It crosses every married person’s mind at some point: they wonder if they’d be better off without their spouse. An argument, betrayal, or just growing resentments can bring up the feeling that the marriage may have been a mistake. For many, these rough patches pass and the marriage continues on a healthy footing.
If a relationship has reached a difficult stage, experts recommend that couples take these steps to sort things out and get to the source of the problem:
- Have an honest conversation about your feelings, with your spouse. Avoid hashing out your marital problems with a relative or friend. While support is important, a real solution can only be found when both parties understand each other’s feelings and concerns.
- Avoid making decisions during times of change. If you’ve recently had a new baby or relocated, be aware that these temporary stressors can put a real strain on marriage. Don’t make a major life decision during periods of transition. See how the relationship stands when the stressful event has passed.
- Try counseling. Even if you both feel that divorce is the best option, a good therapist can ease the way forward, helping couples to feel comfortable with their decision and able to talk through issues as they arise. On the other hand, a skilled therapist can be remarkably helpful in clearing up issues that have seemed difficult.
- Be practical and realistic. Divorce is not an easy path. Before making any decision. Be sure to consider how financial considerations will be handled. It’s also important to make sure that you have a good emotional support system in place. There will be tremendous changes in your day-to-day life, so having friends and family you can count on for support is essential.
- Accept ambivalence. Understand that it is very normal for your feelings to vary. It may seem on one day that things might work out, and on the next you may feel sure that you’ve reached the end of the road. Be patient in working out your feelings. Consider sorting things out through writing in a journal or talking with a trusted clergy person or counselor.
There often comes a time when the negative feelings about the relationship are far more frequent than anything positive and hopeful. This can be a result of things that are happening between you and your spouse, as well as how you are feeling about how your life is going.
Changes in a relationship usually happen gradually, so it can be hard to know when the time has come to dissolve the marriage. Without a single, dramatic event to precipitate a separation, we can find ourselves looking for indications as to whether divorce is the best option.
There’s no foolproof formula for determining this, but there are some common signs that can tell you things could be headed in the direction of a divorce. If you’re wondering if your marriage is ending, considering whether these apply might be helpful.
Don’t Ignore These Divorce Signs
Another warning sign, and one that develops gradually, is when all of your interactions with your spouse become negative. If it’s hard for you to remember a pleasant exchange, your marriage is in trouble. Good times should outnumber bad, but in some cases a pattern of negative and hurtful behavior can become hard to break.
Psychologists suggest that the magic ratio in any happy relationship is five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. This can be a useful basis for measuring how positive your relationship is over a period of time.
Certainly any abusive behavior is a sign of trouble, and should be addressed. Belittling or abandoning a spouse indicates a real breakdown in the relationship and professional help is in order.
Goals and values are not aligned
Couples can sometimes be married for some time without realizing that their views on some important moral questions disagree. This can happen when serious subjects don’t come up for discussion before the marriage. Not everyone gets around to talking about whether they think spanking is okay or how they would feel about a gun in the house, but these can be huge issues later on. Even when these topics have been discussed, disagreement can arise later when the opinion of one or both parties evolves on a given issue. Very different views on religion, politics, and how a family should be raised can be difficult to resolve successfully.
Communication breaks down
When couples don’t share what’s going on in their lives or they stop caring about what the other is doing, divorce is in the cards. If your spouse is not the first person you think of telling when you get some news –good or bad- then there’s a problem. Communication is essential for a healthy marriage, so its absence is a sign of trouble.
Communication problems can be indicated by behavior like giving your spouse “the silent treatment” when arguments arise, rather than talking things over. A refusal to work on resolving conflicts through discussion or compromise is a sure sign of trouble in a marriage. When arguments become very hurtful and frequent, it is time to contact a divorce attorney.
Strain on children
In some cases, a couple comes to the realization that divorce might be the best course of action through the feelings and behavior their kids exhibit. If your son or daughter is worried that the marriage is ending, it should be taken as a serious sign. Parents should examine how their negative interactions are impacting the children and discuss the implications of that.
Often the knowledge that their decision has an impact on many of the people around them, especially their children, causes people to delay seeking divorce. However, once the atmosphere becomes negative and difficult for everyone, that same knowledge can lead to the decision to divorce.
Loss of interest in shared plans
In a healthy relationship, couples discuss plans of all types –from what to have for lunch to where to spend their retirement. If you lose interest in planning for the future with your spouse, or even can’t picture that person in your life in the coming years, it is time to access your situation and feelings. Partners can come to a parting of the ways, and sometimes divorce is the only way in which they can pursue their own path.
A feeling of detachment
Over time, your feelings for your spouse can cool to the point that you stop caring. It can seem as though the two of you no longer share anything in common. This feeling of having reached the end of your emotional rope is a strong sign that the marriage has broken down and it’s time to seriously consider divorce.
This is sometimes called emotional exhaustion, and in this type of relationship, one or both partners are emotionally checked out. When this happens, divorce is likely the best course to take.
Acting out of character
Some people whose marriages are ending find themselves behaving in ways that are intended to force the issue. This can be unconscious, prompted by a desire to cause a conflict that will bring issues to light. For example, the reason behind an extramarital affair can be one spouse’s inability to express his or her unhappiness directly.
If you’re experiencing one or some of the feelings above, it may be time to explore the idea of a divorce. It can be very useful to get some preliminary information from people who deal with these situations professionally. An objective opinion can help take some of the emotion out of the situation, and allow for a calm examination of the facts and options.
Get the Divorce Help You Need
Speaking to a divorce attorney does not mean that divorce is inevitable. Some people consult an attorney before they are sure about proceeding with a divorce at all. A divorce attorney may even recommend a temporary separation to give both parties some breathing room. Many couples actually decide to stay together after consulting a divorce attorney and engaging in a trial period of separation.
The point here is that divorce attorneys have experience with hundreds of different couples and their unique situations. They can provide guidance on local laws, financial implications, and an overview of the entire divorce process. Knowing what to expect can take some of the intimidation out of the idea, and it allows you to make realistic plans based on objective advice.
If you’re wondering whether it’s time to start considering divorce, remember the points discussed above. For many people, taking a sober look at their situation with those in mind helps to clarify it, and validates what that little voice in the back of their head has been telling them for some time.
We specialize in services to men seeking a divorce. To get an idea of what to expect, we recommend that you download our Free Divorce Guide for Men. It will answer many of your preliminary questions and provide a general overview of the process in the state of Washington.