Saying the words “I want a divorce” can be terrifying. And while this time is filled with a bunch of complex emotions, there is a future beyond this. Read on.
Getting to the point where you say I want a divorce is a huge deal.
From pain and regret to grief to even a sense of relief, considering divorce can bring on a complex mix of feelings.
We don’t enter into marriages with the thought of divorce on the other end. But even the most perfect-seeming romances can become fraught with challenges.
For some people, staying in an unhappy relationship doesn’t allow for the growth and prosperity of either person. And for others, staying in the marriage can actually be dangerous.
Before we go any further, breathe. This is tough. We know.
We build our lives around each other, our kids, our pets, and our shared finances.
And when all of that unravels, it can feel as though it takes with it the ground beneath our feet.
It can all feel so impossible.
Beyond the logistics and dealing with your own hurt, there’s having to tell people in your life.
But there’s hope on the other end.
Just because you and your partner may go separate ways, it doesn’t mean you have failed.
There is a future ahead.
Let’s talk about what you need to know.
In this article: 📝
- What are the signs that you should get a divorce?
- Is it better to divorce or stay unhappily married?
- Do I really want a divorce?
- How do you navigate a divorce with kids?
- What to do first if you want a divorce?
- How to tell my husband I want a divorce
- What to consider when divorcing with kids
- Dating after divorce with kids
What are the signs that you should get a divorce?
According to this study, the most common reasons for divorce are infidelity, domestic violence, and substance use.
If you experience any sort of abuse — physical, emotional, or financial — there are resources available that can help you.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers this guide to identifying domestic abuse and leaving an abusive relationship.
Calling the Domestic Violence Hotline on 800-799-SAFE is free and can be your first step to getting out of a dangerous situation. If calling is not possible, you can text “START” to 88788.
But marriages don’t have to be abusive to be over.
If you feel your relationship is no longer serving you, it may be time to end it.
Is it better to divorce or stay unhappily married?
In the US today, divorce is more common and less stigmatized than ever before.
Many marriages today end in divorce.
It’s often quoted as half, although this statistic is disputed.
The real number is quite a bit less than that. Either way, divorce is still common.
In contrast to just one or two generations ago, there is a lot more support out there today for divorced people and different family structures.
Some of the reasons people used to cite for not getting divorced — the kids will suffer, the wife won’t be able to support herself, etc. — are just not as applicable in today’s world.
That said, every situation is unique.
It might be true for you that staying married is a better option than getting divorced.
And you also have the option of being legally separated or getting an annulment, instead of getting divorced.
Only you can know for sure what’s right for you. But we can offer support for each other — and that can go a long way to getting clarity around our individual needs.
So the next question is:
Do I really want a divorce?
First up, it’s totally normal to have a lack of clarity around this issue.
What you’re feeling about getting divorced may change from day to day — and sometimes hourly.
Clinical psychologist and author Ann Gold Buscho tells us:
“It is normal to feel deeply ambivalent about divorcing. This is one of the biggest and most difficult decisions you will ever have to make. It is not a decision that should be made impulsively or without a lot of thought and work.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all do I want a divorce? quiz that will be appropriate for everyone.
But there are some questions that you can ask yourself to help you get some clarity.
- Has there been betrayal, abuse, or neglect? If so, it’s important to think very seriously if the relationship is serving either of you.
- Is either one of you struggling with substance use or mental health issues that have not been addressed with a professional?
- Do you agree or disagree on important values-based issues, like how to raise your children or what your long-term visions for your life are? Maybe a discussion about co-parenting is in order?
- When you look to the future, do you see your partner in it?
- Do you feel as though you have given up on your relationship? Or do you still want to put in the effort to make it work?
- Do you feel as though you’ve tried everything to make it work, and it’s still not happening?
- Do you feel like you have grown apart in ways that will not allow you to grow back together again?
Practices like journaling to track your feelings can really help.
How do you navigate a divorce with kids?
Going through a divorce is tough enough.
Going through a divorce with kids is a unique challenge.
While navigating the grief that comes with the end of a partnership, you also have to consider the well-being of the little people you love.
Before we get going, remember that, although this time can feel incredibly isolating, you’re certainly not alone.
In both 2020 and 2021 in the U.S., fourteen out of every 1,000 married women got divorced.
Every one of those fourteen had a different story and specific set of circumstances.
