Family, Heartbreak

4 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Filing For Divorce

4 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Filing For Divorce [EXPERT]

Whether it's Katie Holmes, Danny DeVito or Amy Poehler, celebrity divorces and breakups continue to make front-page news. Unfortunately, the average couple doesn't fare much better: approximately every other relationship is now bound for a breakup.

As a therapist, I'm not one to recommend staying in hurtful relationships, let alone abusive ones, but I do believe that women contemplating divorce will benefit from looking at the issue carefully from all sides. Here's my list of top four questions to consider before filing for divorce:

1. What will I lose? Divorce means big change. It's a big deal; income, health insurance, homes — spouses come with a whole slew of things.

Can I make it on my own? Am I willing to make the sacrifices? Which friends will I likely not see again? Would I have sufficient social contacts or would I have to start over from scratch?

These may not be the deciding factors for you, but do take the time to carefully consider all the consequences of making this significant change. Even if these are not on the forefront of your concerns, you will need a plan to replace the things you're giving up along with your partner.

2. Will I be happier? You're probably really miserable right now, but keep in mind that divorce is very stressful, so it's certainly not a fast way to improve how you feel. Many divorced women are surprised that their unhappiness did not vanish after they broke up with their partner. Emma Thompson, Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman are some recent examples among the many celebrities on record admitting they suffered from depression post-divorce. So take an honest look at yourself.

What thoughts and feelings come up as I imagine getting divorced? Do I predict emotional difficulties or mood changes in myself? Is the problem at least partially with me and will I simply take my unhappiness with me?

Having good resources such as friends, family, support groups or psychotherapy are crucial at this juncture in your life, both in figuring out what is best and to deal with the aftermath.

3. How would a divorce affect my child(ren)? This is a really big one. Common sense says that a high-conflict marriage is worse than an amicable divorce but the latter seems to be the exception, especially when custody arrangements keep you locked in constant conflict with your ex.

A recent publication by Drs. Friedman and Martin, based on an eight-decade longevity study, fuels fears of the devastating impact of divorce on children. In my experience as a clinician, what's most damaging to children is a high level of conflict, so whether you divorce or not, if you have children, the two of you will have to figure out your communication. If divorce is inevitable, consider collaborative divorce mediators and co-parenting counseling to keep the conflict level to a minimum.

4. Have I done what I can? The desire to break up usually stems from not wanting to accept how things are going now. There is nothing wrong with that! Unhappiness can be a valuable indicator that something is wrong and must change. But what if you could learn how to express what’s unacceptable for you in an effective manner and actually be heard by your spouse?

In many cases, there will still be time to divorce at a later date but there may not always be time to save your marriage. Make sure you've tried what's possible with your marriage before you call it quits. The issue right now isn't whether you're committed for life but whether you can commit to working hard for a while to try and see what can be saved.

Once you have worked hard on changing yourself, you are in a much better position to declare your marriage hopeless when your spouse is not responsive. True, working things out is an uphill battle and you will likely need the help of a skilled professional, but since you are probably your own worst critic, unless you have tried an all-out effort to change things, you are much more likely to second guess yourself later and battle feelings of guilt.

No one takes divorce lightly and not every marriage can or should be saved. Everyone's circumstances are different and only you know your particular situation. The most important factor is to not make decisions in isolation but to get yourself the support you need and deserve.

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