Understanding Cold Feet Before a Divorce

  • Cold feet can develop when someone is considering pursuing a divorce.
  • Many times, cold feet develop due to the individual considering the divorce thinking about how a divorce would affect everyone but themselves.
  • Children are always factored into the decision to divorce.

"Your children do not want you to be unhappy."

Marital problems can spring up at any point during the union. Whether it is five minutes after the ‘I do’s or fifty years later, issues can surface and put enough stress on any relationship, that forces a certain level of reevaluation. The individuals involved in the relationship have to understand the functionality of the union and whether it is sustainable. Additionally, there are countless other factors that go into thinking about the next step, in whether to move forward or end an unhappy marriage. Weighing these factors requires either or both parties to consider making a final decision.

Making that type of decision is not something done lightly. Then again, marrying someone is usually not something done lightly either. This is why it can be so difficult for so many individuals to pursue a divorce.

History lesson

The concept of cold feet is an idiom that began in the second edition of a 1896 Stephen Crane novel entitled, “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets”. According to Slate, it was later adopted to describe individuals who refused to fight in wars. There also are claims from as early as 1862, that the words were used to describe someone who was afraid to stay at a card table, after winning a few hands.

The history of the idiom helps undecided individuals understand that they are not the first to find themselves in some sort of crossroads. For couples considering separation or divorce, it’s important to factor in various aspects of their lives before making such a final decision. How will it affect their children, if they have children? What will a custody fight entail? Will there be one? How would visitation scheduling shake out? How will finances and assets factor into the process? Where will both parties live? Would mediation be beneficial? What about holidays? Would the father get the kids on father’s day? What about the mother’s grandfather? Does he get to see his grandchildren on father’s day? What about the father’s mother on mother’s day? Does she get to see her grandchildren on mother’s day?

Situations involving divorce can seem increasingly complicated and can lead to an endless loop of similar lines of questioning that can drive an individual up a wall. It also can drive them to reconsider the divorce process entirely.


The art of second-guessing is something not beholden to the divorce experience, but has historically been considered to be part of the process. It usually entails weighing pros and cons and deciding whether the cons are serious enough or not to pursue a divorce. One of the factors that is weighed during the decision-making process is happiness. How happy are you in the marriage? How happy is your spouse? What have they done to adversely affect your happiness? Is it serious enough that you feel that you need to take action, in an effort to remove yourself from this situation?

These questions separate the ones within the marriage from those that would be affected, should the marriage end. This is an important distinction for men and women considering a divorce, because so many of their decisions are based on the perception and well-being of others. What will other people think of me? How will this action affect them?

Children are considered

It is noble and kind to consider the feelings of others when considering any type of life-changing decision, and with children, you want to do the best you can for them at all times. As a parent, making sure that they have the best life that you can possibly give them is part of the package. However, in an unhappy marriage, where arguing, dysfunction, negativity, and harmful behavior are a norm, that goal is not feasible.

In pursuing a better life for yourself, you may be damaging what your child or children see as their family, but in making the decision decisively, you are pulling off the Band-Aid, as opposed to dragging it out and forcing your children to sit through the damaging and harmful display of two pillars in their lives slowly continue their combative and unhappy marriage. Your children do not want you to be unhappy.

They want their parent to be whole. Even though they’re going to be hurt and may not understand the situation, they hopefully will learn to adjust and accept their new arrangement. The time that it will take for them to readjust is the time it will take for them to realize that you are a happier individual and can be a more effective parent outside of an unhappy marriage than inside of it.

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