So if you’re looking to get out of your marriage (for whatever reason), this is a judgment-free zone.
We have a whole community at Peanut that are in the same boat (or at least the same storm).
Please reach out for support.
Is it better to stay together for the kids or get a divorce?
There is certainly not one correct answer to this question.
Some psychologists promote trying to stay together to provide stability for your children.
Others warn against the dangers of bringing up children in volatile situations that are filled with conflict.
You know your marriage best and what’s right for your family.
What we can do is let you know what the research says to help you make the decisions you need to make.
Saying that divorce can be challenging for children is, of course, an understatement.
At the time, it can feel as though the structure they have known to this point in their lives is getting a serious renovation, leading to confusion, unhappiness, and anger.
People vary greatly when it comes to their response to divorce in their family, with some people experiencing lifelong distress.
But while we certainly shouldn’t downplay the effects divorce can have, the most important consideration here is that what’s best for one family is not necessarily best for another.
Many children are really good at recovering.
Research has shown that the negative effects of divorce, like shock and anxiety, often disappear after the second year.
And if it’s the right decision for you and your family, there are ways to ease the transition.
Should I stay in an unhappy marriage for my child?
First up, if you are experiencing domestic abuse, you do not have to stay in your relationship for the sake of your child.
In fact, doing so will likely do more harm than good.
Children who witness abuse or are victims of abuse themselves are at risk for serious physical and mental health issues.
Witnessing violence can also put you at a greater risk of being in violent relationships in the future.
If you need assistance and live in the United States, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
We’ve also put together this list of resources to check out.
There is help available.
We also understand that not all unhappy marriages are abusive.
Sometimes people simply grow apart.
And unfortunately, this can lead to conflict.
Whatever the reason for your desire to divorce, know that your feelings are valid.
As marriage and family therapist Kathy Hardie Williams explains, children who witness chronic conflict between their parents may experience distress in a number of ways.
They may not have role models for healthy relationships and find it difficult to trust others.
And because parents in conflict are going through a lot themselves, they might not have as much energy for their relationship with their child.
So don’t feel as though you have to stay in an unhappy marriage for your children.
In fact, there may be many benefits for everyone involved in taking care of your own well-being.
At what age does divorce affect a child the most?
Deciding to divorce with children in the mix is going to have an effect, regardless of what age they are.
But as we’ve discussed, so will staying in a marriage that’s unhappy or full of conflict.
The research is mixed on what the most difficult age is to experience your parents’ divorce.
But there’s a strong case for elementary school age being a particularly tough time.
At this point, they’re old enough to remember being a part of a family unit and to understand how they feel about it.
But they’re still too young to process the very complex emotions that can come with this transition.
That being said, every age is tough.
And even when parents of adult children get divorced, it can have a serious emotional impact on the kids.
So perhaps it’s less about waiting for an ideal time and more about managing the transition, so everyone feels as loved, supported, and cared for as possible.
What to do first if you want a divorce?
If you have decided that you would like to get a divorce, here are some next steps to take.
1. Get support in your decision-making
Counseling can really help you sort through your thoughts and feelings around your relationship.
You can either choose to go with your partner or alone.
There are many reasons to go to couples therapy. In some cases, you may need support trying to stay together, and in others, you might need help ending things.
Either way, the process can help boost your self-awareness and the confidence you have in the decision you make.
And if counseling sounds daunting, speaking to a friend, family, or your Peanut community can help.
2. Provide support for your children
Try not to fight with your partner in front of your children.
And reassure your children as often as possible.
They need to feel as safe as possible in the changes that are coming.
Professional counseling can ease the burden of this major change.
Supporting your kids can be really tough when you’re going through so much yourself.
But it’s so important to spend time listening to their needs and concerns and encouraging them to talk about their feelings as much as possible.
3. Assess your resources
Beyond looking at your psychological and social support, it’s important to assess your basic needs.
If you’ve been sharing all your resources for years, it can be challenging to set up a new life on your own.
Lean on friends and family as you make this transition.
And if you are in danger, know that services like shelters are there for this very purpose.
4. Read up
This can be a super hard time to think logistically.
The more you learn about the divorce process ahead of time, the fewer surprises you will have along the way.
Each state is different when it comes to the legal side of things.
In some states, there is a difference in the divorce proceedings if you file based on “irreconcilable differences” vs. if you file for something like abuse or adultery.
