Episode 53: The First Thing You Should Do When You Decide to Get a Divorce

by | Last updated: Dec 7, 2023 | Podcast

So you’ve decided to end your relationship in divorce. What’s the first thing you should do next? The answer might surprise you.

In this episode of The Loving Truth podcast, you’ll learn about a much more productive first step you can take instead of the one that most likely immediately comes to mind. I’ll also teach you why it helps you commit to your decision to end your marriage.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

1:19 – Your first instinct after you realize divorce is the answer

2:08 – What a wobble list is, and the point of making one

4:18 – The process of creating your wobble list (with examples)

7:00 – Why you will second-guess your commitment to divorce at some point 

7:55 – Scenarios that can cause you to second-guess yourself most often

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Welcome to The Loving Truth Podcast where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host, relationship expert, and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.

Hello, love. This is Sharon Pope. This is The Loving Truth. I want to talk to you about the first thing that you should do when you come to the decision to divorce. It's probably not what you think it's going to be. The phrase that I will often hear is some version of, “I can't do this anymore. I'm done.”

When we utter those words, either out loud or to ourselves, it's a very sort of unsettling moment when you come to the realization that for you the marriage needs to end because, at this point, you've tried all the things you know to try to work through and navigate the struggles between the two of you.

You've tried to reconnect in what felt like a pretty disconnected marriage. You've been talking and talking and talking about all the issues to try to come to some resolution, to try to express yourself, or to try to get your needs met until all that talking, the words between you just no longer land, or they just don't matter anymore.

When you realize that divorce is the answer, your first instinct is probably going to be something along the lines of call an attorney or call your best friend, so that you can surround yourself with some support. Or it might be some version of freeze, cry, pray, or worry, some emotional response is probably what's going to come to mind.

But after coaching personally thousands of women through this process where I help women who are in the stay-or-go decision, and about half of the time people make the decision that for them, the right answer is to end the marriage where the other half decide to stay, having seen this so many times, I want to offer a much more productive first step that I want you to do. That is to create what I call a wobble list.

A wobble list. Let me explain what that is. That is a list of every reason or experience that you can think of that led you to this place of no return, that led you to making this particular decision. I don't think anyone ever decides to divorce lightly. I don't think that they do it in a flippant manner. I'm going to assume the same thing about you. There was not just one thing, it was never just one thing that ended your marriage. There were probably 10,000 little things and maybe five big things that happened inside the relationship that led you to this place.

I think our marriages are like a body of work because they happen over the course of decades together or at least years together, even if you're fairly newly married. It's never just one thing, and it's never one point in time. I want you to go back in your mind and recount as many experiences that you had that led to a place of disconnection, hurt, or withdrawal inside the relationship and express it in as much detail as you can remember.

You might think, well why bother rehashing the past? This, my friends, is not for the purpose of you sharing this information with anyone else. It's not for the purpose of justifying your decision. It is for the purpose so that when you wobble, and you will, you have a place to go to remind yourself that I did not come to this conclusion overnight, and that there are really valid reasons that led me to this decision.

First, begin with the five-ish big moments in the relationship. Those are usually pretty easy to remember. These are the affairs. This is when a parent or child dies and you feel like your partner wasn't there for you. I call those moments of truth that when you don't show up in those moments of truth, that's a big deal for your partner and it's a big deal for your marriage.

It might also have been a medical crisis of some point where you got really scared and you felt like your partner wasn't there to support you. That's another big moment of truth that I see happen periodically with couples. Think about those experiences and write down as much detail as you possibly can, and then get into the 10,000 little ones.

All the little moments that added up to something really significant. Usually, these little things in and of themselves would never be reason enough to end a relationship. It certainly wouldn't be reason enough to end a decades-long marriage. But when they all add up together, it compounds and then it becomes just, I think more than our hearts can hold sometimes.

These are the ones that you're going to have to spend some time because a lot of them I bet you've buried, I bet you've forgotten about them. I bet you've just pushed them aside, pretended like it never happened in order to keep the peace or in order to keep the marriage together. But they're also really important. These are the times when maybe you made yourself vulnerable and you wanted to be intimate with your partner, only to end up feeling really rejected on the other side of that.

Or maybe you were crying about something and really struggling with something and you just needed to be held. All your partner could do is just sit there and stare at you in silence. It just made you feel more alone and more hopeless. Or maybe it's the times when you felt like you were carrying the weight for your family so that your partner could excel in his or her career even while you were working as well.

I want you to dig into all those hurts and all those times that you felt betrayed, abandoned, lonely, rejected, any of those sorts of feelings. I want you to document it and write it down so that when you wobble, you have a place to go to remind yourself, “How did I get here? How did I come to this decision? Is it in fact the right decision?”

Now, you will second-guess yourself at some point. Most people don't do this step because when they make that decision, usually they make it in a place of being pretty pissed off at their partner. When you're in a place of anger, you're thinking, “This is how I'm always going to feel.” But the reality of emotions is that they are always in motion. They're always changing.

You might feel anger one day and you might feel deep sadness another day. You might feel doubt and second-guessing another day. They're going to move. Even as committed as you think you might be today, I promise you, you will not always feel that committed. Even in the most broken of marriages, people wobble, like where the marriage clearly needs to end, it is just destructive and painful in every way, and yet I will see one or both of the partners wobble.

Here's where I see wobbling come up most frequently. First of all, once you go see a lawyer and the lawyer tells you how difficult this process is going to be or how you're not going to come out with either the money, financial stuff, or child-rearing custody type stuff that you think or that you want, once you get a clearer picture of how this could shake out and how difficult it can be, people wobble.

Another time that I see people wobble is when they're talking to their friend who is newly divorced and is telling them about how the grass isn't greener and how they are just coming to terms with they're just going to be alone forever. If someone else shares their sad story, and then you think that has to be your story, that causes you to wobble.

Then another one would be when you see your partner in deep pain. Now this one gets lots of people because when we see someone that we care about, or even that we love hurting and they're begging for another opportunity to try to fix things and you know your heart's not in it, that is going to move you, that is going to impact you, and that will cause a wobble when you see someone that you care about in deep pain.

It also could be your children. Let's say your children express a lot of grief and despair about your decision and they beg you to reconsider. That can cause you to wobble when you see your babies in pain. This is why a wobble list, don't skip it. Yes, you can call your best friend. Yes, you can worry if you want to worry. Yes, you can call an attorney if that's what you feel like you need to do. You can do all those things, but that should not be the first thing on the list.

The first thing on the list you should do is create your own list, your wobble list. This is how you will remind yourself and this is also what will keep you out of the endless second-guessing and regretting your decision. Ultimately, this is about you learning to trust yourself. Sometimes when we get a little wobbly, we need reminders on why we can trust ourselves and trust our decision. Alright. I hope that was helpful for you. Until next time, take really good care.

If you’ve lost hope in your marriage and know that it’s time to leave but you feel too scared, lost, or overwhelmed to take action, join me for my free on-demand training: Undoing I Do. In this 60-minute class, I’ll give practical advice on how to process the emotions holding you back so you can confidently take steps toward your new happiness. This is the same process myself and thousands of other women have used to achieve tremendous healing, growth, and clarity. Sign up for the training now at sharonpope.com/undoing. I’ll see you there.

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