In the old song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” by George and Ira Gershwin, a couple that planned to part ways because they disagree on everything—potato/potahto, tomato/tomahto —decides their differences are trivial compared to their love, and they can’t live without each other, so they better call the calling off off.
If only life were that simple.
Earlier this month, Tish Cyrus, mother of pop superstar Miley Cyrus, filed for divorce from her husband, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus. After nearly 30 years of marriage and five (now adult) children together, the couple is calling it quits—but not for the first time.
In 2010 Billy Ray filed for divorce but soon changed his mind. In 2013, Tish filed, but they again reconciled. They went to therapy and worked on communicating more effectively. At the time, Billy Ray told the press, ‘We both woke up and realized we love each other and decided we want to stay together.”
Tish has said in the past, “…I think a lot of people, when you go through struggles and difficult times, that people throw in the towel a little too easy.”
However, current court documents reveal that they haven’t been living together in two years, so perhaps it’s really over this time.
Their story isn’t unique. It’s not uncommon for spouses to reconcile midway through divorce proceedings. And many couples who call off a divorce before finalizing it go on to have successful marriages.
Here are nine reasons you might want to call off your divorce—or at least press the pause button—and three steps you can take if you decide to.
You’ve been comparing your marriage to others.
It’s easy, especially in the era of social media, to think that everyone else’s marriage is Instagram-worthy. Try not to measure your marriage against what you think you see in other relationships. Most people show only the good parts in public—no spouse, couple, or marriage is perfect. You may want to pause if you’re calling it quits because you think yours doesn’t measure up. Focus on the positive aspects of your relationship. Are you sure you want to give up what you have?
When the honeymoon phase is over, marriage can suddenly feel like hard work. You’re wondering if you gave it enough of a shot. If you called it quits soon after the nitty-gritty of making a life together kicked in, or you’re suddenly wondering if you gave it a fair chance, you might want to hold off on the divorce. Time, counseling, and improved communication may help you remember why you got married in the first place. And if it still doesn’t work out, at least you can part ways, knowing you gave it your best shot.
You declared war to win a single battle.
In a troubled time or heated moment, it’s easy to feel you’ll never work it out. But if you realize that you demanded a divorce to prove a point or win a fight, you may want to step back and see if you can patch things up.
Your rift is relatively recent.
Sometimes everything is going along pretty well, and you hit an impasse. It could be a hot-button issue, like different parenting styles or approaches to finances. These are tricky things to go through but don’t necessarily spell the end of your relationship.
You have a strong foundation of shared core values.
If you find that there’s still at least some common ground on important issues and values, there’s a decent chance you can work through peripheral problems.
You both want to move past infidelity.
For some people, understandably, cheating is a deal-breaker. It’s one of the most painful things a couple can go through. But if it’s not a pattern and you’re both willing to do the hard work of healing, you may be able to mend the marriage.
You still like being together.
It seems simplistic, but if you find you still really enjoy each other amidst all the turmoil and conflict, it might be worth trying to give it another go.
You have nagging doubts.
It’s important to distinguish this from gaslighting and manipulation that causes people to doubt their will to leave an abusive relationship. If that’s not your situation, and you’re genuinely torn about whether divorce is the right decision, you may not be ready to leave.
Divorce can be brutal.
Some couples were unprepared for the emotional, logistical, and financial intensity of ending a marriage. If being faced with the realities of the divorce process puts your problems into perspective, you can opt to try again.
So, what if you’re not ready to go through with this divorce—at least not yet?
It’s important to realize that you can’t just walk away from your divorce process. Once your case has been assigned a docket number, it will keep moving through the court system. You could run into problems down the road if you reconcile but are no longer legally married. In California, you have three main options:
Dismiss the divorce petition. You can file a notarized request to cancel the divorce process.
Suspend the divorce proceedings. It makes sense that you need to take your time and be confident with this enormous and impactful decision. If both parties agree, your lawyer can file a stipulation to put the case on hold.
Change to a legal separation. This option affords many of the same rights and conditions as a divorce (support, property division, etc.) but leaves the future open to termination or reconciliation.
If you’re in the process of a divorce and questioning whether you’ve made the right choice, the experienced family law attorneys at SFLG can help you sort through the issues and understand your options. A divorce or custody dispute may be the most difficult challenge you ever face, leaving a lasting impact on your children, finances, and family structure. While some variables are beyond your control, choosing the right law firm can make a difference.
by Debra Schoenberg