In my own personal opinion, one of the hardest things to do when it comes to divorce is to decide that it’s actually time to pursue it. Of all the women that I’ve spoken with over time, a few have referred to the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’; or, in other words, they can point directly to a certain point in time, or a certain event, or a certain comment, after which they knew for sure that there was no coming back.
Most of the time, though, it’s more of a slow burn. Things aren’t good. You know it. He knows it. But you’re also sort of, in a way, used to it. It’s become a lifestyle for you. It could be better, for sure, and you’ve thought about divorce, if things don’t get better… But this goes on for awhile, and then a little longer than that, and at some point you’re left wondering, “How will I know it’s time? IS it time?”
Calling it quits on your marriage is a big deal, and no matter what anybody else may tell you, I can tell you – from my experience sitting in the room with hundreds of women as they talk about what it took to end their marriage – no one takes that decision lightly. Every woman that I’ve ever spoken with has done so only after making sure that nothing else could be done to save the marriage first.
Many go to marriage counseling. Some even draft marital agreements. They try and they try, and then they try some more. They have conversations. They go on more date nights. They try to schedule vacations and meaningful time to reconnect. In short, they do everything that they can think of to try to save the marriage.
But, sometimes, no amount of marriage counseling or date nights can fix something that is irretrievably broken. And even when women know this – and know that they’d classify their own marriages as irretrievably broken – it’s still hard to take that first step.
There are a couple reasons for this, but mostly, I think, it boils down to fear of the unknown.
Fear of his reaction
Even in cases where domestic violence is not a factor, worrying about his reaction to the news that the marriage is over is a common theme. (And in marriages where domestic violence IS a factor, it’s even more important – so be sure to talk to your attorney about these concerns and how to move forward in a spouse-safe way.)
Is he going to be sad? Is he going to be mad? Will he tell the kids, before you’re ready? Will he involve the kids, or use them as pawns? Will he blame you? Will he become violent? Will he argue with you that things aren’t over yet – or that you’ve not tried hard enough? Will he talk badly about you to friends and family members?
There are a million unknowns. You’ve been with this person forever, but you suddenly feel like you can’t be sure of what his reaction will be. I actually had a client say something pretty similar to that recently. She said, “I thought I knew my husband – but then I divorced him.” She went on to tell me how she feels she doesn’t know him at all, and no longer has any insight into his point of view or knowledge of how he’ll react.
Fear of the divorce process
You’ve probably been told that divorce is horrible. You’ve probably seen or movie (or ten or twelve) that make divorce look awful. (They aren’t all First Wives Club, you know.) You probably even have a friend who had the worst divorce in the history of the world, and, in fact, even though they’ve been divorced for ages now, they STILL can’t stand to be in the same room as each other. They may even still be fighting about custody in the courts.
How bad will it be? How much will it cost? What’s going to happen, and how is it going to feel? Is it going to be as bad as everyone says it’ll be? Will you be able to support yourself afterwards? What’s going to happen to the kids?
Uncertainty can drive you crazy.
Fear of the attorney
Everyone wants an attorney – but an attorney is scary, too! Even just CALLING the attorney’s office is scary. What will they say? What will they ask? Will they judge you? Will they be nice? Will you feel ridiculous? Do you need an attorney for this? Can you afford an attorney? Can you afford NOT to have an attorney?
Attorneys are intimidating. Kind of like doctors, in a way, in the sense that they talk very quickly about things that you half understand, and then expect you to make really, really big decisions based on that information.
So, what can you do about it?
You probably can’t help that you feel afraid. After all, it’s not an easy process. It’s not easy to decide to end your marriage, and, no matter how you slice it, there’s some unknown while everything is in the process of working out.
I think the best advice that I can give you is to get as much information as you can about divorce before you set foot in the attorney’s office.
We always try to take our time and explain, but still find that questions go unasked – usually, because they don’t occur to the woman at the time because the consultation is already stressful – and that clients misunderstand basic things. When we discover that there’s a misunderstanding, we correct it, but it’s difficult to always know where the misunderstandings lie.
Ask questions – at your consultation, during the seminar (yes, we do a live question and answer with one of our six women only divorce and custody attorneys), or even after your consultation. We make it a point to follow up after each consultation to make sure you got all your questions answered, so you won’t have to feel like you’re being annoying by calling back in to just ask one thing. (Is that an issue for you, or am I just a weirdo?)
Trust your gut. You read all of this, but I can’t tell you if it’s time to get a divorce. Only you can do that. I don’t mean to cop out on you at the end, but you have to do the best you can to make the best decision possible under the circumstances. Keep in mind, too, that just coming in for an appointment doesn’t mean that you’re definitely getting a divorce; you can just use it as an information gathering session. Also, just because you start the process – whether by negotiating an agreement or going to court – doesn’t mean that you have to finish it. It happens sometimes that couples start the process and then decide to reconcile.
All that to say, your case is up to you – now, and even after you hire an attorney. We definitely wish you the best, though, and we’re happy to help.
Feel free to call our office at 757-425-5200 (promise, we’re nice!) and ask any questions that you might have, schedule a consultation, or get more information about our upcoming divorce and custody seminars. Visit our website at hoflaw.com, too!