While no couple walks down the aisle intending to one day sign divorce papers, it is common for marriages to end in divorce. Maybe you went into it with unrealistic expectations, rushed into marriage without really getting to know your spouse, or experienced a catastrophic life event that changed you or your partner so you are longer compatible (e.g. severe illness, religious conversion, death of a child). Whatever happened along the path of your relationship, it’s hard to know if this detour is just a dark time (which all marriages go through) that will eventually pass or if it amounts to irreconcilable differences that are impossible to work through. The unavoidable truth is that this impasse requires you to make a decision. You are at a fork in the road and one direction leads you into deciding to get a divorce and the other leads you back to your spouse. The decision to divorce bears heavy consequences, especially when children are involved, so it’s essential that you put emotions aside to seek clarity about the situation. Once you have honestly evaluated where your marriage is, it’s critical to explore and exhaust all options thoroughly and thoughtfully.
Have You Gone Through These Steps?
1. Dig deep beyond the crushed expectations and bruised egos to get to the truth about the reality of your relationship.
Step back and give yourself some time to think. What do you really want? Have you told her? Do you know what she wants (not what you think she wants, but have you heard it from her)? Speaking sincerely from your most authentic self could be what is needed to blow past this roadblock. Communicating with one another is essential. It may be challenging and intimidating. You may have to come to terms with some truths you don’t want to admit, to yourself or to your spouse. You may face some serious anger toward your spouse for her behavior, but it’s now or never. You have nothing to lose, but you have a chance at a happy future to gain. If you are as logical and impartial as you can be and willing to take accountability for your own past actions, you will be able to assess the root of most of the problems plaguing your marriage through clear and open communications. This is a vital step if you are to have a shot at fixing what is broken in your marriage..
2. Make every effort to save your marriage. As long as there is no danger in staying (to you or your children), give every effort to make it work. There’s separation, counseling, couple’s retreats, books and courses on getting your marriage back on track. There is an abundance of advice and resources available for couples who sincerely want to put back the broken pieces back together and be whole again. If you’ve tried everything and still nothing’s changed, than at least your consciences will be clear, knowing you both did everything you could to keep it together and make it work.
3. Make certain your decision is not coming from a place of spite or anger. Your intention should be what is best for your mental and emotional well being – and for that of your children. Emotions cloud judgment and bad decisions are made easily when you lead with your heart instead of your head.
Warning Signs your Marriage is Over
If you’ve painstakingly gone through the work of honestly evaluating your situation and put your best efforts into working every solution, but you still can’t save your relationship from drowning, it may be time to come to terms with the reality that your marriage is dead.
Here are 10 signs that your marriage is on life support and it’s time to pull the plug.
1. Sex is long gone. If you are only going through the motions and there is no attraction or enjoyment in your marriage, it can signal much deeper problems. Sure, a physical connection is only one piece of a marriage—but a satisfying sex life is vital to a sense of overall wellness and to feeling deeply connected to your partner. It can signal that you and/or your spouse no longer feel loved and respected. The good news is: if you work on building love and respect for one another again, the physical part will likely take care of itself.
2. You can’t work together. At its most basic, marriage is a partnership. If you can no longer compromise and find workable solutions to common relationship issues then there is little if any hope of a having a fulfilling marriage. You need to find your way back to being teammates instead of adversaries if you want to have a chance of survival.
3. Respect is dead. Name-calling, belittling, and personal attacks intended to embarrass, shame or hurt a spouse are a sure route to divorce. We have all said things we didn’t mean in the heat of the moment, but a relationship that is not build on a foundation of mutual respect is a house of cards on the verge of toppling over.
4. Anger is your default mood. If you and your spouse can’t get past your anger, or just don’t know how to handle anger, it will continue to build until it eventually explodes. A relationship can’t sustain constant anger and stress; it kills love.
5. There’s infidelity and betrayal. Most marriages can survive infidelity if both partners are committed to do the work it takes to forgive and restore the broken trust, but even a strong marriage can’t survive the pain of repeated affairs and continual betrayal.
6. It’s not about “us,” it’s about “me”. Marriage is a give and take relationship and if your partner’s needs are not a top priority then why are you trying to stay married? Get divorced and focus on you if that is what you are about, it’s much easier than fighting for something that you don’t even truly feel is worth it. If your wife is so self-centered you feel ignored, neglected and not valued then realize you deserve better—and you will be better off without her.
7. Being right is more important than being happy. When your partner refuses to see things from your perspective or engage in a real conversation because she is always right and you’re always wrong, you are not in a marriage—you are living in a dictatorship.
8. The affection disappeared. If you never kiss, hug, hold hands and say sweet things to one another there is serious discontent that needs to be tended to ASAP.
9. Communication is dead. If you can’t talk to one another without yelling, talking down to one another, or getting frustrated, there is likely no way to work through your problems. If you no longer even have the urge to talk, about anything, your marriage has already flat lined. Why stay married just to be lonely?
10. The issues are unsolvable because they originate from deeply ingrained behavioral or personality traits that you feel certain are too entrenched to change. This could mean addiction, serial cheating, compulsive lying, emotionally abusive behaviors and physically abusive behaviors. If you know they are not going to change, getting out sooner rather than later will minimize the damage and heartache.
Some people spend years, or decades, living in limbo, unable to make a decision and take their happiness into their own hands. Is that what you want? Surely everybody has an opinion—your family, friends, priest, counselor—but regardless of what anyone else advises, it’s your life, so you need to be the one to be ready to either recommit to your marriage or call it quits. The bottom line: it’s you and your who children will live with the consequences, not your friends, family, community or professionals. So don’t let anyone push you to stay in an unhappy marriage or to divorce. When living in misery is more unbearable than the fear of an unknown future, or the fear of what people will think, or the pain your children will suffer, then you will make a decision.
- Divorce can be complicated and challenging, often heart-wrenching, sometimes ugly and bitter. It can be expensive, time-consuming, and extremely stressful. Yet, the most painful and taxing divorce or two should not hold you back from trying again for often the third time’s the charm, and marriage after two divorces can…