The decision to divorce is often made with much frustration, anger, and disappointment.
That’s why it’s important to take a moment to step back from the painful emotions associated with divorce and look at things objectively from a calmer perspective. Asking yourself the right questions before contacting a lawyer or mediator can help make a divorce more amicable. It can even save the marriage.
That’s what happened to a former client of mine, now one of my closest friends, who I’ll refer to as Tanya (not her real name). Tanya and her husband, who we’ll call Jim, ultimately reconciled and are now happily married. As you’ll see here, asking these 5 questions before getting a divorce can help save the marriage.
1. Do you still love your spouse?
Beneath the anger and hurt, can you remember why you married your spouse? Think about what you most loved about your spouse and why you got married in the first place.
Chances are, your spouse still has those same qualities. But perhaps you simply stopped noticing beneath the anger, pain, and resentment experienced by both of you, particularly over a long period of time.
2. Do you and your spouse share the same values?
You might recognize that for all the marital difficulties, you and your spouse are nevertheless on the same page when it comes to important values. For example, you might both value hard work, self-responsibility, or educating your kids to respect themselves and others. Having similar values are foundational for any successful relationship.
3. How can a divorce be handled to minimize harm to the children?
Whether or not you and your spouse ultimately decide to divorce, you will always both be your kids’ parents and in each other’s lives. Establishing healthy and respectful co-parenting communication early in is essential for your children’s emotional well-being. It also helps to forge a common bond with your spouse that may even bring you closer.
4. Have you made your concerns about the relationship clear to your spouse?
We often think we’ve communicated but the other person may not hear things the same way. Especially when men and women generally communicate very differently. For more details, check out this post.
My former client, Tanya, discovered she hadn’t been open with Jim with her concerns about the marriage. Just after she initiated the divorce process, however, Jim asked her how they had ended up getting a divorce.
For the first time, Tanya told him that for the past 10 years, she felt completely unloved and unappreciated in the marriage. She felt Jim incessantly criticized and ignored her and she simply couldn’t take it anymore.
She was shocked to learn Jim still loved her and that he always would even after the divorce. That all the time he worked and fixed up their home was how he showed love by taking care of her.
Tanya had simply never considered this possibility. For her, to feel Jim loved her, she expected him to say so often and express it, for instance, by holding her hand or initiating a hug or otherwise making their relationship a priority. This calls to mind the bestselling book by Dr. Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.
In the book, Dr. Chapman explains how important it is for couples to understand how they each both give and receive love. And that it’s possible for couples to truly love each other, but to feel unloved because they have different beliefs about giving and receiving love. The book is well worth the read for any couple in a marriage or long-term relationship.
5. Could you have done something differently?
In any event, Tanya and Jim’s talk made Tanya realize that she also had a part in the demise of the marriage. She acknowledged to Jim that she kept her feelings to herself and emotionally withdrew as her resentment towards him built up. Jim appreciated her candor and acknowledged his part as well. By each taking responsibility, it allowed them to change course and ultimately save their marriage.
It’s therefore important to take a step back from the emotional turmoil and ask yourself these 5 questions before taking that big step to end the marriage. Of course, not every marriage can or perhaps should be saved. But by objectively asking these questions, what do you have to lose?