10 Questions To Ask Before Getting Divorced
By Georgia Aspinall Posted on 17 Oct 2018
‘I remember when my youngest daughter was 10, she told me she didn’t mind that me and her dad were divorced because she would rather we were both happy single than unhappy together,’ says Heather*, 58, who got married at 23, separated from her ex-husband at 36 and finally divorced at 38. ‘I just burst into tears, not only had I managed to raise a genius but I now knew the divorce hadn’t messed her up. That’s the hardest part of divorce, breaking your own heart is easy compared to the possibility of breaking your kids heart.’
The divorce rate may be falling, but it’s still at 42%. More women than men file for divorce, and so it’s more than likely that at some point in our lives, if we choose to marry we may be faced with the choice to divorce too. As Heather affirms, it’s never something undertaken lightly, but it can also be necessary for your own happiness. That’s why we spoke to divorced women and relationship counsellors alike to find out exactly what we should be considering when your marriage seems to be breaking down.
From the light-hearted to the downright serious, here’s the questions you should ask yourself, from those who know…
1. Are you ready to get back on Tinder?
‘Dating apps were just not a thing before I got married,’ says Chloe*, 39, ‘I was expecting a bit of a culture shock when I got back into dating but nothing can prepare you for Tinder at 37. I was on it for about two weeks before I realised gifs and emojis are not how I’m going to find my next husband.’
2. Is it a bad marriage, or do you just prefer being single?
Bad marriages, with patience, potentially sacrifice and possibly counseling, can be salvagable. However, if you’re just not the marriage type, then staying in a relationship for the sake of society’s approval isn’t healthy for anyone.
‘Before I got married, I was the life of the party and I loved it,’ says Karen*, 53, ‘then I fell in love and at the time that automatically meant marriage. We were married for five years before we got divorced - when I was 36 – and even though I loved my ex-husband I was just never suited to married life. As soon as we made the decision to split I felt lighter and I realised I’m just better off being single. I don’t like having to sacrifice a lot of myself to force something to work, I just want to be happy and I’m much happier alone. I wish I’d known that before, I would’ve saved myself a lot of money’
3. Are your ready to revert to your teenage self, sneaking around the house to have sex?
‘Even successful dates after divorce are awkward,’ says Heather, ‘I had two sleeping children at home so if I brought someone back to the house I’d have to smuggle them in past the babysitter and then get rid of them before the kids got up in the morning. I remember being absolutely smashed trying to convince my date to climb over my back fence thinking “am I actually 17 again?”.’
4. Do you like your married friends? If so, you may lose them…
‘Me and my ex-husband were very sociable in the first few years and had a lot of “couple friends”,’ says Heather, ‘but once I was left with two children to look after basically alone, so most of “our” friends only stayed talking to my ex since he was always up for a night out.
‘If you’re getting divorced, you have to make sure you have your own group of friends around you,’ she adds, ‘you can’t rely on your “couple friends” to stay when it gets rough.’
5. Could you go back to the student life?
‘Divorce is expensive and I ended up with both my own and my ex-husband’s debts,’ says Heather, ‘but the silver lining of it all was that you realise how you really don’t need lots of money to do all the things you used to. I was basically living like a student, doing my own hair, running outside instead of the gym, finding the cheapest meals to cook, but I became much less wasteful and impulsive with my spending. In the long term it was a change I needed to make.’
6. Are your expectations of divorce realistic?
‘Forget about the monetary aspect for a moment, divorce is long, tiring and difficult,’ says psychologist and counsellor Philip Karahassan, ‘Be prepared for a time consuming, costly and emotional process. You may have to leave your home and uproot your family too, so be realistic about what you are hoping for in initiating a divorce.’
‘I never thought my husband would go off the rails the way that he did,’ adds Heather, ‘I became a single parent very quickly, with a full-time very demanding job and had to support him too. I still would’ve left even if I’d have known what was coming, but I probably would’ve tried to become more financially secure first.’
7. What would your reasons be for staying in or leaving the relationship?
Phillip, suggests making a list of these reasons in order to understand exactly how you’re feeling and what you’re getting from this relationship versus what you’re sacrificing.
‘This list should not be about the past, but more so about the present and your hopes for the future,’ says Philip, ‘draw a line in the sand on the past and think about your day-to-day life. Do you want to spend the here and now with this person? And if not, why not?’
8. Have you been upfront and open to your partner about your concerns?
‘You might have spent so long with your partner that you won’t realise that you have both changed vastly from when you first met,’ says Philp, ‘expectations are such that you probably want them to know what’s wrong but without you saying anything. Use the above question to be explicit with your concerns. It might be difficult to discuss at first, but at least you will both know what you want from the relationship.’
9. Do you like your in-laws?
Love or hate them, your relationship with your partners family is bound to change post-divorce. For some of us, that will be a blessing, but if you’ve developed a close relationship with your in-laws, it’s important to establish how you can approach divorce with them and accept those relationships may not be able to withstand it.
‘I think when you’re the one initiating the divorce, your often villainized by your partners family,’ says Heather, ‘particularly with their parents. My ex’s sisters understood and would still help me out with my kids, but his mum hated me. It did make everything harder at the time, but the dust settled eventually when everyone moved on.’
In his book ‘Lifescripts for Family and Friends: What to Say in 101 of Life’s Most Troubling and Uncomfortable Situations’, psychotherapist Erik Kolbell suggests telling your in-laws about divorce with your partner, on a Saturday morning so they have a full day to digest the news. He also advises seeing a marriage counsellor, as not only can this likely make navigating divorce less damaging but also shows your in-laws you tried to make it work. Realistically, you don’t need to prove anything to anyone if you want a divorce, but if you’re looking to make this conversation a little easier then it may help.
10. Why end the relationship on a sour note?
‘Even if you decide to divorce, try your best to keep the lines of communication open,’ says Philip, ‘If you are finding it hard to do so, ask yourself what are your feelings of anger trying to solve, or are they getting in the way of a mutually agreed separation.
If you’re considering divorce, counselling may help. Visit the Counselling Directory for more information.
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