Our firm often gets asked by clients, "Should I get divorced?" While this is one of the few questions we cannot answer for you, as it is highly personal in nature, we have established some good ground rules to help our clients decide this question for themselves.
Willing to Try Counseling?
It is a good sign if your spouse is willing to enter into counseling to work on your issues. On the flip side, it is generally a bad sign if your spouse is unwilling to try counseling. People and relationships usually do not change without effort. By rejecting counseling, your spouse may be telling you that your relationship is not worth the modest investment of time and money. It is also a bad sign if your spouse is only willing to work on "your" issues because they have no issues.
We almost always recommend that our clients try counseling, especially if children are involved. At best, counseling may lead to a reconciliation. At worst, you can rest easy with the knowledge that you gave your marriage your best shot. Either result is better than not trying.
Good counselors usually try to improve communication between spouses. So, even if the marriage cannot be saved, counseling may help pave the way for a more amicable divorce and for better co-parenting. Please note that "co-parent counseling" is quite different from marriage counseling and the two should not be confused.
Finally, religious based counseling (i.e. priest, reverend, rabbi etc.) is fine and can be helpful - but it is not a substitute for an experienced and expert marriage counselor. Training and experience matter in this field (as in law).
Watch Out for Some Bad Signs
It is highly important to be aware of indicators that may show you that divorce is a good option. As difficult as it can be when you spot these things, it is also helpful, because they can enable you to make a more informed decision in the long run.
Some of the red flags you should watch out for include:
- Secrecy about finances: We see this a lot. If your spouse is unwilling to share financial information with you, then you have trust issues going both ways. And your spouse may already be economically planning for a divorce.
- Alone time with a possible love interest: Your spouse spends a lot of alone time with an "ex" or somebody else they are attracted to. This may seem a "no brainer", but many people find ways to rationalize away such behavior. If your spouse is unwilling to talk about this or stop the relationship, you may have trouble.
- Secrecy about social media profiles: If your spouse spends a lot of secretive time on Facebook, Instagram, or their phone, it can be a bad sign. If your spouse has nothing to hide, they should be willing to let you in on these social media.
- Unwillingness to apologize: Your spouse rarely apologizes or admits that they have done something wrong. If absolutely everything is your fault, then what incentive does your spouse have in changing? In his or her mind, everything would be OK if only you changed.
It is also important to watch out for good things which can indicate that your marriage is healthy. These good signs include:
- Frequency in talking: You and your spouse spend a lot of time talking about things - mutual interests, children, your relationship, etc. Talking is a sign of continued connection and permits each of your to express your concerns instead of letting them fester.
- No secret-keeping: An openness with your spouse is a good thing. A few minor secrets may not be a problem, but a pattern of secrecy is a problem. Openness leads to trust, understanding, and growth.
- Both of you are a team: This team mentality in dealing with your children, finances, the world etc. is highly beneficial. If you feel like part of a team, you are probably in a healthy relationship that can weather the vicissitudes of life.
- You don’t go to sleep angry: Anger is a natural part of life and marriage. Keeping that anger within boundaries is an important component of a long and healthy marriage.
There are exceptions to every rule (for example, abuse), but we hope that these principles may help you in considering your decision. If you are in need of legal counsel with a divorce-related matter, get in touch with our Pittsburgh divorce attorneys right away!