Nothing's worse than not knowing. Here's how to get your answer.
You’ve lived through too many broken promises.
You have carried more than your share of the weight of the family for far too long.
The thought of spending the rest of your life like this — married to a man whom you no longer love, or even respect — is soul-crushing. You not only want a divorce, you feel like you need one to survive!
Yet, your husband is not a bad guy. He’s a good father. He didn’t have an affair. He’s not an alcoholic, or a drug addict. On some level, you still care about him. There’s no “reason” you should get a divorce...
...except that you want to.
You want to leave, but you’re afraid to go.
You can’t stay, but going might not be the right choice.
While everyone knows that going through a divorce is horrible, being stuck in a marriage that is wrong (but not “wrong enough” to leave) is its own kind of hell.
You know that getting divorced will affect every aspect of your life, and every aspect of your kids’ lives as well.
You don’t want to make the wrong decision. But what’s the right decision?
And every day you ask yourself, "Should I get a divorce?" and you never have a definitive answer.
If you stay married, nothing changes, and your life sucks. If you get divorced, everything changes, and your life might still suck ... maybe even more!
Plus, there are no guarantees. You could trade the devil you know, and find that the devil you didn’t think about is even worse!
The truth is that you can analyze the problems in your marriage until your brain explodes, and you are not going to know for sure whether you should stay married or get a divorce.
That’s because deciding whether to stay married (or not) is not simply a rational decision.
There is a science to answering "Should I get a divorce?"
While you may think that what makes deciding whether to divorce so difficult is the fact that it is a very emotional decision, neuroscience has shown that all decision-making is emotionally based.
A study of people who had damage to the part of their brain which generates emotions found that those people couldn’t make even the simplest decisions.
That might seem like good news for anyone trying to decide whether to get divorced.
After all, few things in this world are more emotional than divorce!
The problem, of course, is that our emotions conflict. When the same person causes us pleasure and pain, or makes us feel secure and upset at the same time, decision-making gets complicated.
Plus, even though your emotions might drive your decisions, (hopefully) your rational mind has at least some say what you ultimately decide to do.
When your head says “stay” and your heart says “go” (or vice versa), the place you find yourself is STUCK.
You have to figure out why you are stuck.
A lot of things can make you get stuck. But when it comes to divorce, two of the biggest things that will keep you stuck are: fear and inner conflict.
Fear of the unknown, and fear of making a mistake are both big reasons why lots of people can’t decide whether they should divorce, or stay married.
Maybe you are worried about what will happen to you if you decide to strike out on your own again. Maybe you are concerned that getting a divorce will screw up your kids. Or, maybe you are worried that staying in an unhappy marriage will screw up your kids!
Fear of failure is another big reason that people get stuck.
Let’s face it, no matter how bad your marriage may be now, at least the whole world doesn’t know it!
Once you get divorced, you might as well paste a neon sign on your head that says, “Failure!” ... and everyone will know that you couldn’t keep your marriage together.
Inner conflict can also keep you from deciding whether to stay or go.
For example, when your marriage is beyond repair, and you know it, but you have always believed in “till death do us part,” the conflict between what you want (a divorce), and what you believe (that marriage is forever), is going to have you twisting in the wind.
The more deeply you hold your beliefs (especially religious beliefs and familial beliefs), the greater your inner conflict will be. For example, if no one in the history of your family has ever gotten a divorce — even when their marriages were clearly horrible — you will feel much more pressure to stay married, too. The answer to "Should I get a divorce?" can feel even more elusive.
When fear or inner conflict are holding you back, making a decision about whether to get a divorce is not as simple as writing a list of pros and cons and seeing which list is longer.
What you need is a process that will help you resolve your conflict, deal with your fear, and move forward — one way or another.
One of the best tools for making a decision as important as divorce, is the “WRAP” process.
WRAP was developed by Chip and Dan Heath, two brothers who are academic professionals at Stanford and Duke University.
W — Widen your options
R — Reality test your assumptions
A — Attain distance before deciding
P — Prepare to be wrong
Here's how to “WRAP” your marriage:
1. Widening your options.
While you may think that you are choosing between staying married and getting divorced, the truth is, there are a world of options in between those two extremes.
You could stay married forever but live separately. You could do a “controlled separation,” for a specific period of time while you work on your marriage. Or, you can continue to live together, but change your marriage to an open marriage, which would allow you to date other people.
Whether you like these options is not the point. What matters is that once you realize that your choices are not simply between the status quo, and total change, your decision starts to seem less monumental.
2. Reality test your assumptions.
Before jumping head first into divorce, find out what being divorced will really look like.
Talk to people who are divorced. Find out what their lives are like now.
Learn from professionals what the divorce process involves: how long it takes, how much it costs, and what it really entails. Try to get the big picture.
Finally, talk to people who were thinking of divorce but stay married. Look at how their decision worked out for them.
While everyone’s story is different, getting information from professionals, and from others who have faced divorce themselves, can keep you from making mistakes out of ignorance. This will also give you a better idea of what you are really facing when you are thinking of divorce (or not).
3. Attain distance before deciding.
Ask yourself, “If I divorce, how will I feel about that decision 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? What about 10 years from now?”
Then, do the same thing but ask yourself how you will feel if you stay married. Think about your priorities in life. Which decision will align better with your priorities, now and in the future?
Distancing yourself from the emotions you feel in the moment can seem like an impossible task. But, by projecting the results of your decision into the future, you can get some distance from the emotions that are keeping you stuck in the present.
4. Prepare to be wrong.
Think about the best and worst case scenarios for each decision.
What is the worst that could happen to you? Maybe your worst case scenario is that you would have no money, no home, no relationship, and you would have to start all over again.
Now, what is your best divorce scenario? Maybe you would be free, happy, financially stable and even in a great relationship with someone else!
Ask yourself the same questions about staying married. Then, see what resonates with you more.
Preparing yourself for the worst case scenario allows you to stretch your sense of what the future might bring and gives you more perspective on your fears.
Deciding to divorce (or not).
No matter what process you use, deciding whether or not to end your marriage is never easy.
That’s why so many people hang on the fence for years, or decades. Some stay there for a lifetime.
But, while making a decision means that you risk being wrong, NOT making a decision means that you will never have the chance to be right.
You won’t be focused on making your marriage better, and you won’t be leaving to create a better life. It is the one choice that is guaranteed to make you miserable.
Still can’t figure it out? Call Karen at 312-236-1670 for a free 20 minute consultation and to get more advice about deciding to divorce (or not) check out: I Don’t Want to Stay Married But I’m Afraid to Get Divorced!