Should You Reconcile with Your Ex Spouse?

For months – maybe even years – you wrestled with the decision to divorce your spouse. At last, you made your move. You filled out paperwork, told your spouse your intentions, and had them served. A huge weight was lifted from your shoulders when you finally made this decision, and now, you’re ready to focus on yourself and the new chapter in front of you.

But then, your spouse asked you for a second chance. 

Or maybe you started having second thoughts about this huge life change.

Should you cancel your divorce?

Obviously, there is no blanket answer to this question. For some, the answer will be no, you should not cancel your divorce. You’ve come this far in the process, and to turn back now would be to take a big step backward and give up on yourself.

For others, the answer will be yes, you should cancel your divorce. You’ve realized that you’re not ready to part ways with your spouse and want to give the relationship another try. 

And for some, the answer will be maybe. If you’re in the “maybe” boat, you’ve got a big decision to make. And although we can’t tell you what to do, we can help you think it through.

Questions to ask yourself when considering reconciliation

Reconciliation happens. If you’re considering it, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. As you reflect on your situation, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

Are you afraid of moving on?

If you’re getting cold feet, could it be because you’re afraid of the uncertainties ahead? Reduced income? Separation from your children? The fear of being alone? These are valid fears, but are they good enough reasons to stay in a marriage that makes you unhappy?

Fear of the unknown is common in divorce. If you’re struggling, read 12 Steps for Moving on after Divorce for a bit of comfort.

Are you afraid of the divorce process itself?

Divorce is not just a change in who you share your bed and home with. It’s also a complex legal process. 

You may or may not need a divorce lawyer, but you will definitely need to complete a lot of paperwork (petition/response, financial disclosures, marital settlement agreement, to name a few). You’ll also have to make some tough decisions: Who gets the marital home? How will the kids split their time between two homes? Will anyone be paying child support or alimony?

Ask yourself if you’re having second thoughts because you truly want your spouse back or because you don’t want to go through a prolonged and stressful legal process.

Knowledge is power. Download our free Divorce Process Flowchart to view a general roadmap of the divorce process.

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to patch things up?

To fix the marriage, you need a clear understanding of what prompted your thoughts of breaking up in the first place. Common reasons for divorce include infidelity, problems with communication, problems with money, boredom, and substance abuse, but these aren’t all of the possible reasons. 

Overcoming obstacles in a relationship requires hard work from both people. This may mean investing time, energy, and money in a therapist or marital counselor. Are you both willing to do what it takes?

In situations of domestic violence, safety should always come first. If you or your children are in physical, emotional, or financial danger, you can call 1-800-799-SAFE, the National Domestic Violence Hotline. 

Do you feel guilty?

When you got married, the words “‘til death do us part” may very well have been in your vows. The societal expectation that married people will stay together “forever” can weigh heavily on divorcing people. 

You may feel particularly guilty if your religion disdains divorce. You may have been schooled with the mantra that staying with your spouse is always the right thing to do. And you may fear negative judgment from people in your religious community whom you admire.

Read How to Stay Connected to Your Religion and Church during Divorce for information about what different religions say about divorce, how to lean on your church for support during divorce, and where you can find support outside of your church during divorce.

You also may be grappling with guilt if you have kids whose lives will be disrupted due to your break-up. Know that when it comes to creating a parenting plan and timeshare with your spouse, you have lots of options. Click here to view common parenting time schedules and here to read about nesting, a non-traditional approach to sharing child custody that offers some unique benefits.

Guilt and shame are painful human experiences, but that pain can be conquered. Read our article Divorce Healing: Embracing Guilt, Letting Go of Shame to learn about how “guilt” can be a tool for self-growth while shame is a dangerous physical experience that can lead to cognitive and bodily decline.

Ending your marriage (or considering it): your options

If you’re overwhelmed with doubt about your divorce, it’s possible to tap the brakes for a while if you both agree to do so. Consider these alternatives to divorce.

Trial separation

A trial separation is one in which you and your spouse “separate” while retaining all the legal benefits of marriage. You might live under separate roofs, or you might continue to share your home but sleep in separate bedrooms. One of the primary reasons for trial separation is to see if divorce is what you really want.

Legal separation

Legal separation is a lot like divorce. You will go through court proceedings and make big decisions about financial boundaries and child support and spousal support. Unlike divorce, however, you are still legally married. It’s an option some people choose for personal reasons, including religious beliefs.

Notably, you cannot remarry while you are legally separated.

Read more about the differences between legal separation and divorce here.

Marital therapy

If you’re divorcing, haven’t tried couples counseling with your spouse, and want to give it a try, therapy is definitely an option. How do you find a good couples counselor? Consider asking your family doctor for recommendations, inquiring about religious counseling at your church or place of worship, or searching the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy therapist locator

We surveyed 100 people to find out what made them finally decide to get divorced. Some of our favorite responses, in no particular order, were as follows: “I wanted to have a second chance at living a happy life.” “I was losing my sanity.” “I forgot I matter, too.”

Standing your ground

You have another option we haven’t mentioned yet: You can stand your ground. If you made the decision to divorce, you can stick to it. You have the right to a divorce. 

In the U.S., if you choose, you can get a no-fault divorce, which means you don’t have to provide a reason for your divorce other than “irreconcilable differences” or an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” In many states, you can also choose to file for fault divorce in which you allege your spouse did something to cause the end of the marriage. Not sure which option is right for you? Hello Divorce offers legal counseling sessions with an attorney in increments as little as 30 minutes.

If you’re reading this, it may be because you’re doubting your decision to get a divorce. We want you to know we see you, and it’s okay. Take a deep breath. Divorce is not an overnight decision. 

Give yourself the time you need to feel confident in your choice. Seek help from family, friends, professionals in your area, and the resources we provide on this site – including a free 15-minute phone call with an account coordinator where you can ask questions.

If you decide divorce is right for you, we'll be here to explain our various plans and services, all of which were designed to save our clients money and time.


Therapist Locator. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.



Senior Editor
Communication, Relationships, Divorce Insights
Melissa Schmitz is Senior Editor at Hello Divorce, and her greatest delight is to help make others’ lives easier – especially when they’re in the middle of a stressful life transition like divorce. After 15 years as a full-time school music teacher, she traded in her piano for a laptop and has been happily writing and editing content for the last decade. She earned her Bachelor of Psychology degree from Alma College and her teaching certificate from Michigan State University. She still plays and sings for fun at farmer’s markets, retirement homes, and the occasional bar with her local Michigan band.