If you are thinking about divorce, you are probably riddled with confusion and transfixed by indecision. Or oscillating between the thoughts, “I want a divorce” and “I don’t even know how to imagine a life without my spouse”. After all, divorce is a life-altering decision, and definitely not one that should be made lightly or based on a whim. Contemplating a divorce can evoke a range of often conflicting thoughts.
When considering getting a divorce, you may find yourself torn between ifs and buts, whys, and maybes. You know you need a divorce. The marriage has been standing on its last legs for some time now. But what about the kids, your family, the life you’ve built for yourself, and the social stigma you may face? Not to mention, the daunting prospect of peeling your life apart from your spouse’s and starting from scratch. It’s not unusual for those contemplating dissolving marriage to hide behind such reasoning and continue to stay in an unhappy marriage.
Of course, there is a long list of things to consider when pondering if and when to get a divorce. Among them is also the undeniable reality that the long-drawn-out battle can drain you physically, financially, mentally, and most importantly, emotionally. To help make the decision a tad easier, we’re here to tell you what to do when thinking about getting a divorce in consultation with advocate Siddhartha Mishra (BA, LLB), a lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court of India.
When Is Divorce The Right Answer?
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If your husband or wife is abusive or one of the spouses is cheating, there is a valid reason to end the marriage. Likewise, if your spouse is struggling with addiction and refuses to get help, divorce might become essential for self-preservation. In situations like these, thinking about a divorce is completely understandable and justified, and you’re likely to find support from your friends, family, and loved ones to go through with your decision.
However, the dynamics of relationships aren’t always so black and white. And abuse, addiction, and infidelity aren’t the only reasons why people choose to end their marriages. From resentment to unmet needs, growing apart, and falling out of love, there can be a host of other factors that can make divorce seem like a better proposition than staying stuck in an unfulfilling relationship.
The tricky thing, though, it can be hard to ascertain whether it’s time to end the relationship or there is more you can do to make your marriage work. If you’ve been wondering, “Should I get a divorce?”, here are two important pieces of advice we have for you:
Don’t just rush into it
If your spouse has done something to hurt you deeply – for instance, cheating on you or hiding important details about their life, leaving you feeling as if you hardly know the person you’re married to – walking away from the marriage may seem like the only way to deal with the hurricane of emotions that has just hit you.
However, getting a divorce shouldn’t be an emotional decision, but a pragmatic one. That’s why it’s best to not rush into it and make that decision when emotions are running high. No matter how grave the situation, allow yourself the time to get a grip on your emotions before making this life-altering decision. Before you call a divorce coach or a divorce lawyer, do think long and hard about whether you truly want to walk away from your spouse, your marriage, and the life you’ve built together.
Consider couples counseling first
Unless you’re a victim of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, divorce should be the last resort – one you consider having exhausted all the means to salvage your marriage. One such means is seeking couples counseling. Siddhartha says, “With divorce no longer taboo, the number of couples breaking their marital vows has increased. While a lot of younger couples are eager to fix their relationship, there is still a vast number of people who give up on their marriages without even considering getting the necessary help to work through their issues.
“When you’re considering ending a marriage, remember that there is no such thing as a painless divorce. As a lawyer, I counsel couples not to get into the painful and draining affair of separation. But to my surprise, in a majority of cases, the intent is to gain an upper hand over the spouse, due to which couples often engage in allegations and counter-allegations.”
When thinking about calling it quits on your marriage, make sure you’re 100% confident and convinced that this is the right choice for you. And never wield the D-word as an empty threat to get your partner to toe the line only to run back into their arms as soon as they comply. It trivializes the whole affair immensely. And of course, wrecks the mental health of everyone involved.
Related Reading: 15 Warning Signs You Need A Divorce For Sure
When To Get A Divorce Quiz
Before we dive into the intricacies of the divorce process, it is important to ascertain whether it is the right decision for you. When to get a divorce, depends on what point you are at in your relationship. Is it the point where things can still be fixed? Or are you at a stage where irreparable damage has been done? Take this quiz to understand better:
- Are you convinced that your spouse does not love you anymore? Yes/No
- Have date nights and quality time become a thing of the past in your relationship? Yes/No
- Are you at the stage of forgetting anniversaries and birthdays? Yes/No
- Have you ever felt like your spouse emotionally manipulates you? Yes/No
- Has your spouse ever physically abused you? Yes/No
- Are you financially stable and secure without your partner? Yes/No
- Does your partner indulge in alcohol or drug abuse? Yes/No
- Do you and your spouse still share intellectual intimacy? Yes/No
- Has your partner ever cheated on you? Yes/No
- Have you ever cheated on your partner? Yes/No
The assessment of this quiz is rather simple. The more you answer in the affirmative, the deeper trouble your relationship is in. Now that we have gone over when to think about getting divorced in your long-term marriage and the reasons to get a divorce, let us move on to understanding what that process is really like.
