Deciding whether you’re in a failed marriage beyond repair is definitely not an easy decision—especially when you’ve put in the effort to rescue what feels like a loveless union. You may have ignored the early indications that divorce is the best option for one (or both) of you, and you’ve been dealing with an unpleasant relationship for some time.
Or maybe you’re hoping the union has some fight left in it, and you’re not ready to go. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. But now, you’re definitely considering a permanent divorce, whether it’s due to one too many squabbles, trust-destroying adultery, or something else entirely.
“Many marriages may be revitalized,” says Robyn D’Angelo, owner of the Happy Couple Experts of Orange County and a marriage and family therapist. “However, if there has been excessive neglect, injury, or depletion of all the ‘nutrients’ required to build a healthy relationship, it may have reached its final expiration date.”
Here are the most prevalent indications that you should consider divorce and are ready to embark on the next chapter of your life.
You never disagree.
You’re expected to argue, believe it or not. A relationship might suffer through silence and avoidance. “When you can’t be bothered anymore, it suggests something is lacking,” says Dr. Juliana Morris, a relationship expert.
While not all conflicts are productive, she believes it is important to handle disagreements in a way that benefits the marriage: “You fight for one another. You put up a battle for the relationship. The most difficult challenge arises when there is no longer any struggle to be had.”
Everything revolves around winning.
While never fighting (i.e., complete separation) is one clue of imminent divorce, how your dispute when you do differ is another. “Ideally, you want to resolve a problem in a way that preserves the connection,” Morris adds. “If arguing is more about pointing fingers, assigning blame, and the desire to ‘win,’ the emphasis shifts to power rather than connection.” That, she claims, is a red flag.
You wish to irritate your spouse.
You’re playing divorce roulette if you continuously evaluate how far you can push your marriage before it finally collapses. According to Sunny Joy McMillan, author of Unhitched, if you start pushing your spouse’s boundaries, it’s probable that you subconsciously want to end things but are frightened to make a move.
For example, suppose you leave your computer open to an inappropriate (read: flirty) email exchange. In that case, you may secretly hope your husband discovers it and initiates a discussion about why you’ve been unhappy.
They make your heart race.
We’re not talking about love’s pitter-patter. We’re talking about full-on, heart-rate-raising stress. McMillan advises that if you have an adverse bodily reaction when your husband enters the room, you should pay attention to what your body is telling you.
Along the same lines, if your heart pounds and your stomach clenches every time you consider staying in your marriage, your body is telling you it’s time to leave. “Our brains can deceive us,” McMillan adds. “On the other hand, our body is the incorruptible truth-teller.”
You conceal your true self.
Lauren Lake, a relationship specialist and paternity court judge, says it’s impossible to be in a satisfying relationship if you fear being rejected if your spouse sees “full” of who you are.
“When you must continually filter yourself or keep your beliefs hidden from your spouse, it demonstrates a lack of respect in your perspective. That is difficult to correct.”
On Facebook, you’re overcompensating.
Social media typically creates a highly curated representation of our life. It’s also a place where it’s simple to create an illusion, concealing the truth of a miserable marriage. Morris believes that when you or your partner suddenly begins to overshare on social media, it is usually an attempt to conceal the truth. Constantly showing the world how wonderful your relationship is—even if you know it isn’t—could indicate that things are breaking apart.
When the notion of leaving terrifies you, but you…
“It might be exhilarating to consider the life you could be living if you weren’t with this person anymore—the independence, the travels, the passion,” D’Angelo says. However, such dreams revolve around what happens after you’ve already left the marriage. “Notice how it feels to imagine actually leaving, not merely living this new life of yours without your lover,” she continues. “If the notion of leaving frightens you, but you’d rather leave than stay, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to go.”
Children (or careers or friends) always come first.
All of these external forces might have a good impact on a marriage. And, of course, there will be times when other variables (a sick mother, the need to focus on your child) may demand your undivided attention. However, when one item dominates, leaving little room for a partner to devote time and attention to the relationship, it can take its toll, according to Keith and Dana Cutler, married attorneys who preside as judges on their show, Couples Court with the Cutlers.
The Cutlers have observed, “When such influences become all they talk about and worry about, it can cause a schism between spouses. The chasm might grow so vast that the idea of divorce begins to stare them down.”
It’s always “I” and “me,” never “us.”
Marriage necessitates collaboration, which entails working together toward a common objective. “When the team mindset goes away, it could be an indication that your marriage is finished,” says Morris, who advises couples to conceive of their relationship in terms of “we” rather than “I.”
Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a Kinsey Institute research fellow and author of Tell Me What You Want, concurs. He claims that the words we use when discussing our relationships might foretell a breakup. “The pronouns you use (I, me, mine, our, us, we) reflect your relationship with your spouse.” So, pay attention to the expressions you (or your spouse) use.
When others tell you to “remain,” you refuse.
“We rarely expose our relationship troubles to those around us, so expect opposition from others who don’t understand why you’d want to make this choice,” D’Angelo says.
Objection from a friend or family member may be just what you need. “Leaving any length of the marriage will eventually bring the opportunity to evaluate your actions and your heart,” she continues, “and you can only fully do this if you know you’ve taken the decision that makes the most sense for you, not anybody else.”
They no longer serve as your go-to person.
When you’re having a horrible day, who do you call? When you get excellent news, who is the first person you text? There’s a beautiful rainbow outside your window…who, other than Instagram, do you want to send the snapshot to?
“Your partner should be the first person you go to in times of crisis or celebration,” Morris advises. “You cease feeling linked when one of you no longer wants to share significant times.” This distance can lead to much loneliness in a relationship, typically leading to divorce.
Forgiveness does not appear to be an option.
Infidelity in a marriage is a stumbling block, but it is not always a deal breaker. “It is possible to move on while maintaining a healthy relationship,” Lake explains. “If both couples choose to stay married,” though, “it is critical to forgive and make peace with your partner genuinely.” If you bring up previous issues every time there’s an argument or harbor bitterness, your marriage will likely fail.
You already have an exit strategy in place.
Are you transferring funds across accounts? Looking for a new job to increase your financial independence? “When you start preparing like that, it’s a sign that you don’t think your marriage is functioning,” Morris adds.