Exit Strategies

A few days ago the New York Times posted an article in their Weddings/Celebrations section  titled “Talking Points.” The article consisted of a short list of questions that the author suggested couples discuss prior to marriage.

Some questions like, “to what extent are you willing to go to have a family, medically?” and, “will we share our credit reports with each other?” seemed to be pretty straightforward and something one might naturally discuss with their partner over the course of their relationship. There were also other questions I would have never considered such as, “what will we do if we find out our child has severe disabilities?” that seemed very valid. I had never thought to discuss something like that with Mr. Hawk, but I think it would be a great conversation to have.

Finding it thought provoking, I was about to hit the forward button to Mr. H. Then I came to the end of the list. “Should we have an exit strategy for the marriage, and if so, what would it be?”

I had a hard time stomaching this one, as it seemed so counterintuitive to me. I wouldn’t think most people go into something as serious as a marriage with an exit strategy. Is it like the saying, “prepare for the worst and hope for the best?” Maybe I thought this question was a way of dooming a relationship because I faithfully believe that Mr. H and I will make our marriage work. Is it pessimistic planning for the end or just a dash of harsh realism given current divorce rates? I couldn’t decide and am still having a hard time processing it.

What do y’all think? Is an exit strategy something to discuss prior to marriage? What other questions do you think should be discussed before tying the knot?


Mrs. Hawk

Richmond, VA
Wedding Date:
May 2012
100 Days
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  1. Member
    chasesgirl 5366 posts, Bee Keeper @ 2:10 pm

    I believe it was former First Lady Bush (the elder) who is quoted as saying when asked if she ever considered divorcing G. Bush, “Divorce? Never. I did consider murder a few times though.” All jokes aside, I believe (baring abuse absolutely and infidelity loosely) that marriage is for life and there is no exit strategy needed. There is a reason the vows say “better OR Worse”
    Some of the other questions seem to be good talking points though!

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    Lone Star, Guest @ 2:15 pm

    I think the advice to consider an “exit strategy” is poor. I heard marriage described in this great way: Think of it as a roller coaster. You’re belted in, and they took away all the exits and exit signs. If you act like there is no exit, there won’t need to be one!

  3. Member
    MissCanyon 212 posts, Helper bee @ 2:18 pm

    Mr. Canyon and I discussed this and have an action plan. Obviously, we don’t WANT to press ‘Go’ on said action plan but at the same time…if things really are at such a level where divorce is the only option left on the table, we agreed that we love each other too much to force someone to stay in a relationship that isn’t good for them.

    I know that sounds weird. But having been a child witnessing the very messy ugly horrifying divorce of my parents, I can tell you that I wished that they would have parted ways while they still had respect for one another. More than 25 years after the fact…their lingering pain is still an issue. I think that at some point, if you’ve tried every option and the relationship isn’t going to work, couples should part ways while there’s still a shred of affection and respect and not wait until they literally want to kill each other.

    In our minds (me and Mr. Canyon), marriage is a choice every day and no one is ‘forced’ to stay. That being said, we’ve made a public statement (in the form of our wedding) that we’re going to try our very darndest to go this life together the whole way through. For us, it’s easier thinking ‘I CHOOSE you’ every day rather that ‘I’m STUCK with you and I’m miserable’

    (I should also note that we never said ’til death do we part’ so if, for some reason, we don’t end up married until we die…we won’t have broken any vows.)

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    ALK, Guest @ 2:22 pm

    I think the question is worth discussing–the question isn’t “what should our exit strategy be, since we obviously need one!”, it’s “should we have an exit strategy?”

    My fi and I have had that conversation and surprised each other when we came out on opposite sides. He comes from a background with parents that for many reasons–alcoholism, codependency, abuse, etc– should have parted ways long ago, but are still together. After what he’s seen his codependent parent go through, he wanted to be sure that I had an exit strategy and/or defined limit in case our relationship ever devolved to that level. My feeling is, I wouldn’t have said yes if I suspected anything of the sort could ever happen between us! We didn’t really come to a solid conclusion one way or the other, but it was enlightening and valuable to recognize our different thinking on the issue.

  5. Member
    melodicsighs1 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:27 pm

    I think part of the reason divorce rates are so high is because people have decided that divorce is a valid option. I’m not saying that divorce is never an option, but when people go in with an exit strategy in mind, it’s that much easier to just walk out the door instead of stay and fight when things get rough. So, no, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go into marriage with an “exit strategy” in mind.

