DIVORCE
09/10/2015 06:34 pm ET Updated Sep 11, 2015

10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage

Give some serious consideration to these questions before initiating a divorce.
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The decision to end a marriage isn't one that most people take lightly. Oftentimes, moving forward and filing for divorce comes after months or years of trying to make it work and weighing your options. 

To help our readers who are currently considering splitting up, we asked experts of all stripes (attorneys, marriage therapists, financial advisors) to share the most important questions they believe people should ask themselves before filing for divorce.

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Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at Cornell University and the author of 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, recommends reflecting on what brought you and your spouse together.

Why did we fall in love in the first place?

"Over and over, older couples I've interviewed have said you need to think back on what attracted you to your spouse in the first place before divorcing. Look very carefully at what made you fall in love with your partner -- then track back to see when and how things began to go wrong. The people I've spoken to have said that reflecting seriously on what brought you together can give you the will to keep trying. A little reflection may help you decide what you need to do to get things back on track."

Why aren't we in counseling?

"Amazingly, few couples seek marriage counseling before they divorce. Given the importance of the decision to split up, couples owe it to themselves to at least try counseling before calling it quits."

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Professional divorce coach Laura Miolla recommends giving some thought as to what the future holds if you stay or if you go. 

What is truly within your control to change?

"Look at all the things you don't like in your relationship. How many of those issues are truly within your control to change? If all those issues lie solely with your partner, then you don't have any control over them whatsoever. And unless your partner is wiling to make a concerted effort to change those things (versus just saying they will), then you really only have one choice: continue to compromise yourself or get out." 

How would you feel if your next five years were just like the last five?

"No one wants to live with regret. So it's quite simple: Imagine yourself five years from now. Is getting a divorce a decision you'll regret? Or will there be relief that you are breaking a pattern of misery that's gone on too long? A gut check on that simple question will give you a good sense of which direction is the best path for you." 

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Texas-based divorce attorney Adam Kielich stresses the need to accept the finality of a divorce. 

Am I really prepared to go through with this?  

"You need to be certain that you have no interest in maintaining the marriage and are ready to live on your own. It’s extremely rare to rebuild a healthy marriage after a person tells his or her spouse that the marriage is over. If you have any desire to work on the marriage then you should do that first."

Am I prepared to keep my emotions out of the divorce process? 
"If you go into your divorce expecting to use the process as an emotional weapon against your spouse, then you should prepare for your divorce to be a miserable and expensive experience. Your divorce is not the time to lead with your emotions (though it is undoubtedly an emotional time). If you can divide the emotional aspect from the legal aspect of your divorce you will maximize the value of the counsel of your attorney and improve your chances of coming away from the divorce in a healthier and more stable position."  

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Justin Reckers, a certified financial planner and the chief executive officer of WellSpring Divorce Advisors, recommends giving some serious thought to how the divorce process could change your standard of living. 

If I go through with this, will I be able to maintain my lifestyle?

"Few people are able to maintain the lifestyle they had during the marriage. The family income must now cover two bottles of milk, pay two mortgage or rent payments and support two completely separate households. Lifestyles must change in all but the most wealthy and frugal of families. You'll have to make financial sacrifices. Create current and forward looking budgets. Write down your three must have, non-negotiable lifestyle expenses and prepare to make changes everywhere else."

How do I pay my expenses during the divorce process? 

"Make sure you have access to funds to pay your attorney and your basic living expenses in case your spouse cuts off your access to accounts. Open a credit card in your individual name before you file and consider how you will fund legal expenses. Borrowing from family may be an option. But remember, it's not uncommon for individuals to accumulate credit card debt and damage their credit scores during divorce. Be careful so it doesn't ruin your chances of buying a new home or car later on." 

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Laura Young, a New York City-based psychotherapist, stresses the need for closure should you decide to initiate the divorce. 

Will I try to move on from the divorce and not see myself as a victim? 

"Not many people want to feel like a victim but if you allow yourself to feel victimized by the divorce, the healing process will take much longer. Feeling wronged leaves you hanging onto your spouse and only results in bitterness. It's a bit like the saying, 'Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.'" 

Can my partner and I try to honor our marriage and the memories we share? 

"This rarely happens but couples should ask themselves the following questions: Can we be sad and grieve together? Can we learn from what we each did well in the relationship? At this point, you probably know each other better than anyone else. Asking these questions gives you the rare opportunity to learn something about yourselves that you may want to work on, alter or change in your next relationship. (Or it could save your marriage; while honoring the potential end of a marriage, both spouses may share vital information the other needed to hear in order to show up and put some effort into the marriage.) In short, don’t process what you 'shoulda, woulda, coulda' done differently after your spouse has left. Do it now and try to limit your regret."

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