The decision to divorce is probably a bigger, more difficult decision than the one to get married in the first place. There’s a lot to consider, and a lot at stake – especially if you have children.
There are times when fixing the problems in a marriage is simply not possible. But it’s also true that it’s not uncommon for couples to go through a rough patch. So how do you know when it’s really not salvageable? The advice from these experts is that you’ll know you’re ready to divorce when . . .
YOU CAN VISUALISE YOUR PARTNER BEING INTIMATE WITH SOMEBODY ELSE – AND IT DOESN’T BOTHER YOU
We have three different brain systems for mating and reproduction: feelings of deep attachment, ecstatic romantic love and the sex drive. In most good relationships, all three of these neural circuits are firing at one time or another. When you honestly no longer care if your partner will be kissing, walking arm-in-arm, laughing, holding hands or making love to someone else, your brain is ready to depart and move on.
-Dr Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey in the US
YOU’RE SURE YOUR PARTNER ISN’T GIVING UP ON THE RELATIONSHIP ONLY BECAUSE THEY THINK YOU ALREADY HAVE
When relationships break down, both people can become convinced that the other person wants out. It’s easy to jump to conclusions about what your partner is thinking or feeling, and when we’re in pain it can be difficult to see that the other person is hurting, too. A counsellor might be able to help you bridge this gap and in doing so, re-establish the connection you once had.
-Bill Hewlett, counsellor and child specialist in family separation
YOU FULLY UNDERSTAND THE NEEDS OF YOUR CHILDREN
Often children are used in breakups as a means of revenge and I think that’s the ugliest thing ever. No matter how much acrimony there is between you and your husband or wife, the right of your children to have a relationship with the other parent is more important than whatever pain you’re going through.
This will be an unavoidably shocking, lifealtering experience for all of you. It’s the responsibility of both parents to ensure the children get through this the best way they can. Granted, you might be so hurt and angry that you don’t want your ex to see the children, but by denying them – or denigrating – their relationship with their other parent, you’re denying them half their entitlement to parental love.
No matter how agonising it is for you, you need to put your own pain aside and promote their relationship with the other parent – as long as it’s safe for the kids. Deal with your pain by talking to a counsellor or a friend, not by trying to hurt your ex through your children.
-Toby Green, relationship psychologist and columnist
YOU’VE PREPARED YOURSELF FOR THE EMOTIONAL TOLL OF A COURT CASE
If you’re headed to family court, be aware that matters can take two years or more to resolve and can be incredibly expensive. You’ll be pitted against your former spouse and be asked to reveal all of their transgressions throughout the relationship to gain an advantage in court.
It can be difficult to have even a superficial relationship for the sake of the children once your dirty laundry has been aired in this way. Sometimes it’s necessary to go to court but there are many dispute-resolution options to explore, such as mediation, before going down that road.
-Malcolm Gittoes-Caesar, family law specialist
YOU’VE EXPLORED WHAT IT MEANS TO OFFER EACH OTHER APPRECIATION AND RESPECT
When divorce is on the horizon, more often than not it’s because at least one of you has forgotten what it takes to be loving, appreciative and respectful. The pain this causes is devastating, especially when you can no longer trust your partner to support your happiness. You’ll grow rapidly in maturity if you can avoid hurtful accusations and instead offer each other appreciation and respect. This can be wonderful – especially where children are soaking up the emotional atmosphere of your home. We think of relationship breakdown as a loss. Yet from that loss, far more responsible behaviours can emerge, but only if that’s what you choose.
-Stephanie Dowrick, author of Choosing Happiness and Forgiveness & Other Acts of Love
YOU’RE AWARE OF YOUR SHORTCOMINGS IN RELATIONSHIPS
Whether you’re aware of it or not, both of you have reacted to each other in ways that have harmed the relationship. It’s rarely one person’s fault: usually both people have acted in ways that have contributed to the problems. When you’re able to see your part in it, you can let go of blaming and become empowered to make positive changes in your future relationships – and possibly even in this one.
-Jenny Brown, author of Growing Yourself Up: How To Bring Your Best To All Of Life’s Relationships
YOU’VE BEEN FOR COUNSELLING
Even if your partner won’t attend, go on your own as this can have a positive impact on your relationship. It may well be that your marriage is salvageable. But even if you think there’s no hope for the relationship, go to counselling because it helps to have support if you do end up going through separation and divorce. If you have children, you’ll have to deal with your ex for the rest of your life – birthdays, sports events, weddings – so it’s best to get help to ensure you part on civil terms.
-Dr Rosie King, sex therapist and author of Where Did My Libido Go?
YOU’VE CLEARLY IDENTIFIED YOUR FINANCIAL POSITION
Divorce can be as devastating financially as it is emotionally. For a start, one of you will have to move so you’ll both separately have household bills and other costs associated with going it alone. But there are some things you can do to reduce the financial impact. First, get a handle on your financial situation.
Find out what accounts, investments and liabilities you have and whose names they’re in. Make sure you have copies of all the important documents relating to your finances, such as deeds, powers of attorney and statements. Make an appointment with a financial adviser – you need to find your own now – so you can pinpoint your exact position and find out how you’ll be affected financially. Then you can start making plans to divide your assets and create the best possible outcome for both of you.
-Analaura Luna, co-author of Real Money Advice for Divorce