  6. Member
    Miss_Manda 301 posts, Helper bee @ 2:34 pm

    I agree with ALK who stated that the question is not “What is our exit strategy?” but “Should we have one?” I am lucky and blessed to be the child of happily married parents, and so for me, the answer is NO, we should NOT have an exit strategy. My FI has been divorced once before, so I’m curious what his thoughts on the question are… and it’s kind of nice to have the little separation that “I’m not asking… it’s just a question suggested by this article!”.

  7. Member
    MissCanyon 212 posts, Helper bee @ 2:41 pm

    I feel like I need to explain myself a little better. :)

    Obviously, this is WeddingBee, not DivorceBee so I think we can all agree that all of our preferred options are to make our marriages last until the end of time. Even stronger than ‘preferred options’….we are KNOW our marriages are going to stand up to whatever changes come up in our lives. (why else would we get married??) So, that’s just a given for us in this community (including myself!)

    But for a moment, I’m going to say something radical (please humor me and don’t attack)….why isn’t divorce a valid option? (and really…to melodicsighs1’s point, society has already clearly stated that it is)

    I’m not talking about Kardashian-style marriage -> divorce here. I’m talking about two people who walked into marriage with eyes wide open with lots and lots of love and a joint commitment to really stick it out through thick and thin but then, at some point (hopefully after loads of counseling and genuine effort) they find themselves toxic to each other? In that case, is divorce such a horrible thing? I would argue ‘no’. Granted, I come from a non-religious lens and Hubby and I are still debating having children. I fully recognize that once children come into the picture, divorce is much messier and more terrible that it would be with just the married couple alone.

    But assuming two people have tried their hardest and there aren’t children involved, what’s the better option? Divorce (releasing each other to lead a life that’s more in-line with what they need and still having love and respect for them) or staying married simply because you have to? What if you were unhappy and genuinely unfulfilled for the rest of your life?

    Genuine question. I’m not trying to say that any of the other opinions listed here are wrong.

  8. aardvark Member
    aardvark 1129 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:43 pm

    I think they could have phrased it differently. Mr. Aardvark and I talked about pre-nups one day. Nierther of us want one or see the need for one but it was an interesting conversation to have. I agree with you that marriage shouldn’t have an “exit” (That’s kinda the whole point) but talking about why/how some marriages do end could be a good thing to do with your FH.

  9. Member
    Bias 98 posts, Worker bee @ 2:45 pm

    I’d say I’m in favour of having an exit strategy, although FI and I haven’t discussed it ourselves. We all know the exits are out there, and there are good reasons to use them sometimes. Knowing that there is an “exit strategy” doesn’t undermine your efforts at staying together for better or worse, in my opinion. You take your vows to make a commitment to one another, and to be partners/friends through the ups and downs. That means weathering some hard times, potentially, and deciding together how to handle them.

    An “exit strategy” sounds to me like a way to protect yourself if things get out of hand – i.e. to the point that it’s unhealthy for one or both to stay in the relationship. That’s all it is. We all know the exits are there and we enter marriage hoping not to have to use them.

  10. Member
    Coffee cup 2319 posts, Buzzing bee @ 3:19 pm

    Wow, this is an interesting subject. As for the exit strategy, I think is odd obviously, but I think it’s one of those things you do thinking you’ll never use like a prenup. A friend says it is “attraction law” rather than being prepared you have an excuse.
    I wouldn’t do it, call me old fashion or superstitious. I heard Will and Jada Pinket-Smith talking once about their marriage and they said that the key to their success fas that there was no way out, divorce is unexistent so if the things are difficult they just work things out, no way around it, I liked that.

  11. Member
    Coffee cup 2319 posts, Buzzing bee @ 3:28 pm

    @MissCanyon: I think you have a great point, of course divorse shouldn’t be the first (or second or third) choice, but you get married to be happy, if you’re genuinely unhappy, what’s the point?
    Even when there’s children in the picture, two loving, friendly divorced parents are WAY better than two toxic fighting-all-the-time married parents.

