5 Most Common Regrets I Hear from my Divorce Clients

bestself divorce healing Aug 24, 2020

In the world of divorce, custody, and the breakdown of the planned family structure, it is very easy to say, “I wish I would have done this differently.”  Rather than ruminate on regret, free yourself from those feelings by remembering you did the best you could with what you had at the time. Now, you’re working through the process, learning, growing, and you are even better equipped to handle anything life throws at you.  

If you’re new to the divorce process, read on, and take a lesson from those who have been through it.  Following are the 5 most common regrets I hear from my clients.


1.     I should have gotten a lawyer immediately.

This is probably the most common thing I hear from clients.  Many times, a client thinks that they can get divorced without a lawyer or mediator.  In some cases, this is possible, however, it is the rare exception vs. the rule.

Many couples have the very best of intentions at the onset of the divorce process.  What I see happening through the (often) slow process of divorce and child custody is that complexity leads way to frustration, resentment, and regret which then leads to changing course midway through the process.  One party may remain amicable while the other begins to get frustrated. 

My recommendation for ALL of my clients is to have legal representation.  Do your research on different types of representation including Negotiation & Divorce Litigation, Collaborative Divorce, Meditation, and Arbitration.


2.     I wish we would have faced our problems sooner.

I remember going to a couple’s counselor a handful of months into my second marriage.  I told him that this was a bad sign we were “already here.”  He chuckled, understanding my sentiment, and told me statistically speaking that couples wait an average of SIX YEARS before going to counseling.  Now, this doesn’t mean that your marriage will be divorce-proof if you kick off with a therapist but what I think it does mean is that your chances improve when you look at the issues between you, and the dynamic you bring to the marriage early and honestly.  This isn’t easy.

Perhaps you ignored relationship problems as they were happening – I am personally guilty of this.  It was easier to push it away into my subconscious, to otherwise minimize the issue instead of facing it.  Perhaps you obsessed over relationship problems as they were happening – unable to let the little things go.  Whatever happened in your marriage the impactful thing you can do towards your future is to know your role in the break down and ultimate break up.  The best way to avoid repeating your mistakes is to simply learn from them.  It’s tough to own your role in the divorce; and it’s critical.


3.     I wish I wouldn’t have begged him/her to stay.

I have a hard time hearing this from clients because on the one hand, I understand the humiliating feeling you have to live with if the plea goes unanswered.  On the other hand, I respect the sentiment behind wanting to make your marriage work at any cost, even if you have to beg. 

My experience with regret is that first of all, there’s nothing more expensive to your emotional health.  So, invest in your emotional future, and do the only thing you can which is to learn from your behavior and move on.  It’s OK if you begged and she still didn’t stay.  It’s OK if he begged and you still filed for divorce.  It’s all OK.  It’s part of your past.  Let it go.  Try to focus on the future you want to create.


4.     I wish I would have maintained my independence throughout the marriage.

When I hear this, I think fundamentally it is a way to express fear of a future without a partner.  This fear is very common and I can personally empathize with anyone, no matter how independent and strong (I have always been both!), at the prospect of living one day without the person you thought would spend the rest of his/her life committed to being your partner. 

I hear clients tell me that they gave up too much for the relationship, setting aside their own needs for the marriage.  I think societal pressure plays a role here too.  Men think they need to earn, protect, and be doting husbands and fathers while women think they need to mother, balance a career, and keep a household running.  (And each couple is inherently different, so these generalities are certainly not meant to categorize everyone.)

Between reflecting on the loss of your independence and often wondering if you’re living up to what society may expect of you based on your position, gender, age, or otherwise, it can be difficult to see a happy future.  In the end, even if you feel that you lost your independence in the marriage, you alone are the only foundation you need for the future.  All you can do moving forward is make yourself a priority, and know that you can build the life you want.  This life may very well attract in someone who helps you maintain your independence and priorities, too.  


5.     I wish I would have chosen someone else.

You may laugh a little hearing this one, but it’s true; I hear it regularly!  Believe me, I feel it every time I look back, especially at my second marriage.  But, I have NO REGRETS.  Regrets are too expensive, too heavy, too burdensome to take with me now.  I recognize the things I did that led to my divorce, which is my critical role.  In my case, one of the things I recognize and wish I did differently is that I over-idealized my partner before getting married. 

So, I wish I had a time machine to help you go back and make different choices, but really, you can’t.  You chose the person you did for reasons that were so legitimate to you at the time that you likely stood up in front of all of your friends and family and vowed your life to this other person.  The ending of that life is so very sad; there is no way around that.  You can’t go back. What you can do, however, is own your path to a healthier relationship in the future.

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