Separation or divorce: How do you know if your marriage is over?


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Separation or divorce is one of the most difficult decisions you may ever have to face. You might reach a decision gradually, over time or perhaps it comes about quite quickly and unexpectedly. You could be considering separation or divorce while in the midst of repairing any discord in your marriage, or you could one day firmly reach a conclusion that your marriage is over.

Often your decision will come about when the pain of staying in the same unhappy relationship outweighs the fear and anxiety of entering unchartered territory.

Five points to consider when contemplating separation and divorce

  • What are the problems impacting the marriage that you find most challenging to address or resolve?
  • What have you and your partner attempted to do to better assess, understand and overcome these challenges in your marriage?
  • What are the outcomes to date of your efforts to repair the relationship?
  • Have these outcomes been sufficiently successful to boost your confidence in the relationship, or have they merely served to re-affirm and re-emphasize your doubts about the longevity of the relationship?
  • What’s keeping you in the marriage, and what’s keeping you from leaving the marriage?

If doing an inventory of your relationship has led you to think that separation and divorce is a consideration, then thinking about supports – informational and emotional – can be an important step in moving forward.

Helpful supports for getting you through separation and divorce


The ongoing support of a trained clinician can assist you in coming to terms with your decision and provide much-needed emotional support as you determine how best to cope with the difficult times ahead. Your Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) is an excellent place to start to seek out the support you and those you care about may benefit from.

Legal Advice

Legal counsel is often of paramount importance as you attempt to decipher what is required to draft and formalize a separation and divorce agreement. Your EFAP can offer you valuable legal resources and information to access. Canadian governmental websites such as the Department of Justice will also help.

Financial Advice

Addressing your financial security in the wake of a separation and divorce is very important. This involves looking at joint financial responsibilities and assets within the marriage and how you will untangle these in the context of a separation and divorce. Financial coaching and consultation may be available via your EFAP. Various resources on the web, such as are also good places to start in learning more about how to approach and plan for the financial aspects of a separation and divorce.

Getting the information and support you need at the beginning can better prepare you to cope with the inevitable stress that you may experience as you move towards greater independence from your relationship, and will help you see beyond the immediate stressors towards building a new and fulfilling life for yourself. With good supports in place, you will find that not only can you cope with divorce, but you can also survive it and even thrive after it.

Sara Marchese has honed considerable expertise as a clinician and manager in the area of addictions, workplace health and wellness, and relational dynamics. A graduate of McGill University, Sara has over 20 years’ experience working both within the community and in employee and family assistance programming. Sara’s present focus includes the strategic development and implementation of online behavioural health solutions, as well as various research initiatives aimed at identifying and enhancing the accessibility and effectiveness of specialized programming for EFAP clientele.

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