10 Things To Do When You Are Thinking About Divorce
We can’t tell you what exactly is right or wrong for you, but we can bring you closer to understanding what you may want. If you can’t shake off the thought that you need to get divorced but are scared to act on that thought, follow these 10 steps to gain clarity over what your future course of action should be:
1. Is there a way to save the marriage?
Your marriage may be a shambles for whatever reason. That is why you’re even considering breaking things off with the person you’ve spent years with. But it did not happen in a day. If you have noticed a pattern of your spouse’s financial irresponsibility or infidelity or simply the fact that you don’t like each other anymore, is divorce the only answer to it?
If thinking about ending things with your spouse, think again: Have you voiced your concerns to your spouse? Have you told them how certain behaviors/actions impact your mental health? Have you considered seeking professional help or going into therapy as a couple? Here’s what can happen if you don’t consider these things:
- Guilt: Filing for a divorce before trying to fix your marriage will leave you riddled with an unshakable sense of guilt that will come to haunt you eventually
- Regret: If your life after the divorce does not turn out to be as good as you had imagined, then you will have to live with the regret of letting go of such an important part of your life for as long as you shall breathe
- No closure: You may get stuck in a loop of wanting them and then leaving them again. Worse, you may want to get back with them and they might not want you back anymore, which can take a huge toll on your self-esteem and mental health
If you want to divorce this person but are terribly scared to take the leap, it’s a good opportunity to remind yourself that ending a marriage should ALWAYS be the last recourse. So before ringing up that divorce coach, think long and hard about what you want.
2. Want to get a divorce? Talk to someone
“My husband is thinking about leaving me and I too think it’s the best way forward for us.” “I’m scared to tell my husband I want a divorce.” “I want a divorce but my wife can’t support herself, does that mean I should stay in an unhappy marriage?” Many confusing thoughts like these can cloud your judgment when you’re at the cusp of dissolving a marriage. One of the different ways of tackling this is by confiding in somebody.
- Talk to someone rational: Try opening up about your problems to someone who can take an unbiased stand
- Consider therapy: Talking to a therapist can help you sort through the confusing maze of your own thoughts and gain clarity on what it is you really want
- Have a chat with your friends: The simplest way is to talk to your closest friends. Be careful who you go looking for advice from because not everyone is equipped to offer you advice free of bias or judgment
“Your best recourse is to seek an opinion of an expert who can lay out the pros and cons of divorce, as they are. You need this pragmatic, dispassionate view to make an informed choice,” advises Siddhartha.
3. Think of your children, if you have any
“My wife and I had decided to go through with the divorce and were already living separately for almost 6 months. Then, one day, I heard my 7-year-old son asking his cousin, “Do you know what to do if your parents want to get divorced? I’m scared my dad would forget all about me.” Then, we noticed he was developing a stammering problem. To save him from all the agony, we decided to give the marriage another chance,” says Bob, a marketing professional who lives in New York.
The ugliness of custody battles as well as the emotional and mental trauma that children go through when their parents get divorced must be factored in and duly deliberated upon. “Divorce doesn’t just dissolve a marriage but also tears a family apart. There is a strong correlation between family background and such problems as crime, abuse and neglect, and addictions. Divorce impedes learning in children by disrupting productive study patterns as children are forced to move between domiciles. It also increases anxiety and risk of depression in both parents and children,” says Siddhartha.
Related Reading: How I Prepared Myself and My Kids for a Divorce
4. Start saving up
Should I get a divorce, you ask? Well, only if you are prepared to deal with not just the emotional turmoil but also the financial strain it brings along. Apart from the legal proceedings and hiring a lawyer – both of which require a sizable sum of money – you also need to start saving up money to sustain yourself after separating from your spouse. You might even have to get a financial advisor to sort things out.
