4 Critical Questions To Ask Yourself Before Filing For Divorce

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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.

I do not recommend staying in hurtful, abusive relationships as a therapist. Still, I believe that women contemplating divorce will benefit from looking at the issue carefully from all sides.

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Here are four critical questions to ask yourself 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 many 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 at the forefront of your concerns, you will need a plan to replace the things you're giving up with your partner.

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2. Will I be happier?

You're probably miserable right now, but remember that divorce is very stressful, so it's certainly not a fast way to improve your feelings. Many divorced women are surprised their unhappiness did not vanish after breaking up with their partner.

There are 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 take my unhappiness with me?

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

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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. Still, the latter seems to be the exception, especially when custody arrangements keep you in constant conflict with your ex.

Drs. Friedman and Martin completed extensive research on 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, 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 minimal.

4. Have I done what I can?

The desire to break up usually stems from not wanting to accept how things are going in the present. 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. Ensure you've tried what's within your power before calling it quits. The issue right now isn't whether you're committed to 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, you are much more likely to second-guess yourself later and battle feelings of guilt.

No one takes divorce lightly; 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 not making decisions in isolation but getting the support you need and deserve.

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Julia Flood is a licensed psychotherapist with over 27 years in helping couples in crisis break out of the vicious cycle of hurting and being hurt.