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The number one reason couples don’t divorce

If you’ve postponed your divorce or are currently living apart from your spouse without initiating the divorce process, you may be feeling stuck living in a difficult situation and unsure about what steps to take next.  It’s not unusual when facing a major life change to put it off for another day. In the moment, it can feel easier and less disruptive to just bear it all for one more day.  . It’s easy to spin your wheels in the phase of “getting ready” without actually being ready.   

It’s probably not the best situation and certainly not one you want to be in forever, right?

So, why are you putting off your divorce?

What lacks in a marriage?

A Forbes Advisor report found that almost ⅓ of people asked said that they divorce because of a lack of intimacy or because of a lack of commitment.

This might not be a surprise to you. Maybe you are experiencing similar issues. Maybe you’ve given thought to the amount of commitment you feel is in your own marriage. But, the number one factor causing a divorce is not the number one factor causing a postponement of a divorce.

In general, couples who stay together cite money as a factor in postponing divorce. Financially speaking, sometimes staying together might seem like the short-term solution to avoiding a potentially costly divorce

However, delaying a divorce can end up costing significantly more.  What do I mean by that?  Well, if you are the party earning more money in the relationship, the longer you stay, the more assets you will be dividing that were earned by you.  If you divorce earlier, those future earnings will be yours.

Also, there is the added increase cost of debt.  If you or your spouse are incurring debt during your marriage, that debt can negatively impact your bottom line when it finally comes time to get a divorce.  Also, one costly mistake people make is to incur “joint debts” or to take on the debt that is of benefit to the other party.  If your spouse wants a new car, make sure the lease or financing agreement is in that spouse’s name.  And if you are contemplating divorce, it is wise to avoid “joint debt” in most instances.

Finally, think about the “opportunity cost” of staying in your broken marriage.  Being married to someone with whom you are in conflict can be emotionally exhausting – and can cause you to be distracted at work, not performing at your full potential, and losing out on opportunities to advance your career.  While trying to minimize expenses by avoiding divorce, people often do not account for the significant toll a broken marriage takes on their ability to earn money. 

Should you wait for ‘the right time’ to divorce?

One common dilemma that many individuals face is whether they should wait for ‘the right time’ to initiate the process. Well – I’ve got news for everyone.  There is never a “right time” to divorce. If you are waiting for the perfect moment to announce your decision, you may find that you are stuck in an elusive pursuit.  While there is never a “perfect time”, there are “less than ideal” times to begin the divorce process.  

Relationships are complex, and there’s rarely an ideal time to end one. Instead of fixating on the timing, it’s often more beneficial to focus on the reasons behind the decision. If a marriage is causing unhappiness, emotional distress, or is simply no longer serving both partners, waiting for the ‘right time’ may only prolong suffering. 

Here are some “general guidelines” for beginning the divorce process:

  1. Avoid momentous occasions.  Breaking the news about a divorce during the holidays, anniversary or child’s birthday can create more drama around the whole divorce, and can also taint the celebration of these events in the future.  
  2. Avoid surprises.  Blindsiding your spouse with divorce papers can be a traumatic event.  Instead, it’s a good idea to begin talking about how the marriage really isn’t working.  Ask your spouse for their insight and feedback.  This can be scary, which is why we often suggest people begin this conversation with the help of a therapist.  In fact, there is a process called Discernment Counseling that some therapists offer that help couples have the honest conversation about – what isn’t working and do we have the motivation to change.  
  3. Avoid avoidance.  You can always find a reason to put off doing hard things – and talking about divorce is a hard thing.  However, when you have made a decision, the most honest and loving thing you can do is to be honest with yourself, and your spouse.  

Some couples might separate, live apart from each other, and remain legally married. Often, one line of thinking here is that they want to keep the benefits of legal marriage and maybe wait until their kids graduate. 

This is a double edged sword, not just for yourself but also for your family. Depending on the age of the kids, it might be years until they graduate from high school or college. Being separated but technically still married can bring-up tough questions from your growing children. It might put them in the type of limbo situation emotionally that postponing divorce was supposed to avoid.

Deciding on the right time is never easy

Ultimately, the right time to divorce is when it feels right for you and aligns with your personal circumstances and values. It may not always be a seamless or clear-cut decision, but by listening to your inner voice and seeking professional guidance when necessary, you can make the choice that resonates best with you. 

When you do decide, we recommend finding a family law attorney that understands your specific circumstances and values. Their expertise can be your lifeline during this challenging period, helping you transition to a new chapter in your life with confidence and peace of mind.If you’re looking for resources on family law, collaborative divorce, co-parenting, and more, give our resource page a visit!