each other. How easy is it for you to talk to your spouse? Do you have times in the day or the week when you spend time together? How willing would you be to do that, even if it felt awkward at first?

Here’s my number one tip for talking through difficulties and emotions with your spouse (or anyone!): use ‘I’ statements.

Rather than ‘You are an awful husband’, which will instantly put them on the defensive, go for ‘I’ve not been happy in this marriage for a long time’. When you talk about yourself and your feelings, the other person might not like what you have to say, but they can’t disagree with you – you are the expert in you!

You may find that you’re avoiding communication with your spouse because of how they react. If your spouse has anger issues, or uses their emotions to manipulate you or control your behaviour, then please read about abusive behaviour.

While many couples find it difficult to have open, helpful conversations with one another when their marriages have become unhealthy, you should not feel afraid of speaking to your other half.

3. Am I willing to try relationship counselling?

I am a big advocate of relationship counselling! This might sound strange, coming from a divorce coach. But relationship counselling can be a lifesaver for your marriage. It can be a place to get you communicating effectively and healthily again, paving the way for many more years of happy marriage.

It can also be a safe, helpful venue to explore the subject of leaving. You might be asking yourself whether you should get divorced, but have no idea how to raise it with your spouse. And how you raise it is important. It can set the tone for an amicable divorce, or a combative one. Believe me, the more amicable your divorce, the better. As soon as egos get in the way, it’s not just tempers that rise, it’s costs too. So, while paying for a relationship counsellor may be an expense, if it does mean you set out on your divorce journey as peacefully as possible, it’s well worth it.

4. What am I willing to give and take?

When people are considering divorce, they are usually full of indignation, as well as sadness. They feel let down by their spouse. But here’s a hard truth for you: it takes two to make a marriage work. There does need to be some give and take. So your job is to work out what you’re prepared to change, as well as what you’d like your spouse to change. And then broach the subject.

If you find that you’re unwilling to make any changes (no judgement here, you are the expert in what you want and need), then it may well be the end of the line for your marriage. Yes, it might be possible that if you raise your complaints with your spouse, they understand, agree, adjust their behaviour, and things work out.

But, unless both parties feel like they’re in it together, resentment brews. If one of you feels as though they are bending over backwards for the other, sooner or later you will reach communication breakdown and crisis point.

5. How’s your relationship with yourself?

This one’s huge. One of the things I always tell my clients considering divorce (as well as ‘don’t call a solicitor yet!’) is ‘you take yourself with you’. What do I mean by that? I mean if you’re not happy with yourself, then you won’t be happy after your divorce either. You need to be clear that you aren’t running away from you.

Don’t get me wrong, an unhealthy marriage can contribute to a bad relationship with yourself. If you’ve spent years being put down, or putting your needs and interests aside for the sake of your marriage or spouse, it’s likely you don’t feel good about yourself. But the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself – you’ve got it for life! So, unless your marriage is putting you in danger, I highly recommend working through what’s at the root of your feelings of unhappiness first.

Should I Get Divorced?

These questions are all vital in making a smart, confident decision to divorce, or not. And, as a divorce coach, I can help you work through them to get clearer, quicker.

Divorce coaching isn’t only about helping you navigate through the legal process of divorce. It’s also about helping you be your own best friend, and make the decision that’s right for you.

If you’re struggling to work through your situation alone, book an Ask The Alchemist session with me for 90 minutes and get the answers, and the way forward, you need this summer.

Book a free chat to see how I can help here.

About Emma

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 and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com



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