A lot of people file for divorce because they’re in fantasy mode, or fear mode. What are the signs of each, and how can you make your decision from a clear-eyed place?

Here are some thoughts.Fantasy mode is that you’re tired of your current reality, and you’re hungering for something different, maybe anything different. You’ll know you’re in this mode if you’re spending the vast majority of time imagining all the ways you’re going to trade up, and precious little time considering what you (and your children) will be giving up.

Now, a little fantasy is great to get you through the hard times, but if you only take this perspective–if you imagine that the grass MUST be greener on the other side–then you’re likely to meet a harsh reality once you actually do divorce.

Remember that if you have young children, you will have to co-parent with your ex for years to come. You might have to accept a whole lot less influence, and control. You’ll also have to accept that you’ll be losing time with your children, and the amount will vary based on the custody agreement. But there will be a loss, and that’s what fantasy mode ignores.

Then there’s fear mode. This is when you are most likely to decide to stay–to decide that the current reality has to be better than entering the unknown.  It means you are likely to accept less than you deserve because you’re afraid of the tumultuous times that are to come.

And yes, some tumult is likely. But it also likely to be temporary. People adjust to their new realities most of the time, especially if they’ve had an active role in shaping those new realities, in taking some degree of control while accepting that they can’t control everything.

Or anxiety and fear might make you want to leave. Let’s say you’ve found out that your partner was cheating, and you’re terrified that there’s no repairing the relationship or that people will judge you for staying. You might be afraid to go through couples therapy and learn more, or be hurt worse, or to put all that energy into fixing something that ultimately can’t be fixed.

But now’s when you need to slow down. Don’t let your emotions drive the car, especially on such an important decision.

Here’s where the balance comes in. Balancing fear and fantasy, weighing out the full range of possibilities, while also honestly evaluating whether you’ve done your best to salvage what’s good in your marriage, puts you in the best position.

So before you consider divorce, consider your own frame of mind. Make sure that you’re in the most stable and calm place from which to gather information as well as think through what you know about your own particular situation. Unless you or your children are in physical danger, decisions don’t have to be made instantly.

Take a deep breath, get grounded, and trust yourself.