Why divorce won’t fix everything: and what you really need


date published

1st February 2024

written by

Emma Heptonstall

Emmaheptonstall.com Image

date published

1st February 2024

One of the things I share early on in How To Be A Lady Who Leaves: The Ultimate Guide To Getting Divorce Ready, is ‘You take yourself with you’. In this blog I’ll dive into what this means, as you contemplate and navigate separation and divorce. We’ll look at the shifts you can make, immediately, to feel more in control, whatever happens in the future. Here’s why divorce won’t fix everything: and what you really need.

When is leaving not the answer?

It might sound odd for a divorce coach to question your decision to leave. But, ultimately, my work isn’t about getting more women out of their marriages. It’s about getting more women to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

And, only sometimes, your marriage becomes the scapegoat for other things going on in your life. Your marriage can be like the canary in the coalmine – there’s toxicity in your world, and something has to give. And sometimes, just like the poor little yellow bird, it’s your marriage.

If your marriage has become unhealthy, you have two options. Work on it, and try to make a go of things (this may or may not not work). Or leave. And if you leave: be aware that it won’t automatically fix everything. The canary didn’t die because there was something wrong with it. It died because there was poisonous gas in the atmosphere and it was the first to succumb.

I’ll leave the canary analogy now, I think you’ve probably had enough about dead birds! My point is: even if your marriage has got to the point where it’s better to leave, if there are issues in your life that put everything under stress, they will still be there after you’ve gone. Divorce won’t change that.

The most important relationship is with yourself

They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. I’ll add another. It’s certain that you’ll be in your life, for the whole of it. Partners and friends may come and go, children may leave home, but you’ll always be with you.

And this is why it’s so important to work on yourself. Your relationship with yourself, and your approach to life. Because everything else stems from this. And, we are our own biggest blindspots, much of the time. Our self-talk is simply what we know, so unless we take a moment to pause, we don’t question it. Ask yourself:

  • How kind are to yourself?
  • How cruel are you?
  • Do you celebrate yourself?
  • How do you respond to making mistakes?

Having a good relationship with yourself doesn’t mean thinking you’re a fantastic human 100% of the time. We all mess up. It’s about being able to be clear-sighted and honest. Able to recognise when you’ve done something good, and when you’ve done something bad, and respond to yourself with kindness, in both types of scenario.

On a scale of 1-10, how healthy do you think your relationship is with yourself?

What’s going on in your life?

Sometimes the poisonous gas that kills the canary comes from people (more on that in a moment). Sometimes, it comes from situations that are playing out in your life.

Are you struggling with particularly stressful life circumstances at the moment? Family issues – perhaps looking after the health and care needs of children and/or parents? Work stress? Moving house? Your own health?

I’m not saying that if you have some of these things going on, it means that with a little attention your marriage will be good again. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. No, my point is, many of these things will still be around during and after divorce. So these issues need attention too.

A lot of big, stressful life issues aren’t ‘fixable’ – believe me, I know that. I’m the full time carer for my lovely husband, who has early onset dementia. There’s no magic wand to make that go away. Just as if you have a tricky boss, or a child with anxiety, or money issues, it’s unlikely there will be a quick solution.

But these issues do need looking in the eye. Not all at once. Slowly, in small steps. Think about what you are able to control and move in a positive direction. Think about what support you need. I’ve sought support from various agencies and charities – both to help me with my day-to-day life with Nigel, and with my own knowledge and skills about dementia. It hasn’t made the problem go away. It has lessened the load, and helped me segment it, so it’s not so all consuming.

How well do you communicate?

If I had to name one thing that makes or breaks relationships of any kind, not just marriage, it’s communication. And, it’s a cliche, but communication is a two-way street.

Healthy communication is assertive – it’s the ability to get your own point across clearly, without diminishing other people. It’s being able to listen, and understand where others are coming from, as well as stand up for your own needs, desires and beliefs. Effective communication adds light to a situation – more clarity and understanding – not heat – more escalation of feelings.

Perhaps you and your partner have got into unhealthy modes of communicating. By the time my clients are thinking of leaving, they find their spouses deeply irritating – or worse! And that’s a difficult lens to take off. What would happen if you could communicate assertively?

You are the expert in your marriage, so I don’t know the answer to that question. I do know that, unless you are in a high conflict relationship, where the rules of the game are different, healthy communication is the number one thing that will ease your path ahead – whether it’s working on reconciliation, or working on amicable divorce. And, believe me, amicable divorce is a lot cheaper, both financially and emotionally!

Can I help you work out your next steps?

I don’t only work with people who’ve decided to leave. I can help you understand your thinking and your relationship with yourself, so you can make up your own mind with confidence.

And, as I hope you can see from this blog, I’m not in Camp Divorce! I’m in Camp You. I’ll listen, gently and assertively question, and give you the practical answers and information you’re looking for about the divorce process. If you already know you’re leaving, and want to navigate the divorce journey with as much calm and empowerment as you can muster, I’m your wingwoman for that too.

Just book a free chat to see how you can look to the future with confidence, whatever it brings.


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 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.

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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