Ex-Spouse. Now think about how your divorce will affect your...
Is Divorce the Best Option for me?
“Is divorce the best option for me?” The decision to divorce is one of the hardest decisions individuals ever make. In some cases, divorce is the best course of action. Research makes clear that some relationships are unsafe or unhealthy. In other circumstances, we believe—and again research supports—that the best option for all would be to repair the relationship and keep the family together, if possible.
Ultimately, only you know your situation, and only you can decide what is best for you and your family. We know that making the decision to divorce can be confusing and overwhelming. It’s common to have many questions. We’ll try to answer those questions the best we can, based on good research, so that you can make a more informed decision. We also provide links to other resources that may help you with questions you have and your decision.
Individuals at the crossroads of divorce can sometimes feel like they have to choose between two competing options: “Do I divorce so that I can find happiness again, or do I stay together for the family’s sake and remain unhappy?” For most, however, this is a false choice. With proper help and willingness on the part of both spouses, many marriages that might otherwise end in divorce can become healthy, satisfying, and supportive.
One study found that half of unhappily married adults who avoided divorce ended up happily married to the same spouse 5 years later. Another 20% improved, but didn’t say they were happy. Only 10% of the unhappy individuals who stayed married were still unhappy 5 years later. For the most part, those who divorced and even those who divorced and remarried were not happier and better off psychologically than those who remained married.
Sometimes, the key is just the passage of time. Marriage problems may have more to do with circumstances outside the marriage that place stress on a relationship—for instance, a job loss or the death of a family member—and eventually the stress goes away. Sometimes adjusting attitudes can improve the marriage. Other times, couples are able to work together to repair their marriage (more on this in the question below).
- Here is an exercise to think more about whether you should hang on or move on.
If you want to try to repair your marriage, there are resources available to help you. Some couples try marriage counseling and research shows that many are able to resolve all or almost all of their major problems with counseling, especially if both spouses are committed to working on the relationship.
- Here is an exercise to think more about marriage counseling and whether it would be a good option for you.
Here is more information to learn more about how to choose a good marriage counselor.
However, some don’t like the idea of counseling. Maybe they are very private and want to try working on things on their own. There are some good self-help books that can be helpful.
Here is some more information about strengthening your marriage on your own and recommendations for good self-help resources.
Other couples prefer to take a class rather than go to counseling or work on their own. There are often marriage strengthening classes in your community, many of them offered for free, that can help couples learn to communicate and solve problems better and strengthen their relationships.
- Here is an exercise to help you learn more about marriage strengthening classes and whether they would be a good option for you.
Also, here is a website with listings of available marriage-strengthening classes in various states and communities, most of them for free.
Some couples are faced with very difficult situations, such as abuse, infidelity, or addictions. Each of these situations deserves special consideration:
- When there is a pattern of abuse in a marriage or in a family, not surprisingly there is evidence that ending the marriage is usually best for all involved. While some spouses are able to end and overcome abuse, abused spouses and children are usually better off when the marriage is ended.
- Sometimes, ending a marriage with an abusive spouse can be dangerous, however. It is probably a good idea to work with a domestic violence shelter in your community to help you end the relationship safely.
- If you suspect that you (or someone you know) is in an abusive relationship, you may want to look at this webpage on Signs of Abuse. Also, for more information and help, you can access the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or visit their website at http://www.thehotline.org/.
- Most Americans say they would end their marriage if their spouse cheated on them. However, many couples (50-60%) who have dealt with infidelity in their marriages find the will and strength to stay together.
- An excellent resource to learn more about recovering from marital infidelity is the book, Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On—Together or Apart.
- Also, consider getting help from a well-trained marriage counselor and/or a dedicated religious leader who will help you heal, decide what to do, and repair the marriage, if you decide to stay together. Recovering from infidelity can be very difficult to do without some help.
- Addiction can come in many forms, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography.
- If you are faced with addictions or a spouse is suffering from addictions, you can find help from organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
- In some cases, the addict can recover and the marriage can be repaired. In other cases, it is best for the spouse and children to separate from the addict to see if progress can be made. Each person has unique circumstances and must decide what is right for her or him. Again, consider turning to a trained professional and/or a religious leader to help you know how best to handle your situation.
Reconciliation involves the full participation of both spouses. Researchers estimate that 10% of married couples in the United States have experienced a separation and reconciliation. About one in three couples who separate later try to reconcile, and a third of those succeed. There are a number of factors that make reconciliation more likely: Couples who have the same religion and attend together regularly, couples who were older when they married, couples closer in age, and couples who have more education. One research found there were two common themes with those that got back together; first, reconciliation was their top priority, and second, the couple sought outside help include religion or professional services.
This can be a really difficult situation for the spouse who would like to work through the problems of marriage, but legally, there isn’t much that can be done once a spouse is ready to divorce. Sometimes the possibility of divorce leads to changes that causes your spouse to change their minds. For others, regardless of the change there may be too much that has happened, or too much time that has passed to consider reconciliation. While it may seem as if there is no future, most people do remarry. This is a good opportunity to learn how to be a better spouse in your future relationship.
Find the research support here.
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