The divorce readiness scale is a useful way to understand the dynamics in a relationship when one of the partners is considering a breakup or divorce – there are predictable reactions from each of the partners depending on where they fall on the scale.
To understand the scale, picture a straight line going from left to right, with an endpoint on the left, and a line with an arrow extending out to the right. Imagine a “0” at the endpoint, and a “10” somewhere near the end of the line on the right.
In any relationship, we can place the two partners somewhere on this continuum. Couples who are happily together with no thoughts of divorce would be at “0.” Two people who are in agreement about ending their relationship would be somewhere near or at “10.” In most cases of a breakup or divorce, especially when there are children involved, it is much more typical that one partner will be high on the scale and the other will be low. The size of the gap gives a good indication of just how difficult the breakup will be, at least on an emotional level.
The closer a person is to “10,” the higher readiness they have for a breakup or divorce. This person feels more keenly the issues in the relationship, and most likely has a greater number of frustrations or dissatisfactions with the relationship. It’s likely they’ve been struggling with the decision to end it for some time, and have been mourning the loss of the relationship well before mentioning separation or divorce.
The closer a person is to “0,” the lower their readiness and the greater shock there seems to be when their partner says they want to end the relationship. The rejection and hurt felt at this stage is intense, and can lead to a tremendous amount of pain, rage, and conflict, conflict that can quickly spill over onto the children. This is often the time when an unhealthy alliance between parent and child begins to form, an alliance in which the child feels protective of the rejected parent and consciously or unconsciously feels the need to resist the parent who initiates the separation or divorce.
For those higher on the divorce readiness scale, it’s helpful to recognize just how deeply the decision to divorce can hit their partner. The person initiating the divorce has also experienced significant emotional pain and loss, but this pain and loss has typically occurred over a longer stretch of time. The rejected partner feels this in the form of an acute crisis, even if they were well aware of the problems in the relationship.
Giving the rejected partner time to adjust to this change can help mitigate the potential for conflict when it comes to working through the issues of divorce. At the same time, there needs to also be forward movement in resolving these issues. The professionals who work with families at this time of their lives – attorneys, therapists, etc. – can help support this understanding and compassion, while still keeping the process moving forward