If you're thinking of getting divorced, think some more.  After all, you could choose to split up later. Hasty decisions can lead to regret, and if you don't understand how you got into this situation, then you might repeat the same love problem with someone else.

No list can address all your unique marriage issues, but this Divorce Decision Guide may help you evaluate whether splitting up is the wisest choice for you. 


Divorce Decision Guide


Strong Reasons for Postponing Divorce

Divorce is part of our culture-nearing closer and closer to 50 percent-and has lost much of its stigma.  Now that it's more common, however, we risk falling into the trap of thinking that divorce is the best way to handle our unhappiness.  Ask yourself the following question, then read the information that follows and see how you react.

1. Am I deciding to leave too quickly? Or, am I making a decision based on our current situation?

Marital research reveals that long-term, mutually satisfying marriages go through periods of dissatisfaction and prolonged stress resulting from events such as illness and financial woes. These couples hung in there through the tough times and renewed, strengthened and rediscovered their connection and commitment to each other. 

Before you jump ship during rough waters, make four lists-mentally or otherwise-of 1) your partner's positive characteristics, 2) positive reasons you got married, 3) your emotional needs in a relationship and 4) how your partner satisfies many of the items on your list.  Review your lists and think about the values and bonds you share.  They just might be enough to stay.

2. Am I clueless as to why I chose this person? Or Am I unaware of why we can't be happy?

Before you call it quits, make sure you know why you chose your partner.  You should also be able to explain why you got married when you did.  Were you lonely, frightened of being on your own?  Going through an illness, trauma, loss of loved one?  Were you unemployed or escaping a bad situation? 

You should also be able to describe your parents' relationship and spot similarities in your choice of partner and your relationship.  Do you fight just like mom and dad?  Have the same reactions or problems as they did?  If you can't answer these questions or have answers that are undesirable, then you are at risk for choosing the wrong person. 

3. Am I on the "Stay, Leave" seesaw?

 Seesaws are for children. Sound decisions are peaceful ones.  It will be your head that hits the pillow at night, so aim for a good night's rest.  The only way to find this calming assurance is to step back and observe your own reactions and behaviors to learn how you just might be part of the problem.  Do you sulk?  Go silent?  Pick fights?  Yell? 

Don't leave until you have altered how you relate to your partner.  When you change consistently for the better, you increase the chances that your partner will have to react differently, too.

If things don't improve over time-but you still want to stay, take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself why you are there.  Are you selling your soul just to be with someone, anyone?  Or are you hanging in there for the monetary and lifestyle goodies? Be honest because the only person you'd be fooling is yourself.

4. Do you and your partner argue too much and let issues fester?

One of the biggest mistakes couples make is that they play "History" and get trapped in "You did this/But you did that."  Instead of keeping your eyes on the past, get good at cutting to the future by replacing your disagreements with a problem-solution focus.

Work as a team to resolve the issue.  One technique could be for each of you to pretend to take the OTHER person's point of view and then defend it out loud.  See what you can learn about your partner's position. 

5. Have there have been affairs?

Unfortunately, when the going gets tough in some marriages, someone goes on the prowl. But affairs don't have to mean the marriage is over.  About a third of marriages not only survive this trauma, they grow stronger and smarter from it.  

Affair recovery is sheer anguish.  It's a form of trauma-your assumptions of trust and your view of your marriage world have been shattered.  But before you leave, understand why this affair happened when it did.  What was going on at the time?  Did your marriage go through a mid-life crisis, depression or intense stress or long absences?  Get professional help to assist you in regaining trust and weathering the anger and hurt. 

6. What?  Me go to counseling?

Two measures of adulthood maturity are the ability to withstand self-examination and the wisdom to accept assistance.  It's long been a truism in the mental health field that the most troubled people are often NOT sitting in the therapist's waiting room.  If you were having trouble with your finances, your child's grades or your business, you probably wouldn't take too long in seeking information, feedback or advice. 

When it comes to you, however, that's another matter.  Get brave and get responsible.  And if you need a kick as a incentive, just remember that if you don't understand why you are unhappy, you will most likely find it again in your next relationship.


Strong Reasons for Considering Divorce


Some marriages are just intolerable or outright dangerous to your health, safety and family.  But what one person accepts, another can't.  It's your choice, your life AND your family's life.  Say these items out loud for a better sense of your emotional response.

1. I have sought professional help, was forthright with the therapist and took the therapist's advice.  I understand why I got married when I did and why I chose this person.  Therapy helped me realize that I have good reasons to divorce.

2. I can honestly say that I have faced my issues and realized that my interactions with my partner contribute to the problems.  I have changed how I act and react in the relationship-and have sustained these changes for at least six months.  I have kept the emotional environment warm and have not relied on nagging or criticism.

3. My partner intentionally misrepresented his/her identity, situation, finances, values, lifestyle and serious problems.

4.  We got married when at least one of us was very young in age or maturity level, and now we have grown apart and in totally incompatible directions with regard to values, lifestyle or needs.  We tried to fix it in constructive ways such as seeking counseling, but it cannot be fixed. 

5.  We got married while one of us was going through a major life event such as changes in finances, health or being a survivor of a crime or experiencing the loss of a family member or spouse.  It's natural to want to reach out to another for comfort-but, under more normal circumstances, we probably wouldn't have chosen each other.  Although there may be good characteristics in my partner, I am very clear that we are not a good match and do not share the same values or interests.

6.  We got married without settling our polarized differences on issues such as religion, whether to have children or allow other family members to live with us or where to live.  We thought we could work things out later, but we have not resolved these major issues, even though we have sought counseling and have honestly tried to be more flexible.

7. My partner abuses me or the children verbally, physically or sexually. If my spouse is abusing my children, I have a moral, parental and legal responsibility to protect them.  I will seek immediate assistance from my local child protection agency-and get counseling for myself.

8. My spouse has committed a felony or has taken off with my money or put our family in dire financial straights due to gambling, substance abuse or illegal activities.

9. My partner has a history of rage or addictions-and won't get help.

10. My partner is a bigamist.

11.  I learn that my partner has changed his or her sexual orientation and wants to live a different lifestyle without me.  Or, my partner wants to stay in the marriage-but I cannot accept a transsexual, homosexual or bisexual person as my spouse.

12. I discover that my partner has habitually had affairs-and won't stop or seek help to understand why.

For more articles and information on Dr. Wish check out her bio on our Medical Advisory Board page.