If you’re unhappy or dissatisfied with your marriage, you may be thinking about divorce. However, divorce is a huge step with financial, emotional, and lifestyle repercussions and is not a decision to be made lightly. In a complex financial situation, divorce can be expensive and time-consuming. And if you have children, that makes the calculus all the more difficult. Look to these signs to know when it is time to file for divorce.
- Marriage counseling was not successful. If you and your spouse have tried marriage counseling, went into it with the best of intentions, and did the work and could not improve your marriage, that is a clear sign that your only option is to end the marriage. If marriage counseling can’t get you back on track, there is little else that can.
- You have no respect or trust for your spouse. Trust and respect are the bedrock of any marriage. If you reach a point where you have neither for your spouse, you are likely no longer in a true marriage. If you cannot trust your partner, you can’t function effectively as a team. Note that infidelity can lead to a lack of trust, but it is possible to rebuild trust in that situation. Infidelity is not always a death knell for the marriage. But once trust is permanently lost, there is no way to redevelop it. And if you do not respect the person you are with, it may be impossible to continue on a life journey with them.
You are staying in the marriage for other people. It is very common for people to remain in a marriage because of their children, assuming that it is better for their children to have their parents together. Children are happiest when their parents are happy and healthy. If your home is full of conflict and resentment, then two homes that are calm and happy is probably a better alternative for your children. Some people also remain in a marriage because they are afraid of what other people will think if they get a divorce.
If you are in the public eye, it can be challenging to navigate a divorce, but with public relations guidance, it can be handled smoothly. It is also common to worry about what other people in your life might think if you get a divorce (such as parents, siblings, or close friends). Ultimately your own happiness is the most important thing, and others’ opinions should not deter you from doing what is right for you.
- You fantasize about being single. If your mind constantly drifts to scenarios in which you are single, it may be a sign that this is what is truly in your best interest. If your marriage is so unhappy that your best vision of the future is one in which you are single, you should most likely listen to your instincts.
- You work against your spouse. If you reach a point where you constantly find yourself testing your spouse’s limits, trying to push them over the edge, or trying to provoke them, your marriage may be broken. Those behaviors may mean you truly want your spouse to leave or choose to end the marriage so that you don’t have to make that decision yourself.
- Conflict is a constant. Marriages that have devolved into constant, ongoing conflict are often at their end point. When you and your spouse cannot communicate without arguing, there is no room to improve your marriage. Counseling can help, but if you cannot reduce the conflict, the marriage may be over.
- You avoid your spouse. You may find that you feel happier when you’re not with your spouse, and so you make plans to be away or apart often. You avoid joint events, and you definitely don’t want to be home alone with your partner. These are hints that the marriage is no longer making you happy or meeting your needs, or that you and your partner simply are not suited for each other.
- You hide your true self. When you have reached a point where you cannot be yourself, freely express yourself, or pursue your true interests when around your partner, it may indicate that your relationship has run its course. Honesty and vulnerability are key to a successful partnership, and when those are no longer possible, there isn’t much left to stay for.
- You have already begun to prepare for divorce. Some people start to unconsciously make divorce preparations before they actually decide to seek a divorce. If you have started moving money into separate accounts or have browsed real estate listings for your own place, these are indicators that you are ready to end your marriage.
- You cannot find joy. When you have reached the point where there is no glimmer of happiness or joy in your relationship, and it has remained that way for a while, it’s a signal that your marriage may no longer work. Every marriage goes through times when there is some unhappiness, but successful marriages bounce back from those lows. If your marriage is devoid of enjoyment, it may be time to end it.
- There is no intimacy. Marriages can survive without intimacy, but often this is possible only when the couple at least finds emotional intimacy with each other, even if there is a barrier to physical intimacy. But if your marriage has neither physical nor emotional intimacy (despite your seeking help with whatever the barriers are), it is no longer a true relationship.
- Your spouse doesn’t try anymore. It takes two people to make a marriage work. No matter how badly you want to remain married, if your partner has given up and refuses to make any effort to save the marriage, it may be time to walk away. You can’t fix it on your own.
- Domestic violence is a part of your marriage. If domestic violence has occurred, it is no longer safe for you and your partner to remain in a marriage unless you have both obtained intensive counseling and a professional has deemed it safe for you to remain in the marriage.
The decision to end a marriage is a difficult one and often is one that develops over time. If you find several of the above signs to be true in your relationship, it may be time to talk with a divorce attorney about your options.