10 Signs Your Marriage is Over
Note: This article has been updated with the latest marriage advice and research for 2021.
When you commit yourself to a marriage, there is a certain expectation that you and your partner will both put the work in to have a healthy relationship. At times, this can be difficult. Both parties must recognize if there are growing problems in your marriage. Often these are not solved alone and there is no shame in seeking outside help from a couples therapist and marriage counseling. This shows that you both are willing to honor the commitment that you made to each other when you said "I do."
However, many marriages result in separation and ultimately divorce. There are usually clear signs that your relationship is heading in that direction, and there are things you and your spouse can do to try to keep your marriage from falling apart. Dr. Jenn Mann, a marriage counselor, and relationship expert talks about her personal experience with divorce as well as how she has helped couples cope with their decision.
Below are some warning signs that tell you it may be time to call it quits. Even if you are going through therapy, sometimes that isn't enough to repair the damage.
- Bringing up past mistakes. You or your spouse continually refer to hurtful events in the past, and bring up old arguments.
- Lack of respect. You feel like you no longer have that respect for your spouse that you once had.
- Goals. You feel like your goals as a couple have changed and you're moving in different directions in your careers, interests, or personal values.
- Lack of support. You don’t feel that your partner helps you grow as a person or supports your efforts to improve yourself.
- Lack of communication. There seems to be a breakdown in communication between you both which has affected every aspect of your life and marriage.
- Decreased physical intimacy. This means less or no lovemaking. Intimacy can also include kissing, holding hands, and cuddling. Do you feel as if you are no longer attracted to each other? Constant defensiveness. When one of you questions the other, a wall is put up which then turns into a fight.
- Fighting over little things. No matter how trivial, you and your partner seem to always turn a conversation or a decision into a fight.
- Stonewalling. You and your partner refuse to communicate with each other, or hear the other person’s point of view. Do either of you use the silent treatment instead of talking through your problems?
- Playing the blame game. Do you find that during fights you blamed each other for your marital problems rather than taking ownership of your actions? If every fight is a me vs. them argument, it may be time to call it quits.
Why Consider Divorce?
Even in the absence of anger, one or both partners might start to lose respect for the relationship and a spouse. That might signal the end, as well. One couple we know, for instance, divorced after the husband made some poor investments and lost his business and the family home. The woman, who insisted she bore no anger, said she could no longer remain married to someone for whom she had “no respect.”
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Sometimes, people divorce because they grow apart. A couple from the Chicago area spent 20 years in a traditional marriage; he went off to work, and she stayed home in the role of homemaker. They had it all, from the two kids to the house in the 'burbs to the cars. When the youngest child left for college and the couple had untold hours to spend together, focusing not on child or family issues but on each other, they found they had little in common.
Younger people with relationships of much shorter duration often reach this juncture, as well. When people get married too young, they might find they have gone through enormous changes during the relationship and have grown apart. They've simply gone through more personal development; they have a stronger sense of identity, and in light of that, they would not make the same marriage choice today.
Frequently, in such cases, the decision to divorce is mutual. Often, these people can walk away from marriage without feeling particularly angry, especially if they don't have any children. They both just throw up their hands, shrug their shoulders, and say “This doesn't work.”
What About Abuse?
If you are being abused by your partner, this includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, and even verbal abuse. Unless they are willing to put in the hard work to change your ways, you will not have a successful marriage. Men and women can both experience abuse in their intimate relationships and it is important to put your own health first in these situations. If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE) or 911 for your protection and safety. It can be difficult to leave, but it is crucial to know what resources are at your disposal so you can try to get out.
It is common for the victim to be in denial or to blame themselves for what is happening. The bottom line is no one asks to be abused, especially by someone they trust. If you are unsure if what you are going through is in fact abuse, take a look below at some of these red flags.
Signs of Abuse in a Relationship
- Isolation. Does your partner keep you from contacting friends and family members? Do you spend a lot of time alone?
- Intimidation. Does your partner look down on you, destroy your property, or threaten bodily harm?
- Name-calling. Are you called hurtful names in an attempt to make you feel bad about yourself?
- Threatening. Does your partner threaten to hurt you or someone else you care about to "keep you in line”?
- Financial control. Does your partner solely make all financial decisions and give you small budgets for household essentials like food?
- Blaming the victim. Does your partner say it's your fault they hit you or destroyed something?
- Using the children. Does your partner bring up the children to guilt trip you into staying in your marriage or use the children as leverage in a fight?
Understanding What Comes After a Divorce
The decision to divorce should never be made in the aftermath of a fight. Divorce is final and should be considered carefully, not just for its impact on you, but also for its impact on your children. When you divorce, what ramifications will reverberate through your life and the life of your family? Will you have enough money to sustain your lifestyle — including important small details such as trips to the movies, piano lessons or your weekly take-out Chinese food? Are you ready to leave the family house for a tiny apartment? Are you ready to divide the Impressionist paintings you've collected over the last 20 years, your mint collection of rock 'n' roll singles or the living room set you bought from the furniture master in Milan?
The answers, for many, might be straightforward: The emotional relationship with their spouse is largely negative, for one or more of the reasons listed previously. Why else would divorce be in the air?
Nonetheless, sometimes couples in conflict can overlook the positives. For instance, if you have a child, have you considered how difficult it might be to take total responsibility, on the one hand, or restricted visitation on the other? Will you miss your in-laws, friends who might have to choose your spouse over you or neighbors you might have to leave? Have you considered the stress of the dating scene? Perhaps most important, will you be relieved or paralyzed by the solitude you might be subject to, day in and day out, once you and your partner split?
Making the Decision to End Your Marriage
Trying to decide if your marriage is over is an emotionally taxing time and it is important to not downplay how it makes you both feel. Even if you both spent a huge amount of time trying to save your relationship, there is nothing wrong with deciding to break up. Many marriages end in divorce , but not all. At the end of the day, you once loved each other and that shouldn't be forgotten, even in the case of a failed marriage.
- thehotline.org. Domestic Violence Support. 2023.
- cdc.gov. Marriage and Divorce. 2023.