Getting a divorce is a major life-altering question for you and your family.
The premise of marriage is that two people have committed to one another through thick and thin. Where the line is between sticking it out and letting go can be tricky.
Look before you leap is a good rule of thumb. No doubt you are experiencing a good deal of doubt, fear, anger, blame, and even sadness right now.
These 11 questions will help you sort out what’s going on and help you with the next steps.
1- What Needs Are Not Being Met?
We all have basic human needs and these occur on many levels.
Wants are not the same as needs. You may want something, like a new car, but that is not necessarily a need.
On the most basic level, we have physical needs for exercise, rest, healthy food, etc. On the next tier, we have our emotional needs, to feel loved, to have someone we can have a caring conversation with. To feel like we are trusted as well as to trust. We deserve to be understood.
Similarly, our partner deserves the same. There are social needs, and even personal development needs. There is a myriad of human needs, this is just a sampling.
Take some time to consider your needs. Where are they being met? How much is this on you? How much on your partner? Are you communicating your needs? What actions can you take from here?
2- Do I Feel Supported & Empowered?
Part of partnership is supporting and empowering one another.
It is not unusual for a couple to lose sight of this facet of a relationship over time.
In fact, when we are considering divorce, we are often experiencing the opposite.
Are you experiencing a lack of support, or actually feeling pulled down by your partner?
My client Wendy called because she was worried about how her husband treated their child. He was angry and threatening with their son. When we explored more deeply, Wendy confessed he was often emotionally threatening to her as well, but she never thought much about it because her parents had treated her the same way.
She suddenly realized she was in fact living in an abusive marriage.
What are the needs you have on the back burner? How well have you expressed these in the past? What are you tolerating that perhaps you should not?
3- Am I Always Giving In?
It’s never good to feel like you are the one always giving in.
Like you have “back burnered” what you want and they rarely if ever do. It may be that you are supporting them as they go through school, or have set aside your ambitions to run the home.
In instances where we have agreed to set aside our concerns, for some years, for the good of the family, we will want to set a date that we can pick those concerns up again with the understanding that our partner will then make space in their lives for our dreams as we have for them.
It’s a dark sign for our marriage when this does not even appear as a possibility.
4- Are We Growing Together?
Every marriage slips into a period of “Parallel Lives Syndrome” (PLS).
The question is how long does it go on for and are your lives parallel or divergent?
Here are some questions that will help you with this dilemma.
- How much time do you spend together really talking?
- Do you know what each of you is doing, who you are spending time within the course of the day?
- How free are you both about sharing your devices (phones, ipads, etc)?
- Do you have many friends in common? Separately?
- How often are you physically intimate vs. how often would you like to be?
5- Would We Be Happier Apart?
Sometimes couples are super unhappy together.
What you need to explore when you are in this position is how much is it about your relationship, and how much is about external drivers.
External drivers that can have a major impact are death in the family, moving, abortion or miscarriage, disease, PTSD, etc.
Any major life stressor on one or both of you has the potential to drive you apart or together depending on the level of personal intimacy you have and living apart may not make those experiences any better.
6- Do I Feel Honored By My Partner?
Real partnership is built on honoring one another’s strengths.
To be honored by your partner is part of a real partnership. In partnership, we acknowledge and honor each other’s strengths.
We even admire one another’s individual accomplishments. On the other side, when we are fearful, angry or living in blame, we can simply be picking apart the other person’s weaknesses and vice versa.
If this is the case, something is really wrong.
7- Am I Missing Intimacy?
Intimacy is far more than sex though it certainly can include sex.
Intimacy is a sense of safety we have in the presence of that person. It’s built on the knowledge that they love us and have our backs.
Caring conversation, trust, and empathy are the basis of that knowledge. A breakdown in any of these areas will lead to less intimacy. Consciously focusing on these areas will build intimacy.
8- Do I Feel Heard?
Part of the experience of caring conversation is the experience of feeling truly heard.
Not just that we say the words. But that we know for a fact that they understand us.
That they are truly listening. How often do you feel like what you are saying is completely misunderstood? Or even worse, twisted and changed to beat you over the head?
9- Am I Listening To Them?
Good listening is not just something we do for our partner, it’s something we can do for ourselves.
We all wear “rose-colored glasses” from time to time. Meaning we hear what we want to hear. In order to make a decision about our marriage, it is vital that we TRULY understand what they are saying to us.
It is not enough to believe we just know, especially if we have children. We will want to explore what our partner is saying by asking open-ended questions and rephrasing what we think we are hearing for confirmation.
Jumping to conclusions is too easy on its own.
10- Would They Understand If I Left?
Will it surprise your partner if you tell them that it just won’t work?
If the answer is yes, then they are either raging narcissists, or you have not spent enough time talking with them about what is missing.
Explore some of these questions with them. Tell them what you need. Why they can’t give it to you.
Make sure they understand to the best of their ability what is missing and why you are thinking of jumping out of the marriage before you pull the trigger.
11- Have We Tried Everything?
This is a major life decision that impacts everyone in your family, not just the two of you.
Once you have explained what’s missing, consider going for professional help. Ask amongst your friends who may have helped them. Look at marital mediation as a possibility as well.
Marital mediators promise deeper understanding and empathy, NOT a perfect marriage.
If you still want to leave one another after the mediation, you will at least have a less fractious divorce as you will have better communication and understanding as a result of the process.