If you are thinking about a divorce, something must have been serious enough for you to have this painful thought. I know people get divorced for a variety of reasons. In this case, I am not talking about domestic abuse, drug addiction, or any other physical and psychological damage one person could do to their partners, etc. Those are the obvious reasons that you must separate yourself immediately and seek help. You deserve much more than being stuck in a marriage that does not make you a better person. And if you also have children, their safety should be your first priority.
In this particular case, I would like to focus on when people think about divorcing their partners other than those obvious reasons. When the word ‘divorce’ comes through your mind, obviously something has been going wrong for a while now. Divorce is a major life-changing decision. I would strongly suggest you go through these steps.
1. Have an open communication with your partner.
Pick a date and time that two of you sit down and have an honest conversation with each other. Do not make it a surprise with ‘we need to talk’ introduction. Give your partner a heads-up and set a later date/time to have the conversation. If your partner is not cooperating, ask him/her to set up a time that works best for them. If it does not happen, you know that the marriage is not going to last for sure. Then you go and plan your part for whatever it takes to get out of it (if that is what you finally want).
2. Seek a couple counseling.
This might sound contradictory, but I personally am not a big fan of counseling. Maybe because I am not fond of talking about my personal issues with a stranger. I write. That helps me the most. Besides, I am a very stubborn person and once my mind is set on something, that is pretty much it. However, I have seen a lot of my friends who benefited greatly from counseling. It does not hurt to give it a try, especially if your partner is willing to go with you. Sometimes you need a stranger to ‘mediate’ your conversation with your partner. You might be surprised what the real issues are.
3. Have a game plan.
Both for ‘while we are working on it’ and ‘what if we get a divorce.’ Are you going to separate for a while until you both decide what is next? Or you both believe everything is too late and divorce might be inevitable. Even when the divorce is amicable, you still need to have a plan for your life going forward after the divorce. And if you have kids, that is even more complicated. In most cases, you probably need a lawyer. However, I have seen a lot of cases where they only need a mediator to arrange an agreement. Depending on your situation, the process of getting a divorce could be months or years. (On a side note, have you ever wondered why it is so easy to get married but such a hassle to get a divorce? I personally would like to see a process where getting married is more cumbersome so people think long and hard before committing to each other. Just my two cents!)
4. Surround yourself with great friends and family members.
Whatever your game plan is for going forward, you need a support system to make you go through those up and down moments. I know this first hand because even I needed it. I always consider myself a very strong, self-sufficient person. I am a get-stuff-done kind of woman. And my divorce was not even difficult, though we have two young kids to consider. It was very amicable and I believe I have the best ex-husband in the world. It was still tough to deal with it. Luckily, I was financially independent so I was able to move out and live on my own while waiting for the divorce to be final. I still remember the first night that I moved out and lived in my own place. It was surreal. Part of me was relieved, but part of me was also scared of what to do next. I was married for 11 years. That was a significant time of my life spending with someone and now I am alone. Your family and friends will be the people that you need to rely on at least for a while. If you were married for a long time, it will even be a big adjustment to go through.
5. Take each day one step/day at a time.
Depending on where you are in your life, you might want to date again right away, throw yourself into work to forget the divorce, focus on your children through all the adjustments you have to deal with. Whatever it is, do NOT think too far ahead of yourself. Your mind is not at the right stage to plan too far in advance. Give yourself a break and take it easy. Also, remember that nothing lasts forever, either good or bad. You might also go through self-doubt phase and wonder if you have made the right decision. Well, take your time to figure it out. Nothing is really set in stone. If you want to get back together with your ex, reach out. But do not play with his/her feelings. That is mean.
6. Learn to forgive yourself.
If you are a parent, needless to say, you blame yourself more or less for the failed marriage. Remember that the kids are very resilient. They also know what ‘happy’ people look like. You might be skeptical, but I believe you are doing them a favor by showing them what ugly marriage and happy divorce look like. Don’t you want them to be a smart person and realistic? I remember when I decided to get my divorce. At first, I was debating if I should wait until the kids go off to college. My older one was only in second grade at the time. Though my ex and I never fought, especially in front of the kids, I believe they were able to ‘sense’ it. There was no affection nor communication between us. We used the kids as messengers to communicate. That was not what happy marriage should be. I did not want the kids to think that that was ‘normal’ because it was not. It has been over five years now since my divorce, and my kids have never been happier. I believe I am a much happier person as well and it impacts how I interact with the kids and other people in my life. I no longer have an expectation in my ex as my husband. I do only expect him to be a good father, but I do not dictate ‘how.’ And the kids learn. They know they have two different parents. The only thing we have in common is that we love them very much and that is all it matters.
7. Learn from your mistakes and grow.
Whatever the reason is for your divorce, learn from it. Do not for a second think of it as your partner’s total fault. You have a share in that too. If you do not want the story to repeat, then you have to face it and be brave enough to embrace your flaws. Nobody is perfect but we could learn to be better by accepting our mistakes.
Divorce is not the end of the world. As long as you do everything with good intention and you are willing to learn from it, I believe it is a good thing. It is a part of your life to live, learn, and grow. Believe me, you will finally find the ‘good’ in the goodbye and be a better and smarter person.