Do you intend to move out of the home you share with your spouse? If so, you need to find a place to live. Also, liquid cash for day-to-day sustenance. Opening up a savings account just for post-divorce use is a good way to begin your life after the divorce. Siddhartha says, “If you see clear signs you are ready for divorce after your long-term marriage, it is vital to start consolidating your finances as soon as possible. For this, you need clarity on your and your spouse’s financial standing. This includes debts, assets, savings, and income. “
Not all lawyers will offer the same advice. Even if you have a family lawyer, it is a good thing to try to keep them out of the loop for this one. If you’re still contemplating divorce and want to consult a lawyer just to know what your options are, bringing in your family lawyer can unnecessarily set off alarm bells.
If you’re still on the fence about this decision and grappling with dilemmas like “I’m scared to tell my husband that I think I want a divorce” or “I think I want a divorce but my wife can’t support herself, how should I handle this situation?”, it’s best to seek advice from a professional who isn’t linked to your family in any way.
- Take your time to find a divorce lawyer: Do exhaustive research on your own and zero in on three to four lawyers whose outlook best aligns with your needs and goals. For instance, if you want a definite win and don’t care if your spouse is hurt at the end of the long haul, you may be better off choosing someone with a good track record of wins
- Expensive is not always the best: Hiring expensive lawyers might not be the best decision, especially if the divorce is likely to result in a severe money crunch
- Don’t think just about winning: It is important to remember that you have to think of your life after divorce. Spending money on an expensive lawyer can leave you penniless. It’s best to choose a divorce lawyer suited to your financial, legal, and emotional needs
6. Hold off any premature announcements about divorce
This is a marriage ending. Needless to say, your life will be a complicated mess at least for the foreseeable future. So, resist the temptation to tell your friends and family that you are thinking of a divorce before you’ve had it all worked out. Most people will try and get the details about your crumbling marriage and use it as gossip for their Sunday brunch.
Even well-meaning well-wishers won’t be able to help you make your decision. So do not go around asking every single person you know, “Should I divorce my partner?” or “My wife is disrespectful to me, I should leave her, right?” Not everyone will be there for you as they should or understand your situation.
But remember that you do not need any sympathy from anyone. You need to think straight and take concrete steps. Besides, if you’ve been wanting to divorce this person for years and have finally made up your mind to go through with it, all this unsolicited advice can leave you confused again.
Related Reading: Whose Advice Should I Take for My Divorce? 9 Tips to Keep in Mind
7. Read up on all the laws of divorce
Yes, you need to understand the legal system to get the best possible outcome in a divorce battle. You need to read up on the grounds for seeking dissolution of marriage, especially if this isn’t going to be a mutual divorce. This will help you better navigate the entire divorce process. “If one spouse is the sole breadwinner of the family and the other has given up their career to take care of the family, the likelihood of a judge granting alimony and maintenance in such circumstances is high,” says Siddhartha.
Similarly, if a spouse is treated with cruelty in marriage, they’re entitled to maintenance money. Likewise, if you have children, it becomes equally crucial to learn about custody rights and the legal system when it comes to divorcing somebody.
8. Keep away from social media for your own mental health
This cannot be stressed enough – steer clear of the temptation to rant online or shame/badmouth your spouse in the virtual realm. Divorce and social media can be a volatile mix if not handled maturely. Remember that social media is just not the place to let anyone know about the troubles in your marriage or the fact that it’s falling apart.
Airing your dirty linen in public can backfire, if and when you do decide to divorce your partner and are entangled in a legal battle with them. It’s also a good idea to cleanse your social media of any posts where the optics are wrong. It may sound like a lot of work, but if you consider what a small oversight can cost you, it’s well worth it.
Related Reading: 8 Ways Social Media And Divorce Are Interconnected
9. Take care of yourself
Going through a divorce is a harrowing experience and can be one of the most challenging phases of your life. That’s exactly why you need to prioritize self-care and work toward keeping your sanity intact during a divorce. Here are some ways you can care your yourself while dealing with the trauma of a divorce:
- Set a routine for yourself and stick to a routine to avoid slipping into that dangerous place where you let grief take over and just let go
- Make time for the things you enjoy – it can be anything from baking to cycling to hiking or just curling up with a book at the end of a long day
- Don’t stop hanging out with your friends and loved ones
- Make an effort to reconnect with old friends and extended family, now that you have more time at hand
- Make space for exercise in your routine – you need those feel-good endorphins to counter the blues you’re grappling with
- Eat well and pay attention to your physical and mental well-being
10. Start imagining your life after divorce
Don’t stay in denial about the reality of your life even when you see the signs you are ready for divorce. Think of how you will afford a new home. Will you have support for the child (children)? Will you be able to bring up the child alone? Can you take care of the groceries, bills, banking, investments, and children’s education all by yourself?
