Top 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
by Maria Gertz, Psy.D.
Despite the fact that 50 percent of couples in Florida get divorced every year, divorce is still one of those things we like to turn our backs to and try not think about. But when you are in an unhappy marriage, it can often seem like the only way out. While this may certainly be the case for many of you, divorce can be emotionally and financially draining on both spouses, children and families. So before you take the plunge, there are several things mental health therapists and divorce professionals think you should consider to make sure you are as ready as you’ll ever be.
1. Have I communicated my needs to my partner regarding my feelings and my expectations regarding our roles in our marriage?
2. Have I taken responsibility for my own contributions to the problems in my marriage?
3. Do I have realistic expectations regarding marriage and what I expect from my spouse?
4. Am I aware and do I have a plan to manage the changes in my life post-divorce?
5. Is there anything that could save my marriage that I haven’t tried?
Often times, individuals who are facing the possibility of divorce have spent a good amount of time thinking about what makes them unhappy—unfortunately, probably more time than they’d like. They have spoken to their friends and family repeatedly about their relationship, but often it is the act of communication of disagreements and disappointments with their spouse that gets either ignored or becomes dysfunctional. Studies have shown that communication with your spouse is the greatest predictor of whether or not a marriage will last. We have all heard that communication is important, but one important piece has been left out: It is the type of communication that makes all the difference. Actively listening to your partner and understanding their position even if you disagree, refraining from yelling, name calling and the silent treatment, and giving your partner the forum to be heard can make all the difference in your marriage and will give you the platform to be able to do the same.
When we are so unhappy and hurt, we often want to find someone to blame and we fail to recognize our role in all of the miscommunication. You need to take time to look within and identify if there are things that you too could change that could create a dynamic change in your relationship. Maybe the relationship is too far gone and this doesn’t cause the change you would like to see in your marriage, but if you do your part, you are still working on making yourself a better partner for a healthy relationship in the future. You are setting yourself up for relationship success and (should a divorce be inevitable) creating a healthy environment by which you can co-parent if you have children.
It may be hard to focus when we are feeling as if our family is not working “as it should” and it is of no help that many of us ascribe to the myth that relationships should be easy and conflict-free. The truth is that marriage takes work. No marriage is 100 percent perfect all the time. While most married couples fight mainly about finance and child-rearing, the ones that learn the best ways to express their needs in a non-defensive, non-ego dominated way are the ones that tend to make it. Having realistic expectations about what it takes to make all life decisions with another person may be all your relationship needs.
Divorce is often a messy business causing emotional turmoil and financial hardships for both parties. It is essential to be aware that your life will most likely not be the life as you know it to be now. Know that there will be changes in schedules, roles and finances that will impact how you spend your time, whether or not you need to go back to school and/or work, and where you might live, to name a few.
Many times people assume that the faster they go through this process, the faster they are on their way to finally being happy again; but taking your time to evaluate all of these issues can save you a lot of time, heartache and money. Chances are that if you are not coming from a high-conflict, perhaps even abusive relationship, you are not going to be immediately happy post-divorce. Ask yourself if you have exhausted all options before divorce. Several professionals such as a mental health therapist, relationship coach or clergy are available to help you navigate through this process of making sure that divorce is the answer. They can assist you in answering these very same questions that will either help your marriage or help you become someone that can be part of a healthy divorce.
Maria Gertz, PsyD is the founder of Divorce by Design Mediation Group. Divorce by Design is a group of mental health and legal professionals that can help mediate your divorce as well as manage post-divorce family issues in a compassionate and confidential manner. Located in Broward and serving all Broward and the Palm Beaches, they can be reached at 1-800-234-7112 or by visiting DivorceByDesign.com.