Here is an excerpt of a book I wrote on pre-divorce activity.
Even while divorce is so common, and even marriage seems to be losing its attraction, (unless you live in a red state, then they seem to demand it), seeking a divorce is a huge decision, not one to be taken lightly. It is expensive, stressful, tough, and if kids are involved, it can often feel devastating.
The first step in getting your own life in order is simple. The first question you need to ask is whether divorce is for you. Take a few hours and head off to someplace quiet, away from family, friends, telephones or TV sets. DO NOT go to a friend’s house, a bar or a restaurant. Find a quiet place without any distractions. Turn your beeper and phone off, or better yet, leave them someplace else. A library is a great place. Or sit in a park, near some water or trees, but make sure it is away from other people. This is a critical time. Friends, beer or distractions won’t help you with this task.
Go through each of the following questions, taking all the time you need to really think about the answers. Be totally candid and honest with yourself when you answer them. Perhaps you can spend hours on each question, or you might be completely done in 20 minutes.
There are no right or wrong answers. This is an important exercise that will help teach you about what you have to do and what kind of choices you have. The more time you spend, the clearer your decision will be in the end. The clearer the decision, the easier it is to make better choices throughout the divorce process. It will even help you learn whether you really want a divorce.
If you are one of those guys whose wife has filed for divorce, you should still go through each exercise, including this first questionnaire. It will help you make sense of things. It might even ease some of the pain that you must be feeling. Then again, you may be ready to sing and dance.
It is important that you write down each answer, even if the answer is a simple “yes” or “no”. Ready? Let’s get started:
1) Are you happy about your life, yourself, and your career?
2) If not, is there something you can do about it?
3) Does your marriage interfere with your self-respect, your life, family, your friends and your career?
4) Why did you get married?
5) Have you changed since you first met your spouse? How?
6) Have you grown and improved, or are you taking advantage of your spouse’s efforts in the marriage?
7) Has your spouse changed since you two first met and started dating? How?
8) Apart from his/her looks, his/her weight, drinking, or past-times or attitude about sex, is he/she partner of yours in other ways?
9) Does your spouse support your career and life in a meaningful way?
10) Do you actively support your spouse's life and career?
11) Do you play an active role in sustaining your relationship?
12) Have you been willing work on each other’s bad habits?
13) Have you been willing to put aside your needs for the needs of spouse or children? Has he/she done the same for you?
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Just scanning over these questions and coming up with a quick, off-the-cuff answer is not enough. You are taking an important step that will affect your future forever. You must take the time and think about each question. It helps a lot to write out your answers. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, feeling stupid or writing down personal thoughts. These are private thoughts on paper that you will never show to anyone else. But you must spend the time to put the answers in writing. There is something about that physical act of writing down your answer that makes this activity all the more helpful.
Seriously, find a place away from home, someplace quiet, peaceful and private. The more that you write, the better your eventual results and decisions will be.
When you are done, you should feel somewhat tired, yet relieved. You will probably find that your mind is calmer, clearer, yet more aware. You might be sad, angry, irate or in tears. Whatever you do next, do NOT go back to your spouse and argue about what you wrote down. Continue to sit and think for a bit. Because, after all, the only real question that you need to answer is this:
14) Is a divorce my best choice?
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You may have noticed that only a few questions ask about kids or your family life. This is on purpose. If you want to live without an anchor around your neck or if you simply want to be a good father or mother, you have to get your own life in order first.
You are the adult here. Only you can fix things that are broken. You owe it to yourself and your kids to keep yourself healthy. If you answered each question honestly and you still believe that you would be better off divorced, the sooner you start the better.
After answering these questions, if you think that your marriage has hope, start fixing it before it is too late. This book cannot give you any pointers about how to get it back on track. Every relationship is different. No book can teach you how to rekindle a marriage, or recreate a friendly, trusting partnership. Maybe something in you wrote in these answers can give you a clue of where to start.
You might seek the help of a counselor, a priest, rabbi or minister. You may be surprised to find that your spouse feels the same way and is coming to the same decision. Staying married in a successful marriage is always more preferable than a divorce. Keeping a marriage working may take some work, but if that is your decision, good luck. Stick to it.
If your answers suggest that the only rational choice is divorce, please realize that you have a lot of work ahead of you. You may have not liked reaching that conclusion. “But a divorce will hurt my kids! A divorce will hurt them.” you might argue. “They need both parents, no matter how bad it is for me. It’s better to wait until they’ve grown up.”
Actually, none of that is true. You will always be their parent, even after a divorce. They will always love you (even if you are strict when dealing with their growing pains). Your (ex) will always be their parent. Remember that they will always love him or her, too. Do not try to interfere with their relationship unless their safety is in danger.
If you two simply can’t work things out, but aren’t at each other’s throats, then perhaps joint custody is the best approach for both you and your kids. They have the advantage of having two parents, while you have the opportunity to teach them, mentor them and grow with them. (There are alternatives to joint custody which might work, especially if your spouse is brain-washing or abusing the kids.)
Either way, if your life will be better off without your spouse, act now, especially if you have kids. Otherwise, your kids are learning the wrong lessons about life at the most critical time in their lives. These are their formative years. How you deal with life, relationships and handling problems teaches them about what to expect in their own relationships and how to deal with others. It teaches them that a bad relationship and a bad marriage are inevitable. It teaches them to expect bad behavior, how to abuse, and all too much about lying, anger, screaming, and manipulation.
Staying in a bad marriage teaches your kids to think that their adult lives will be just as miserable as your own, because “if Daddy or Mommy can stick with it, so can I.” It creates memories of bad behavior, again and again and again. Those memories become expectations.
Answer this question honestly. Do you really want your child to be trapped in the same kind of marriage that you are in? If your answer is no, it is your duty to your kids to teach them that problems must be faced and solved, even if part of the solution means a divorce. You owe it to them to teach them that they can take positive steps to improve their lives. The only way to do this is to have them watch how you take those positive steps yourself. They will learn from you. They will respect you. They will still love you. And quite often they will surprise you by asking, “What took you so long?”
You cannot be a good father or a good man unless you treat yourself fairly. Divorce is scary. It is an unknown. It means leaving some sort of stability (unhappy as it is) and predictability, unpleasant as it is, for something completely different. On the other hand, divorce hands you with an eraser that lets you start your life over, just a bit older and wiser.
Don’t worry about meeting other people. Once you start getting your life in order, you will find that the world is filled with nice people with similar interests and goals.
So, why do the questionnaire? It is the best way for you to really learn whether divorce is right for you. Self-reflection is never easy. When the topic you are working on is you and your own future, it is even harder.
When you do meet someone new, GET A PRENUPT!