“It’s a good idea to journal these thoughts and prepare a concrete life plan for your life post-divorce. A reality check on what life would be like after divorce can help you put off any hasty decisions,” advises Siddhartha.
Related Reading: Why Are Divorce Rates So High In Celebrity Marriages?
What To Do If You’re Thinking About Divorce
Once you make up your mind about going through with the divorce, you may find yourself at the receiving end of a lot of unsolicited advice, a lot of which can be conflicting. It’s not easy to sift out the right advice from a sea of opinions, ideas, and suggestions. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, lawyer Siddhartha Mishra offers some actionable tips for those thinking about divorce:
1. Divorce mediation
Not all divorces land up in court and are contested. A contested means regular court appearances and loss of financial resources and is best avoided. Try to opt for divorce mediation or divorce by mutual consent to make the whole process easier for both of you.
2. Get your papers ready
Get your financial and legal papers in place if you are thinking about a divorce. Being organized about these things will make things smoother for you. Consider getting a financial advisor too, if you do not have the required knowledge to make smart financial decisions.
3. There is no clear winner
Be it a contested divorce or one through mutual consent, no one really emerges a winner. You may end up paying lesser alimony or maintenance but, at the same time, have limited visitation rights. You win some, you lose some.
4. Keep the children away from the complications
Do not drag the children into the battle, badmouth each other in front of them or keep fighting in front of them. The negativity between you and your spouse can exacerbate the adverse effects of divorce on children.
5. Be honest
The temptation to hide investments or assets can be real as you find yourself desperate to safeguard your financial interest in a divorce. However, providing false information in a legal process can backfire and have ugly consequences. It’s best to be honest with your attorney and spouse.
6. Don’t be swayed by emotions
It’s only natural for your emotions to be all over the place when you’re going through a divorce. But don’t let the hurt, anger, pain, and sense of loss impede your objectivity and clarity of thought. A divorce will turn your life upside down, and you need to not be blindsided by emotions to be able to gather the pieces and start afresh.
7. Keep track of all your communication with your spouse
Keep track and maintain a record of all communication between you and your spouse after the decision to get a divorce is final. This includes letters, phone calls, social media interactions as well as in-person conversations. These can prove to be important weapons in strengthening your case, particularly if there is any kind of abuse or threat involved.
- A divorce is not a decision you can jump into. Think long and hard before getting a divorce
- If you have children, do establish boundaries and think about your co-parenting habits
- Do not involve the whole world in your divorce, their conflicting advice can make things messy
- Understand the laws and get acquainted with the process of getting a divorce, so that things can go smoothly
- Do try your best to save the marriage at all costs, and consider divorce a last resort
Divorce laws differ from country to country. In India, living separately is a must before you file for a divorce. On the other hand, in many states in the US, separation before a divorce is not necessary. In some places, the separation agreement is drawn up only after the divorce is filed. So know your legal rights and take your steps accordingly if you see the signs divorce is inevitable.
Divorce attorney James Sexton says, “When people buy a house they fill up 50 forms and want to know the legal implications of the loan they are taking, the rights of the property and so on. But when they get married all they want to talk about is the decoration on the wedding cake. Marriage is also legally binding and you should know every detail about it when you slip on the wedding ring.”
This article was updated in April 2022.
It’s a sign that your marriage is not in the best state. However, this doesn’t mean that divorce is the only option available to you. Evaluate your marriage and explore ways to better it, saving divorce as the last recourse.
It depends on how frequently and how deeply you’re entertaining thoughts about divorce. If it is a fleeting thought in a moment of anger or rage toward your spouse, then it is both normal and harmless. On the other hand, if it’s a thought that you just cannot shake off, even when things are seemingly normal between you and your partner, then it points to a deeper problem in the marriage.
Infidelity, addiction, abuse, drifting apart, breaking down of communication channels, frequent fights, falling out of love, finding yourself attracted to other people are some of the common warning signs of divorce.
Yes, in most cases, divorce can be avoided. Contemplating a divorce and actually getting one are two different things. No matter how grim the situation may be, it is always prudent to ensure that you have exhausted all your options before sounding the death knell for your marriage.