Considering ending a relationship with the person with whom you decided to spend your entire life is, of course, never an easy decision. And when dealing with whatever factors propelled them to consider severing the tie in the first place, many people put on blinders and forget to ask important questions behind this big decision.
It makes sense: facing relationship troubles, many people internalize their anger and resentment. Others act impulsively. Given that this can be a decision not to take lightly, it’s probably advisable to air things out with one’s partner, therapist, or friends. To that end, are nine questions to ask to make sure you feel good about what comes next.
Were Your Expectations Realistic?
Your partner cannot be your lover, best friend, financial support, career advisor, co-parent, and Netflix-binge partner. No single person could. Per Clay Cockrell, a New York City based relationship therapist, one of the most important things is to ask yourself if you’re considering divorce is Did you have a realistic expectation of what a marriage is? “The crisis is an opportunity to look at the humanity of the other person,” he says. “If you had a wonderful sex life, maybe you just need more friends. Maybe it’s not what you thought it would be, but it’s enough.”
Is a Trial Separation in Order?
Many see trial separations as a way of prolonging the misery. But that only happens when you go into one with a pre-determined idea of the outcome. “Sometimes living in the same place, breathing the same air can be toxic,” Cockrell says. “Divorce is the final step.” He recommends using a break to think about how you got to this point in the relationship. If you choose to embark on a separation, Cockrell recommends maintaining contact, even having dinner together or going on dates, but using your own space to think.
Do You See Arguments as Opportunities?
“An argument is a form of connection,” says psychologist Mary Jo Rapini. In other words, going back and forth with your significant other provides a line of communication that, once opened, can be used to convey remorse, love, kindness, gratitude and, really, anything. Arguing isn’t pretty, but it does open a dialogue. “When it’s mixed with emotional or sexual or verbal abuse, that’s when it gets into trouble,” she says.
Are You Leaving It All on the Field?
Not to sound like a junior varsity coach, but are you? Really think about it. You’ve made a commitment and, in the words of Cockrell, you have to give respect to the relationship. If you feel as though you’ve tried everything including some deep counseling, then you’ll feel better about any decision you make. “People want to close the chapter knowing they’re walking away clean, knowing it’s not a personal failure, but that they’ve tried and learned,” says Cockerel.
Are You Listening Too Much to Other People’s Advice?
To be married is to open yourself up to everyone’s view of what a marriage should be. While some advice is certainly welcome, there’s no way to be all things to all people and maintain your own relationship. “One of the most common mistakes is relying too much on the advice of friends and family,” says Ivan Verr, a relationship coach based in Southampton, UK. “They give advice based on their feelings for the person, not their expertise on the topic.”
Are You Honest About Resentment?
“Resentment gone unaddressed will turn into the biggest problem any couple will endure,” Rapini says. Fixing it begins with an honest introspection of the resentment you’re harboring. “No one can make amends if they’re holding onto it. Standing up for yourself and explaining it to your partner is the answer, not divorce.”
Have You Set A Deadline for Improvement?
When clients tell her their marriage is over, Rapini asks them to give it a year. “I say, let’s put a time limit on it. If you know you’re going to give it your all, you can really teach yourself, and both partners can see the effort it will take and if it’s worth it.”
Will You Have the Same Problems with Someone Else?
If the flame has left your marriage, it might seem tempting now to jump on Tinder. You might end up with a new lover, but also with the same old problems of putting work first, not making time for romance, or leaving too many Cheez-It crumbs in bed. “He better be sure that leaving the marriage because of sex is worth also stepping away from the other aspects of having a family and being committed,” Rapini says.
Have You Thought About Money?
Not to be callous, but at some point, you have to think about money. As in, how much will you have when the train arrives at Splittsville? “It’s important the person is fully aware of their rights,” Verr says. Basic searches can tell you a lot. More complex financial or legal quandaries are best directed at professionals. Sure, they charge fees, but, per Verr, “it’s better to pay a small fee now than lose thousands later on.”