5 Things You Must Do Before You Walk Away From the Marriage

How many people do you know who have gotten divorced? How many of them do you think could’ve stuck it out and been better for it? When I think back over the many divorces I’ve seen in my adult life, I can think of one or two situations where it was probably the right decision. That’s it. The vast majority ended unnecessarily because there were several things to do before divorce.

Working through significant marriage issues can be challenging. And there is no silver bullet. But there are some important things to do before divorce that could provide the opportunity to see some real shifts in your relational dynamics.  Here are 5 things you must do before you walk away from your marriage.

1. Take a breath.

Marriage can be complicated and messy. But so can divorce. It can be tempting to see divorce as the answer to your problems, but it’s important to stop and think through all the implications: with your kids (which we’ll discuss more below), your finances, your relationships, and so on. Getting a divorce can be like tossing a grenade into the middle of all the support structures in your life. Before you decide to create a massive disruption for you and those closest to you, pause and count the cost. Is ending the marriage worth the price you’ll pay?

One of the most helpful things to do before divorce is to take an account of your culpability.

2. Own your part.

When I was a pastor, and someone would come to talk to me about their marriage problems, I would always make sure I said something like, “I want you to know that I realize there are two sides to this story.” A marriage rarely ends due to the actions of one person. Therefore, if you are looking at your marriage and feeling like it’s beyond saving, I would ask you to take a long hard look in the mirror. How have you contributed to your marriage being where it is? What difference might it make if you were to make some changes in yourself? One of the most helpful things to do before divorce is to take an account of your culpability. What might change if you changed?

3. Talk to your friends.

If you’ve chosen your friends well, then they are rooting for your flourishing, not just your happiness. They’re willing to say hard things and challenge your perspective. Don’t wait until after you’ve made your decision to tell your friends. Plan time to meet and process the situation with them. Ask them for their honest opinion. And if they tell you things about yourself that are uncomfortable, lean in. Listen. Take these things to heart and be willing to consider whether they see something you don’t.

4. Consider your kids.

I’m sure you’ve thought about your kids in this process, but have you thought enough about them? I often hear people say some version of, “My wife and I fight a lot. It would be better for our kids if they didn’t have to see that all the time.” To which I would say, “Of course you’re right.” But maybe the answer isn’t to get a divorce but to figure out how to stop fighting about everything. Divorce can and often does traumatize kids. That doesn’t mean it’s never the right thing, but consider whether you might be planning to sacrifice your kids’ happiness for your own.

5. See a therapist.

I’ve seen far too many people choose not to see a therapist out of pride (“She’s the one who needs help, not me!”). If you’re heading toward a divorce, you owe it to your kids, your wife (yes, your wife), and yourself to do everything you can to turn the ship around. Will it be uncomfortable? Yep. Will it cost money? Of course. Will it take lots of energy? Certainly. But you know what is more uncomfortable, expensive, and energy-sucking than counseling? You guessed it:  divorce. One of the most important things you can do before divorce is give yourself the opportunity to work through things with your wife under the leadership and care of a great counselor (ask around for recommendations). At the very worst, you’ll receive confirmation that can give you peace of mind. At the very best, you may save your marriage and your family.

Sound off: What has helped you stick with it with your wife when times have been hard?

Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What is one thing you would change about our marriage?”