  12. msdoe Member
    msdoe 639 posts, Busy bee @ 3:30 pm

    Great topic. I personally do not need nor want to discuss an exit strategy. If that is right for some couples, then hey that’s their thing. But for us, no way. :)

  13. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 3:46 pm

    Maybe it’s the realist (/lawyer) in me, but I don’t read this as such a bad thing. I do think exit strategy was a poor choice of words, but I read it to mean ‘what will we do if we start having serious doubts’. I think some people assume having doubts is the end and just give up mentally or emotionally, but discussing a strategy or plan (such as seeking counseling together or separately, sleeping apart for a period of time, etc.) before you’re even married is not a bad thing to consider. I always prepare for the worst and hope for the best though, so maybe that’s just me.

  14. woodpecker Member
    woodpecker 270 posts, Helper bee @ 4:42 pm

    This is very interesting. Mr. WP and I both come from divorced families, and our view on divorce is “we’ll work out whatever happens, marriage is forever”. The psychologist in me wants to say that having a plan is like an “out” and kind of makes you work less at making a marriage work, should, down the line, something come up…kind of that thoughts determine your behaviors. However, I do realize that marriage now means something different to everyone, and I respect that.

  15. Guest Icon Guest
    Elle, Guest @ 5:27 pm

    We haven’t talked about it, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all. It’s like knowing your fire escape routes – you never want your house to burn down, but if it does, you want to know how to get out.

    Likewise, you want to minimize the lasting hurt you do to each other while you’re in a situation where you will be neither logical nor the best version of yourself. I see this as so important, especially if children are involved. They need you to be respectful and caring toward their other parent at all times, even when you’re just going through pre-planned motions.

  16. Member
    axeyourmakeupkit 2103 posts, Buzzing bee @ 5:49 pm

    My SO and I have been together for eleven (11) years this July. There isn’t a topic we have not discussed including everything mentioned here.

    His parents are divorced and did so after four years of marriage when he was two. The proceeded to abuse each other from their new marriages and drag my SO through it his entire life. My parents have been happily married for 38 years. We have put off getting married due to my fear of the very high divorce rate.

    As far as I am concerned the phrase ‘exit strategy’ is the problem. In my opinion it should maybe be ‘panic button strategy’ what is our emergency plan if we are part of the 50% who don’t think they can make it.

    Our plan is to stay as ridiculously communicative as possible so that nothing ever gets away from us. This way we can never say something ‘all of a sudden’ changed. We are aware, we are in tune, we discuss every single issue as it comes up and yet we are tolerant of bad moods, bad days and the ever constant ebb and flow.

    It helps that we have been together a third of our lives, have lived together for 10 years and truly enjoy each other to the fullest.

    So often on the boards I see women saying they are marrying their best friend and then turn around and say they are scared to talk to them about XYZ!!! That is not the sign of a best friend.

    Marry for the right reasons because when the shit hits the fan or life hands you a disaster all you have is your choice in who you dig out with. Choose wisely.

  17. hawk Member
    hawk 1117 posts, Bumble bee @ 5:56 pm

    Wow, great responses! I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s take.

  18. Guest Icon Guest
    Anexplosion, Guest @ 9:48 pm

    @andilovesjosh: THANK YOU. I don’t think enough people understand this. There shouldn’t be anything you’re not able to talk about with the person you are marrying, no matter how strange/morbid/depressing/scary!

  19. Member
    Ms Rocky Point 474 posts, Helper bee @ 11:22 pm

    There’s nothing wrong with an exit strategy. There’s nothing wrong with a pre-nup and people having been doing those for decades. Part of being an adult is knowing that there is more to love than twinkle eyes and passion between the sheets. Its as valid a question/discussion point as any other Miss Hawk found in her article.

  20. Guest Icon Guest
    Vanessa, Guest @ 1:29 am

    It depends on what are your definitions of love and marriage and if you are on the same page. I like to think that there is no need for an exit strategy if you plan on keeping the most important promise of your life. So many people believe that love is simply romantic feelings and that when those feelings fade, the love is gone, rather than a daily choice you make whether you feel like it or not. It is something I value about being Catholic. We believe that marriage is for the good of the spouses and their children, that through one another you learn how to love, and that love is sacrifice. I think there’s a comfort in knowing there is no exit, that even though you will have problems, you’ll get through them. It’s the best gift you can give your children, that sense of stability. If you go into marriage thinking that there is an exit strategy, when the problems come, you’ll resort to it. It’s sad that our generation has given up on life-long marriage.

