01/16/2014 08:49 EST | Updated 03/18/2014 05:59 EDT

How to Decide If You Need a Divorce

5 Questions to help you decide whether to stay or go.

Another January, another New Year's resolution to get your marriage back on track or move on.

With one foot already out the door of a long time marriage, it can be difficult to muster the energy to face the challenge of changing the old dynamics and tired patterns of a relationship. Especially if you have tried couples counselling in the past, have given up on or put up with unpleasant aspects of the relationship, there is little motivation to give it another shot.

As divorce professionals, we are often asked what drives the decision to stay in a marriage or relationship or to leave it. Almost everyone who has ever been in a marriage or a long-term relationship has had moments of doubt and uncertainty. Not all relationships are held together by intimacy. Not all relationships are cemented by common interests or common friends. The real question we are being asked is whether there is a measure of a successful relationship.

Contemplating the end of a marriage or relationship means imagining loss of the known. No matter how unfulfilled the day may seem, it has a quality of repetition and sometimes predictability. For many older couples, the prospect of change is more daunting than the option of staying in an unfulfilling marriage.

The threat of divorce can be a last resort -- a wake-up call to get a partner's attention. Can the words themselves "I want a divorce" magically bring a partner to their senses? Will they suddenly understand what they are about to lose? Will they make a sea change and in a moment, the marriage will be pulled back from the jaws of disaster?

For most people, the decision to leave a marriage is made over time. They go back and forth on it, sometimes hoping for change and at other times hoping for the courage to make a move. They deal with the decision on many levels -- emotional, practical and financial. It is seldom emergencies that push the decision to separate after a long-term marriage.

Although there is no one formula that will lead to an answer, there are some questions you can ask yourself to help you move from indecision to decision. In our book,' When Harry Left Sally', we suggest these as a starting point to help you make the difficult decision to stay or go:

1. What am I getting from this marriage that I need?

2. Am I leaving because I have a positive goal for myself, as opposed to moving away from something I don't want to make the effort to fix?

3. Am I balancing my personal needs with those of my family?

4. Can I accept things the way they are? Can I accept responsibility for changing myself if I cannot change my partner?

5. What are my worst fears and how can I face them?

Remember, just because it's January, there is no reason to rush into a decision that will last a lifetime. Divorce is a process, not an event. Take the time to make sure it's what you want and need.

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