Asking, and answering, deep personal questions can lead to better marriages, and perhaps, better divorces.
At least that's the idea behind a recent New York Times article entitled, "11 Questions to Ask before Getting a Divorce."
A while ago, the New York Times ran a widely circulated Modern Love essay about how asking questions can lead to intimacy. The essay, and a follow-up article on the same topic, was based on research by State University of New York at Stoney Brook psychology professor Arthur Aron. In Aron's study, pairs of participants asked each other 36 questions of a self-revelatory nature, in gradually-increasing intensity.
At the end of the question-and-answer session, the participants felt closer to each other. One pair went on to marry.
All of this attention on what to ask to fall in love led the editors at the Times think about a corollary: are there questions people should ask before deciding to divorce? I think the answer is a definitive yes, and I spoke to the article's author, Eric Copage, about some things to think about before making a split.
As Copage writes:
"Common sense suggests that asking the right questions before getting married can make for a better union, but rarely is the other side of the coin examined.
That could be because, by the time the prospect of divorce surfaces, spouses may already be in a stressful frame of mind, and in no mood for a game of 20 — or even 11 — questions.
"That is a mistake, said Nancy Colier, a psychotherapist in Manhattan. Even if the ultimate decision is to dissolve the marriage, asking the right questions before contacting a lawyer or mediator, and perhaps with the assistance of a marriage counselor, may prove worthwhile."
What questions should you raise, you ask? Copage's interviews led to these:
1. Have you made clear your concerns about the relationship?
2. Do you and your spouse have shared expectations about the roles you play in the relationship?
3. If there is a way to save the marriage, what would it be?
To read the rest of the story, check out the piece here.
Wendy Paris is the author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2016). Splitopia and her work on divorce have been covered by The New York Times, Real Simple, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Globe & Mail, Psychology Today, The Houston Chronicle, Salon.com, Parents.com, Family Law Quarterly, PsychCentral.com and radio and TV shows nationwide. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and is an advocate for family law reform. She is divorced, and lives in Santa Monica, California, a few blocks from her former husband, with whom she has a warm co-parenting relationship.