  21. candy apple Member
    candy apple 1877 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:07 am

    As Catholics, Mr. CA and I just do not consider divorce an option (although obviously in cases of abuse/infidelity, we would need to reconsider), so we went into this marriage with no thoughts of exit strategies. We have married for life, and I promised to be true to him in good times and in bad. I mean to keep that promise. Marriage won’t always be a walk in the park, and I know up front that we have some big differences between us. But we will work through things no matter what life throws our way.

  22. Member
    MrsKeAloha 1044 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:09 am

    I have a friend who has “built up” her exit strategy. About a year after their marriage she told me she was putting money aside. That’s great.. Savings are always good. She was hiding it from him. Oh.. my thought was he was not a Saver and he liked to Spend. Okay, if that’s what will make it work than fine. Good for her. I was wrong. She had money saved and was hiding it so that when or if she left him she could walk away and be okay until the divorce was final.
    He is not abusive, she is a little controlling and personally the one sided details I hear about their fights – I still don’t see where he is wronging her. Every couple argues – every couple has something they will both stand firm on. Big or small the problems they have don’t seem much different than every other couple in this world. I think her exit strategy has been biggest problem. During good times in their relationship she is still focusing on the bad and saving for it. She is sneaking to a bank he has no idea about and putting money aside to leave him. When she celebrates her anniversary, she has in the back of her head – will we be here next year, I could leave. Her exit strategy and the secret is what I feel does not allow her to be happy. She even helped a friend fill out Divorce papers, not because she was thinking about Divorcing her husband – but just in case she ever needed to. Its sad. When I walk down the aisle to my man. It is for better or for worse. What ever it takes… I do joke with my man that Til death do us part can be arranged. But if we don’t make it through this life together, than it will fall apart – no safety nets, no back up plans. And I will fight with everything I have. I want to focus on nurturing our love, and building upon what we have. Not how to walk away amicably.

  23. Member
    karengoblue 165 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:50 am

    While I don’t like this question, I think it at least can lead to a greater discussion on working on communication and how to handle when marriage gets tough. I’m not expecting a smooth and easy path – every relationship has its bumps – but having a sense of how you’re going to overcome them, together as a couple, is more of a conversation worth having than “what’s our exit strategy?”

  24. Member
    mnp 1722 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:50 am

    The conversation about children and raising them is important as well. i.e. When someone says they want children, it might mean they just want one child. // I think the Exit Strategy for a marriage might be beneficial to consider it – individually and privately. We need to know what our breaking point is and what we expect from our spouses. I believe that a marriage is for the long haul but sh*t happens.

  25. Guest Icon Guest
    Jessica, Guest @ 7:57 am

    Our strategy is death. We may not have said “until death do us part” (mostly because it was a courthouse marriage, and that just wasn’t part of it) but that’s completely how we feel. We choose each other as kids, and even after we were apart for ten or so years, when he came back into my life, we choose each other again. That doesn’t happen if there isn’t a reason, and I will fight until I die for our marriage. I come from a very broken family though, and I refuse to let our son see that kind of damage up close.

  26. Member
    Future Army Wife 2213 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:20 pm

    Personally, excepting a few extreme situations, I believe that a couple should do everything in their power to make a marriage work. Too few people (like we Bees and not Kim Kardashian) actually value what marriage is all about and think “If I don’t feel like doing this anymore, I’ll just get divorced.” I agree that having an exit strategy acts like a jinx.

  27. Member
    MsRobyn 52 posts, Worker bee @ 11:18 am

    I was wondering what people actually mean by “exit strategy” here. Is it things like counselling and whatnot to hopefully prevent a divorce, or is it about the practicalities of splitting up?

  28. Member
    Miss.DIY 85 posts, Worker bee @ 11:15 pm

    101 Questions to Ask before you get Engaged by H. Norman Wright is a fabulous little book that brings up great questions that need to be and should be answered long before the big day.

  29. Guest Icon Guest
    Amber, Guest @ 3:08 pm

    My motto has always been don’t get married if you believe in divorce! And if you are afraid that the person will change over time, you probably shouldnt be marrying them! I know this is a touchy subject, but why would you have an exit strategy entering into a lifetime commitment?

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