Should you get a divorce? It can be an exhausting process. Divorce is often used as a last-resort option, after trying many smaller steps toward fixing the marriage.
But in many cases in family law, divorce can lead to happiness, wellbeing, and safety in the long run. If you’re considering ending a marriage, your feelings might come from a place of love and conviction.
What’s important is that you recognize problems in your relationship and decide to work toward a better future. That could come in the form of marriage counseling or mutual work on the relationship. Or it could come in the form of divorce and moving on.
Here’s our advice on how to know whether it’s time for a divorce:
Should You Get A Divorce Even If You Aren’t Financially Stable?
Many people stay in unhappy marriages because they don’t feel financially stable enough to leave. This is not a conclusion that arises out of greed or extraction. It’s a matter of safety and wellbeing.
Perhaps you have divided the labor within your household so you aren’t actually bringing home an income. Instead, you may be doing household work or caretaking work. Or, in cases of financial abuse, your partner might not allow you to keep and save your own money.
In these cases, divorce may seem like an inaccessible option. You may find yourself facing possibilities of debt and even homelessness. This is certainly a heavy concern, and it scares many people into staying in their relationships.
If this sounds like your situation, we’re here to tell you that you do have options. In cases of abuse, you can look up local women’s shelters that can house you and keep you safe until you find your footing again. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for resources, information, and decision-making help.
You may also want to look into divorce laws in your state to see whether there are any options that could work for your financial situation. If you have children you expect to take care of, this could be especially helpful in knowing what kind of support you can expect after a divorce.
And whether it’s abuse or not, your networks of friends and family might be the lifeline you never knew you had. You may find that once the people in your life realize the situation you’re in, they’ll rise to the occasion to help you out.
Even if you’re not sure whether or not you want a divorce, it’s a good idea to have an escape route ready if you think finances might get in the way. Sit down with a trusted friend or family member and see whether they can help. They might even be able to help you plan and save money.
It’s important to remember that divorce isn’t just a self-serving option. If you’re in a marriage that makes your life miserable, chances are the other person feels it as well. By setting yourself free, you’re also giving your partner a chance at a healthy relationship.
Finding the Possibility of Love
Have you heard of bell hooks? She is a famous writer, professor, and activist—and yes, she spells her name in all lower-case. In her book Communion, hooks talks about divorce as a way for some people to open themselves up to the possibility of real love for the first time.
She writes about the ways people deny themselves care, and how they conflate staying in a marriage with believing in love. In reality, there are so many people you could share your life with, and so many ways of loving. If the relationship you’re in isn’t working for you, divorce can lead the way to something beautiful.
You don’t have to think of divorce as ‘giving up’ on love, or even sacrificing your love life for your other sources of happiness. Instead, you can think of it as a crucial step toward taking charge of your love life.
You may find yourself wondering whether you’re in a bad marriage or just going through a rough patch. Should you ride out the storm, or is this a warning sign of what’s to come?
We won’t pretend it’s easy to know the difference. But here are some questions that might be good for you to think about:
When you get into a fight or other conflict, does your partner learn from what happened? Do you feel hurt in the same ways over and over again, in a cycle? Does your partner demonstrate a commitment to changing toxic behaviors?
When you can make a marriage work out after a period of struggle, that’s a wonderful thing. But you have to know whether your partner is willing to work with you on this. Try to determine whether the ‘good moments’ are about appeasing you in the short-term or actually making long-term commitments for your relationship.
And if you’re still having trouble figuring it out, we’ve got a guide for you from a renowned relationship expert:
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
This is a concept created by relationship expert John Gottman, who uses it to predict divorce with 93% accuracy. Over the course of his career, Gottman has found 4 main indicators of divorce: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
If you recognize these behaviors in yourself, it might not be too late to make a change. If it’s mutual or coming from your partner, however, there’s no guarantee that they’ll see these behaviors as a problem or be motivated to change.
Criticism is often the first horseman to appear in a troubled relationship. It’s a way of speaking that is targeted toward making a partner feel bad rather than fixing a specific problem.
Then there’s defensiveness. When you or your partner gets defensive in an argument, it blocks understanding and the possibility of resolution. If you’ve been noticing a lot of blaming in your relationship, this is one of the signs of defensiveness.
For the third horseman, think of mocking behaviors, disrespect, or passive-aggressiveness. These are all possible signs of contempt. While you might be busy trying to figure out whether there’s still love between you and your partner, take some extra time to detect contempt as well.
And the final horseman is stonewalling. You may recognize this as ‘the silent treatment’ or non-responsiveness. It’s a way of avoiding the situation, and it’s an indication that the relationship is becoming weaker rather than stronger.
If you recognize these four horsemen in your own marriage, it might be time to make a change.
So, should you get a divorce? Perhaps a better question could be: should you advocate for an exit out of a relationship that makes you unhappy? And the answer to that question is yes.
Whether that exit comes in the form of divorce or major change will be up to your circumstances and the person you’re with. If you’re honest with your partner and they show no signs of wanting to change, divorce might be the best path forward. Hire the best divorce lawyer with enough experience to guide you through the whole process.
Make a decision that creates a better future for you.
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