Make sure you know your state’s divorce laws before filing.
Some other key points from Investopedia are:
- It takes twelve months on average to complete a divorce.
- The average cost of a divorce in 2019 was $12,900, usually with an additional $11,300 in lawyer fees added to that.
5. Consider legal help
The financial and legal implications of getting divorced can be very complicated.
The more you know ahead of time and the more expert advice you can get, the smoother the process will be.
If you’re ready to go ahead, the next step can be informing your partner that this is what you want.
How to tell my husband I want a divorce
Often, communicating with the person you want to end a relationship with can feel either heartbreaking or impossible — but it’s key.
That’s where divorce mediators and counselors can really come in handy.
The American Psychological Association outlines ways to have a smooth and healthy divorce. It is possible.
Again, there’s no one way to do this.
And if you are in an abusive relationship and/or worry that your partner might react violently, it’s best to first access support before letting them know that you are leaving.
If you feel safe telling your partner in person, here are some key pieces of advice from Sam Margulies, a legal expert in arbitration who has been mediating divorces for over 30 years with thousands of couples:
Consider where they’re at emotionally
Will this news blindside them, or do you think they will see it coming?
Pick a time when you won’t be interrupted
This could be a lengthy discussion, and you may need some time to talk through it.
Get rid of distractions as far as possible.
Do not defend yourself
Even if your partner responds with accusations, try not to get on the defensive.
This is not the time to air all your grievances.
It’s time to deliver news.
And try not to interrupt their response.
Tell them you’ve made your decision and that you won’t get involved in a discussion about fault.
(We know, this is really tough.)
Know that this will likely be the first of many discussions
End the conversation by assuring them you will be fair and that you would like to have this to go as smoothly as possible.
What to consider when divorcing with kids
Unfortunately, there’s no How to Divorce with Kids manual that teaches you how to do this thing.
But there are some key considerations that can really help.
We’ll take you through them.
Make your kids feel safe, loved, and heard
We understand that this may be tough — particularly if you don’t feel safe, loved, and heard yourself.
Here are some strategies that can help:
- Be straightforward, upfront, and honest, even when they’re young. That way, they’ll feel less in the dark about what’s happening.
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings, including the negative ones. And listen to them when they do.
- Keep them in the loop about all arrangements so that they feel like they have some control over their lives. (Tuesdays to Thursdays at Daddy’s house etc.)
- Reassure them they’re loved and supported by both parents and try not to talk badly about each other to them.
- Keep letting them know that the divorce is not their fault and that there’s nothing they’ve done wrong.
Understand the various forms of custody
In the U.S., there are various types of custody agreements that you can enter into:
- Legal custody, where a parent has the right to make major decisions for a child, including their schooling, medical care, and religious education.
- Physical custody, where a parent has the right to have their child live with them.
- Joint custody, where both parents have either legal or physical custody, or both.
- Sole custody, where one parent has legal and physical custody.
Counseling for the win
Going for couples counseling before you decide to get divorced is a really, really great idea.
Research on couples therapy shows it has both short and long-term benefits in relationships.
Having a third party in the mix who is a trained professional can help you get a deeper understanding of your relationship.
It will also help you learn communication skills that you can take home with you.
These skills might even help you find your way back to each other.
(And this study found that it can be as effective over videoconferencing.)
And if you have decided to get divorced:
Divorce counseling can also be incredibly beneficial.
Trained therapists can help you and your children navigate the complexities that come with divorce.
They can help you co-parent (if that’s the arrangement you’re going for) and assist your child or children as they make sense of this new chapter in their lives.
Dating after divorce with kids
OK, this can be a tough one.
But again, it’s possible to negotiate it with care and sensitivity.
Here are some top tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Wait until a relationship feels serious before introducing your dates to your kids.
- When it does come time to make the introduction, prepare both your new love interest and your children for the encounter. Tell them about each other and what you’re going to do together.
- It’s a good idea to let your ex know that the meeting is going to happen. No nasty surprises.
- Help your child navigate any negative feelings that come up. As much as you want to see sparks fly, it may take time, and their feelings are valid.
Going through a separation or divorce is incredibly challenging.
Know that it’s common for relationships to end and there’s nothing wrong with you if yours is reaching its final chapter.
You do what you think is best for your family.
And don’t forget that your Peanut community is there for you.
Lean on your people at this time.
All the best. ❤️