"Thoughts about divorce can be a healthy wake-up call to work on a marriage," Alan Hawkins, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University, said about the study, which interviewed 3,000 married couples. "According to our research, most people's thoughts about divorce are more 'soft' than 'serious,' and can help spur needed actions."
Most of the survey respondents who thought seriously about divorce also wanted to stay with their partner and make things work. And those couples who thought about divorce who stayed "together were not just survivors, but thrivers," with those relationships seeing an increase in satisfaction after thoughts of divorce, the study said.
Thoughts on divorce are common for all married couples, the study said. And they're perfectly healthy for an ongoing marriage that wants to succeed.
"Yes, sometimes those thoughts are frequent and stem from serious, even dangerous, problems, so thoughts about divorce appropriately take people in that direction," the researchers wrote in the study. "But usually thoughts about divorce are just that — thoughts, not concrete actions, decisions, or even deep doubts."
Just 1 percent of those who thought about divorce weren't happy to stay with their partner, and 5 percent said they were completely finished with their marriage, the study said.
Those doubts aren't surprising, especially if they come up during winter months like January, which is known to be a popular time for divorces. January is often the month of divorce — it even has the nickname "Divorce Month" — because people are looking for a fresh start in the new year, CNN reported.
Despite these spikes, Susan Pease Gadoua, an author on divorce and licensed therapist, told CNN there isn't really a good time for divorce. Other experts told CNN January is really just a month when couples start thinking of their options and ways to save a marriage, CNN reported.
But just because married partners have those thoughts doesn't mean couples are often serious about divorcing. As Winifred M. Reilly, a licensed marriage and family therapist, wrote for The Huffington Post, couples who think about divorce are often confused with wanting a divorce and wanting changes to their marriage.
"There's a big difference between an unhappy marriage and an un-salvageable one," Reilly wrote. "Couples often tell me they're contemplating divorce when what they're facing are ordinary — though difficult — relationship challenges that they have been unable to resolve. Divorce is a radical step to take when what you're seeking is change."
There's nothing wrong, she said, with wanting your marriage to improve.
Reilly, who often deals with marital issues for couples and is faced with a number of questions about divorce, said it's important for couples with marital issues to explore any possible sign of a spark since saving a marriage is better than ending one when it could have been saved, she wrote.
"Love doesn't heal all but sometimes love is hard to find under the sludge pile of anger and resentment, overwork, parenting and everyday stresses and struggles," Reilly wrote. "If there's even a spark or ember left, it's worth asking yourself, 'can I re-ignite it?'"