How Do I Know When It’s Finally Time to Get a Divorce?

The most common questions about divorce:

  • How do I know when it’s finally time?
  • How do I know it is the end of a relationship, not just a tough patch?

If you are wrestling with these questions, you are not alone. Millions of people struggle – deeply struggle – with these questions.

Divorce will end one chapter of your life and start a new one. Whether you initiated the divorce or your spouse does, divorce is a tremendous transition. It will sit on your personal timeline and define your before and after.

Divorce is public and private at the same time. Divorce will bring your private life into the public in uncomfortable and troubling ways. You may have friends and family commenting, suggesting, and speculating behind your back. Some of your friends and family will ignore the breakup, feeling awkward and unsure what to say. Other people will congratulate you. Some people will blame you. The best ones will support you.

In Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution, Brene Brown wrote, “If you don’t want to be criticized, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” Divorce is doing something, and you can expect to be challenged and criticized. You might even be criticizing yourself.

It’s no wonder that deciding if it’s finally time to get a divorce can feel like one of the biggest questions of your life. Many people who have successfully transitioned into a post-divorce chapter believe there are two ways of knowing it’s right for you.

Two Ways of Knowing: The Sunrise or The Lightbulb

Watching a sunrise is a drawn-out affair. First, the black sky will turn gray, and a faint glow will appear on one side of the horizon. Then, the clouds light up with color long before the sun rolls over the horizon. When did the sunrise start? When did it stop? There aren’t exact times. The light dawns gradually until, at some point, there is no denying it. You know it’s light.

For a lightbulb person, it’s dark one moment, and – ZING – the next moment, electricity is flowing through the bulb. The light comes all at once. Again, there’s no denying it: you know it’s light.

Generally speaking, are you more of a sunrise person or a lightbulb person? How did you decide to get married in the first place? That might give you a clue about how you make decisions and come to realizations, although there’s no guarantee that it will be the same again.


In a way, sunrise knowledge feels more like a choice. After all, if you don’t want to know if the sun is coming up, you can put your head in the sand, pull the covers over your head, and draw the blackout shades.

Sunrise knowledge feels more like an awakening. You start to observe and notice things; you explore options; you ask a Salt Lake divorce attorney for advice. You toy with the balance between the uncertainty of divorce and the discomfort of the current relationship. You read books and talk to people.

There might not be a moment that changes everything. Instead, it might feel like a conviction growing brighter and firmer, a stronger and stronger feeling that you’d rather live life without this person than with them. Or, it could be a clearer and clearer realization that your spouse is detaching, and that none of your efforts can change that.

A sunrise-person’s story:

As the months and then years went by, it seemed every step forward was two steps back. I tried giving my husband more latitude to explore his hobbies and for self-actualization. For example, I took more responsibility at home on the weekends so he could go rock climbing. I hoped he would feel happier with me if he had more time for one of his passions. Instead, his love for rock climbing grew stronger. His relationship with a particular rock climber became more important than our family relationships. Eventually, he told me that he’d be my partner in public, but the marriage was over in private for him. He wanted to live in our house for the kids’ sake. In the end, I left him, which was more challenging than if he’d left me.


You get a tip-off on the phone, find a trail of infidelity on your spouse’s phone or computer, or a mutual friend breaks the news. You come home early to find your partner in bed with someone else. You find drugs. Your spouse hits you or your child. For many of us, these would be deal-breakers.

Lightbulb moments can occur out of the blue, but they more often occur after a string of suspicious activity or hurt feelings.

A lightbulb-person’s story:

“My wife and I were going through marriage counseling. We had been married for seven years. We were both on the fence about whether to go ahead with a divorce. I think I was leaning more towards a divorce than she was. Well, one day after dinner I was washing dishes and she was standing next to me talking. She was saying that it wouldn’t be terrible being married to me, being that I wasn’t a wife beater, unemployed or whatever. Like, I guess it would be ok, it could be worse. And I realized that I didn’t want a wife that would settle for me. I wanted a wife that would love me. I knew right at that moment that our marriage was over. And it was.” – Marvin

Whether your story is a lightbulb or a sunrise, you have nothing to lose by taking a free consultation with a local Davis or Weber county divorce attorney. Information precedes revelation. If you feel you are in the dark, lost as to the best course of action, reach out for the support you need.


How Do I Know When It’s Finally Time to Get a Divorce?

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