Should I Stay or Should I Go? 30 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering Divorce
By Deirdre Hally Shafer, MSW, LCSW
Many individuals in unhappy marriages agonize for long periods of time about whether divorce is the best road to take. They usually feel positive and negative emotions about the situation at the same time. This ambivalence makes it difficult to reach a calm, objective, well-considered decision. Listed below are 30 questions whose answers may provide insight to someone considering this life altering choice:
• Do I feel safe in this relationship? (physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, sexually)
• Are any of the following preventing the marriage from being a peaceful, healthy place: contempt, criticism, complaining, defensiveness, stonewalling?
• Is there mutual honesty and trust in the marriage? Or is there snooping, spying, and “checking up” on each other?
• Is there care and concern for each other? Do I feel supported?
• Do I think my spouse is a good person or do I feel dislike Do I feel dislike or contempt directed at me?
• Has my spouse refused to address individual issues such as alcoholism, addiction, gambling, sex/pornography addiction, chronic infidelity, anger, abuse, lack of communication?
• Is my sense of obligation, guilt, and/or morality in staying married overshadowing my own emotional safety, well-being and happiness? Am I sacrificing myself or caring about my spouse more than they care about themselves?
• Has my spouse refused to try a different approach or to participate in the growth of the marriage? Is there a lack of engagement?
• Is there an imbalance of or struggle for power in the relationship? Does my spouse control all the decisions? Do I feel like the majority of responsibilities fall on me?
• Is there physical attraction? Do I you feel physically attracted to my spouse?
• Have there been long, extended periods of time without physical intimacy?
• Do the same issues keep coming up without a willingness or effort to address them differently to elicit change?
• Do we practice compromise and respect each other’s opinions? Do we appreciate and value each other’s contributions?
• Do we enjoy shared activities and make time to spend together? Do we have common interests?
• Do other parties take precedence over the marital relationship? (In-laws, friends, grown children)
• Do we have common goals?
• On a scale of 1 to 10, how “heard” and understood do I feel by your spouse?
• Would you want one of your children to be in the marriage you are in?
• Do you and your spouse think in terms of “me” or “we?” Was there ever a “we?”
• Are the marital expectations reasonable?
• Is there space and encouragement in the marriage for both of us to grow?
• Do I have “dealbreakers” or bottom lines that have been crossed that can’t be forgiven?
• Am I staying out of fear that I’ll be alone or because I think there is hope for the marriage to be nurturing and life giving?
• Am I running away from the fallout of my own choices? (affair, alcohol abuse, etc.)
• Have I done everything you can to address issues and improve the marriage?
• Am I prepared to say goodbye to what is good in the marriage?
• Have I considered all the other areas of my life that will change? (parenting, finances, living situation, child care, extended family, holidays, social life, sex life). Am I making a well thought out or shortsighted decision?
• In making my decision, am I balancing my responsibility to myself with my responsibility toward others?
• What’s the most loving choice I can make in this situation? (Love feels light and open, not heavy and burdensome).
• Is the desire to divorce based on self-awareness or is it an emotionally reactive decision?
We are each unique individuals with different perspectives, truths, and realities. In the end, you are the one who lives with the consequences of your choices. And only you know whether your marriage is too terrible for you to remain or whether improvement can occur. Hopefully, these questions will shed some light on which path to take.