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So You’re Thinking You Need to Divorce…

You’re about to enter one of the most emotional and tumultuous periods of your life, especially if you have children. While pain and grief are inevitable, there are definitely better and worse ways to divorce. Here are some ideas of how to set yourself up to have a better divorce.1) Make sure you’re sure.

If you’re feeling hopeless and disillusioned, or fed up and angry, or wanting to teach your partner a lesson, now is the time to slow down. Don’t enter into such a life-changing decision lightly. These feelings could be momentary. Give them a chance to pass.

Know that you’ve tried everything to fix it, or know that it can’t be fixed. Or, in cases of emotional cruelty and abuse, it’s not worth trying to fix it; you need to focus on self-preservation.

If you are sure…

2) Educate yourself.

This could involve reading books about the legal process, or about the emotional process. If you have kids, I highly recommend “The Truth About Children and Divorce” by Robert E. Emery.

Talk to trusted friends and family who’ve been through divorces themselves. (Make sure they won’t repeat the conversations, which are exploratory in nature.)

If ¬†you want more specific legal advice, you’ll want to ask people if they have a divorce lawyer who helped them. Schedule consultations with a few lawyers, if possible. This is part of your reconnaissance mission; it isn’t a commitment to take any particular course of action.

The reason this is number 2 on the list is because you need to be fully prepared for what might happen. You need to start making a plan because that will affect…

3) How you choose to tell your partner.

After a long period of time where you held the other person’s interests as equal to your own, it probably feels strange to have to be strategic as well as kind. But that’s what this situation requires.

Recognize that even if you know someone well, they can be unpredictable in the face of such potential devastation. You might think there’s no way they can be surprised, because they know about all the problems, but they might not think you’d actually pull the trigger. They might feel completely unprepared.

They might feel angry, or weeping-wounded. They could beg you to change your mind. They could swear revenge. You need to be ready for any scenario, and also know that the initial reaction doesn’t necessarily tell you what’ll come next. You need to give your partner the space and time to process this emotionally. Remember, you’ve had a head start.

4) Do your best to be a partner in divorce.

What that means is, defend your rights without being vindictive. Above all, work hard to manage your own emotions. Because if your emotions are driving the car, then you will likely have a baaaaaaad divorce.

You’ll pay far more in legal fees. You’ll argue about things that, in the big picture, matter not a whit. You’ll delay your own–and your (ex)partner’s–healing and closure. The more issues you can resolve on your own with your (ex)partner, the less of an emotional and financial toll your divorce will take.

Take advantage of mediation, and collaborative divorce, and divorce counseling–all the things that let you communicate with one another effectively and arrive at solutions that are fair, equitable, and leave you feeling more positively about one another.

This is especially crucial if you have children. Because when you prolong your suffering, when you and your spouse lead with your anger, your children live through that right along with you.

Coming up with a parenting plan that puts your children’s interests first is easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important. Your children need as much consistency as possible. They need as much love as possible–the love of both you and their other parent. If they can see kindness and cooperation, they’ll believe that it’ll all be okay.

And they’ll be right.

So You’re Thinking You Need to Divorce…

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2017). So You’re Thinking You Need to Divorce…. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jan 2017
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