Ten Steps to a Decision

The fears surrounding divorce are the same for almost everyone. This book provides ten steps to help you examine how serious the problems are in your marriage, what you might try to do to improve it, and, if that’s not possible, whether it’s time to separate and divorce. It presents the best research and personal examples about divorce drawn from twenty-five years of counseling individuals and couples, as well as scores of interviews conducted for the book. Whether you decide to stay and try to work it out, or go, this book will help you formulate a step-by-step, concrete plan for action.
Just as important as facing your fear of divorce is understanding the high cost of the alternative to divorce—continuing to live in an unhappy marriage. This book will provide you with guidance on what’s important to make your marriage work better, and what steps to take to figure out if yours cannot.

Here is a summary of the steps we will discuss in detail throughout the book:

1. Determine: Is my marriage unhappy? How unhappy am I?
2. Ask yourself: Is our parenting faltering?
3. Look at your children right now: Is our unhappy family affecting their
school performance, behavior, and self-esteem?
4. Face the truth: What is the quality of our sexual life? Have we maintained
emotional intimacy in our marriage?
5. Assess: Is marital stress affecting my physical and mental health? My children’s?
6. Take an inventory: What are my fears about separating and divorcing What
stigma and shame do I fear from my family, friends, religion, and community?
7. Evaluate your situation realistically: If I divorce, what do I fear will happen to my
children? Will I lose them? Can I accept not seeing them every day?
8. Face your fears: What financial repercussions of separation and divorce frighten
me?
9. Take another inventory: Have I exhausted every remedy to heal my marriage?
10. Decide: What is my plan?

At the end of the discussion of each step, you’ll find a summary of questions you need to ask yourself to help make a decision about how off track that aspect of your marriage may be. The questions are designed to hold up a mirror to your marriage, although the test itself is not a scientific evaluation. We recommend that you set a threshold for yourself. For most people, answering “yes” even 25 percent of the time signals that you may have serious problems in your marriage. If you answer “yes” to 50 percent or more of the questions, especially to the questions in step 9—Have I Exhausted Every Remedy?—it’s an even stronger signal that your marriage may be in serious trouble, and that you should seek professional help.

As you read this book, please keep the following statistics in mind:

  • Five years after divorce at least 75 percent of women feel better off and have recovered financially, whether they initiated the divorce or not. Women initiate two-thirds of all separations, as reported by psychologist Judith Wallerstein in her book Second Chances.
  • Also according to Wallerstein, after five years, two-thirds of men report strong preferences for their lives postdivorce.
  • Two leading American professors of sociology, Frank Furstenburg and Andrew Cherlin, reported in their book Divided Families that two years after their parents’ separation or divorce over two-thirds of the fifteen thousand children studied improved in their schoolwork and behavior, compared with their performance prior to their parents’ separation.

Excerpted from Introduction

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