Making decisions about divorce

Most people would probably agree that many couples are too quick to divorce. Have they examined their marriage and determined that it’s not worth keeping, or are they simply taking the easy way out? It’s not an easy decision, and there are no right answers.

As Jeffrey Cottrill puts it:

If you’re considering divorce, remember that this decision will deeply change the lives of your spouse, your children, your parents, and maybe extended family and friends as well as your own. Divorce is not something to be decided hastily. It’s a choice to end the most important relationship in your life — a relationship that, once upon a time, may have been wonderful. You may feel sure there’s no bringing back the marital satisfaction you once enjoyed (or expected). But is divorce going to solve your current problems — or just create more?

Remember that even great marriages require work. All romantic relationships are, to some degree, an exercise in compromise: there’s always some level of adjustment toward each other’s conflicting tastes, schedules, moods, quirks, and expectations, because there’s no such thing as a couple whose personalities are completely in sync with each other. But when this work pays off, a healthy marriage can be a source of incredible happiness, comfort, and security. Should you throw away such a potentially good thing? Ask yourself if it’s worth making the effort to see if your marriage can be saved before you file for divorce.

“Couples need a roadmap of what goes on in a normal marriage,” explains Diane Sollee, the founder and director of “They’re always comparing themselves to “how happy I should be.’ But it has nothing to do with whether you find Mr. or Ms. Right. It has little to do with ‘compatibility’, because even incompatible couples have made it. The courtship process is about looking for compatibility, but after you’re married, things change and you’ll find lots of incompatibilities between you. Whether you understand that this is normal will predict how well you do.”

Here are some guidelines that Cottrill recommends:

Try to save your marriage if:

  • At least one of you is willing to seek help in some way: marriage counseling, relationship workshops, books on how to re-ignite passion
  • You both recognize that disagreements are a normal part of any marriage
  • You’re open to learning how to communicate openly and honestly — without accusing or blaming each other, or “hitting below the belt”
  • You’re willing to accept responsibility and apologize for the damage you’ve done to your spouse and to your marriage
  • You’re willing and able to devote time and effort to improving your relationship
  • You both believe the marriage is worth trying to save.

Divorce might be your best choice if:

  • There’s a pattern of abuse, drug addiction, or repeated infidelity
  • Neither of you is willing to change or adapt to present circumstances
  • Neither of you is able to forgive past wrongs or make amends
  • You’re committed to seeing yourself as 100% innocent and your spouse as 100% guilty regarding the problems in your relationship
  • One of you has declared a new sexual orientation
  • You believe the marriage isn’t worth trying to save
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