Getting a divorce is a big step.

Even if you know in your heart that you should end your marriage, it’s still hard to say the word out loud. Once you articulate that you want a divorce, it can feel like the train has left the station and things are out of control.

So you wait. The status quo is at least the devil you know. But some people wait for years, gathering their courage, waiting until the time is right. The sad thing is, those years spent in limbo can erode your self-esteem, wear down your health, reduce your productivity, and in general, keep you from being your best self.

But how do you know? Maybe your marriage can be repaired and you can live a happy, productive life again. Discernment counseling can provide clarity about your options, although it is not designed to actually help you fix what’s wrong in your relationship. That requires further work.

What’s your motivation for staying?

If you look into your heart, perhaps you already know what you should do. Ask yourself if fear is your basic motivator for staying in your unhappy situation.

Maybe you’re avoiding the pain of admitting to a failed marriage. Getting a divorce can feel like public humiliation. You made a mistake and now everyone will know it. But if you are suffering, you must think of your own well being first and try not to worry about what other people think.

Maybe you are not the primary breadwinner and you’re afraid you can’t pay the bills without your spouse. Or your health insurance is through your partner’s work and you will be vulnerable without it. Or you’ll have to change your way of life significantly to live within the means of your reduced income. These are real fears, but they can be overcome.

Maybe you are afraid you won’t get custody of your children or you’ll see them far less or that divorce will damage them in some way. Again, these are real fears, but before these fears rule your decision, do some research. Find out how divorce will affect your children. I have a friend who consulted a child psychiatrist before putting her divorce plans in motion.

Ask yourself if your relationship is truly broken:

Is trust in your partner destroyed beyond repair?

Is there a complete breakdown of communication between you?

Is there infidelity with no willingness to end it and make amends?

Is there a total lack of respect, bordering on contempt for the other person?

Take the time you need to ask questions, read books, find counseling and come to a conclusion that’s right for you. But don’t linger in limbo for years. Your life is precious.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: