If you are thinking about when to opt for a divorce, right now you are probably still stuck in a cycle of should I or shouldn’t I. Or oscillating between the thoughts, ‘I want a divorce’ and ‘I can’t live without them.’ After all, a divorce is no small thing. It 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? The families? What is society going to think of you? Is your own future destroyed now? That of your spouse? It’s not unusual for those contemplating dissolving a 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 divorce in consultation with advocate Siddhartha Mishra (BA, LLB), a lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court of India.
When Is Divorce The Right Answer?
In situations where your wife is physically abusing you or your husband has anger issues that lead to violence or when one of the spouses is cheating, you have valid reasons to end the marriage. If you have an alcoholic husband who refuses to get help even after you have been requesting him to do so, divorce might be a way out of that pain. In such a case, thinking about a divorce is completely understood and justified, especially after you’ve already tried couples therapy and even that did not work.
But are you making empty threats? Are you thinking of when to apply for a divorce without even trying to seek help from a professional? Without giving your marriage a real shot? Contemplating a divorce and actually getting one are two different things.
Don’t just rush into it
If your marital bond has taken a hit due to infidelity, have you tried to reach out to your spouse and discussed the possibility of seeking counseling or therapy to work through your issues? Before you call a divorce coach or a divorce lawyer, do think long and hard about these things. Except in the cases where the underlying issue is abuse – mental, physical or sexual – there are always means and ways to salvage a marriage.
Consider couples counseling first
Yes, our advice to you is to make that your very first step. And here is why. 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 a relationship, there is still a vast number of couples who give up on marriage too quickly before seeking expert help. When you’re considering a divorce, remember that there is no such thing as a painless divorce.
“As a lawyer, I counsel the couples not to get into the unholy 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.”
Before you let the confusion wreck your mental peace, focus your energies on the things to consider when thinking about calling it quits in your marriage. Saying ‘I want a divorce’ one day and running back into their arms the next, trivializes the whole affair immensely. And of course, wrecks the mental health of everyone who is 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 or not, in the first place. When to get a divorce, depends on at what point you two are 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 they do not love you anymore? Yes/No
- Do you both still go out on date nights or usually spend the nights in, not talking to one another? 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 an intellectual intimacy? Yes/No
- Has your partner ever cheated on you? Yes/No
- Have you ever cheated on your partner? Yes/No
It does not take a rocket scientist to evaluate your responses. The more you answer, in the affirmative, the deeper troubles you are in, in your relationship. 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 onto 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’re eager to divorce them even after multiple sessions of couples therapy 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 in shambles for whatever reason. That is why you’re even considering breaking things off with the person you’ve spend 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 real hard again: have you voiced your concerns and mental state to your spouse? 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:
- There will be major guilt involved: Filing for a divorce before trying to fix your marriage will leave you riddled with an unshakable sense of guilt, that will come and bite you back eventually
- You might regret your decision: 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.
- You may get stuck in a loop of wanting them and then leaving them again: Worse, you will want to get back with them and they might not want you back anymore, further worsening your 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: Try a free consultation with a therapist if you do not want to commit to it completely and see how it feels
- Have a chat with your friends: The simplest way is to talk to your closest friends. Be careful who you go looking for some advice because not all of them will be without judgment
Know that even friends and family cannot have an unbiased opinion on the matter. If they empathize with your situation, they may egg you on to go turn your thoughts on divorce into reality. On the other hand, if they think that divorce may impact your spouse or children adversely, they may not have your best interest at heart.
“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.
That is just the tip of iceberg that will further drown you as a couple into the ugliness of custody battles, as well as the emotional and mental trauma that children go through in such circumstances. Child support and the future of your kids must be factored in and duly deliberated when opting for divorce.
“The divorce of parents, even if it is an amicable decision, tears one family member apart from the other – the fundamental unit of society. 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,” Siddhartha says.
Related Reading: How I Prepared Myself and My Kids for a Divorce
4. Start saving up
Alongside thoughts of ‘I want a divorce’ know that not only will your live change emotionally, you should also prepare yourself for financial hurdles. Among the things to consider when thinking about divorce is the financial strain that it will put on you. Apart from the legal proceedings and hiring a lawyer – both of which will require a lump 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.
Are you intending to move out of your place together? If so, start looking for places to live, immediately. Start saving liquid cash. 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 you’ve made up your mind about dissolving that very marriage. For this, you need clarity on your and your spouse’s financial standing. This includes debts, assets, savings, 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 an 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. Try not to tell everyone that you are thinking of a 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, and left with more questions.
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 and get it on your side. You need to read up on the grounds where you can be granted a divorce, 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 wife is treated with cruelty in marriage, she is entitled to maintenance money, considering she has been living separately from her husband. 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 at the time of a divorce – steer clear of the temptation to rant online for your followers or friends. 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 you are on the verge of one.
Even leaving a cryptic message could lead to people gossiping online, so never ever open yourself for that. Besides, 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 your spouse. It’s also a good idea to cleanse your social media of any posts where the optics are wrong. Sounds like a lot of work, but it doesn’t hurt.
Related Reading: 8 Ways Social Media And Divorce Are Interconnected
9. Take care of yourself
Yes, getting divorced it’s a challenging phase of life but you must actively work toward keeping your sanity intact during a divorce, both at home and at work. Going through a divorce can be a harrowing experience so it is important that you stick to a routine and do the things you enjoy.
If you enjoy cooking, take the time to fix home-cooked meals. Don’t stop hanging out with your friends or taking those yoga classes that have been a part of your routine for as long as you can remember. Reconnect with an old family member to remind yourself of who you used to be. Live your life as you have been all along, even if you are in the process of separating from your spouse.
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. This is something many people do and end up in shambles after the 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, 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. Sometimes people decide on divorce on an impulse. 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
If you truly want to divorce your spouse and have talked to people around you about it, then you may find yourself utterly confused by the conflicting list of dos and don’ts being doled out. To sift out the right advice from a sea of opinions, ideas and suggestions is not easy.
A lot of times people who you turn to for advice may not have a clear idea about the divorce laws or how these proceedings pan out. At best, they may be basing their advice on the experiences of others around them, at worst, on pulp fiction and TV shows.
To help you separate the wheat from the chaff, lawyer Siddhartha Mishra has come concrete advice for people who are thinking about divorce:
1. Divorce mediation
Not all divorces land up in court and are contested. Try to go for divorce mediation or divorce by mutual consent to make the whole process easier for both of you. However, note that contesting would mean regular court appearances and loss of financial resources.
2. Get your papers ready
To get a divorce, this is a very important step. 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 think it may help.
3. There is no clear winner
Be it a contested divorce or one through mutual consent, none of the spouses are clear winners. One might have to pay less alimony but could get 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. This could have long-term consequences that you will not like.
5. Be honest
Some couples have the tendency to hide or destroy prenuptial agreements or their financial investments. It’s best to be honest with your attorney and spouse when you are going through a divorce.
Backing the advice, divorce attorney Laura Wasser says, “Prenuptials don’t really work if you don’t have tons of money. What you need to know is the expectations you have from the divorce and you need to communicate that clearly.”
6. Don’t be swayed by emotions
In such a situation, it’s only natural for your emotions to be all over the place. 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 you case, particularly if there is any kind of abuse or threat involved.
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.”
- 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.
This article was updated in November 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.