Growing up, we were told that marriages are for a lifetime. You meet someone special, you fall in love and get married and find your own happily ever after. Little did you know then that living with your spouse could get difficult in just a few months or years. If yours has become an unfulfilling, loveless bond, you need to pay attention to the signs you need a divorce that may be written all over your marriage.
The prospect of ending a marriage brings in a whirlwind of confusion and emotions. You may stay on in an awful marriage hoping for things to improve or maybe you’re still over the fence about whether your problems are big enough to warrant walking out. To make this decision easier, we discuss some clear signs you are ready for a divorce, in consultation with psychotherapist Jui Pimple (MA in Psychology), a trained Rational Emotive Behavior therapist, and A Bach Remedy practitioner who specializes in online counseling.
15 Signs That You Need To Get A Divorce For Sure
As per a study, the U.S. divorce rate fell from 9.7 new divorces per 1,000 women aged 15 and over in 2009 to 7.6 in 2019. But, before you see that as a reason to stick around in a bad marriage, the marriage rate decline also hit an all-time low last year, with just 33 of every 1,000 unmarried adults tying the knot as opposed to 35 in 2010 and 86 in 1970.
Remember, every marriage is unique and shows its cracks in different ways. Despite underlying negative thoughts and regrets, some people choose to live in denial ignoring the fact that they are steering a sinking ship. Sometimes, your marriage might seem perfect from the outside but only you notice the signs you should consider divorce. And without a conscious effort to divorce-proof your marriage and resolve conflicts, these signs will resurface no matter how much you try to avoid them.
It’s one thing for a marriage to hit a rough patch on account of communication problems, lack of personal space or too much of it, financial troubles, or waning emotional/sexual intimacy. But if there are consistently alarming issues like physical and mental abuse, marital rape, and infidelity, we can’t give you enough reasons to stay married. You might feel stuck trying to figure out which of these two categories your issues fall into and wonder, “How do I know when I need a divorce?” While you introspect, keep an eye out for these 15 screaming signs you need a divorce:
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1. You cannot trust each other
More than just physical satisfaction or fiery chemistry, the foundation of any happy marriage is built on mutual trust and understanding. You are supposed to come home every night to the person with whom you can be vulnerable, be your absolutely truest self, and whom you can trust with your innermost feelings and secrets. If that isn’t the case in your marriage, it is one of the first signs divorce is inevitable.
For Pamela, her marriage to Tony meant he was her go-to person for every problem she faced at work or in her social circle. However, over the years, their equation began to change. Five years into their marriage, Pamela found herself turning to colleagues or friends to confide. This, according to Jui, is one of the first signs of a failing marriage.
“Trust is paramount for the success of any relationship. When something important takes place and you turn to a friend instead of your partner, it indicates the beginning of the end of a marriage,” she says, “Trust issues can develop because of several reasons like cheating, misunderstanding, lying, and so on. The moment the trust factor leaves your marriage and you find yourself unable to depend on your spouse mentally and emotionally, it could be one of the signs you should divorce your wife/husband.”
2. The communication gap is massive
Clichéd as it may sound, a relationship cannot survive with bad communication between the partners. A lot of times, you observe a pattern of inconsistency or incoherent behavior in your spouse, which leads to baseless assumptions. This practice of mind-reading is a major culprit behind the communication gap between couples, which, then, creates a domino effect of arguments, blame games, and misunderstandings.
In a different scenario, no matter how hard you try to communicate your feelings with your partner, you may not find the kind of response you are looking for. When one spouse is making all the effort in conflict resolution or trying to fathom the emotional ups and downs of their partner, and the other person is just not ready to open the window to their inner self, it’s equivalent to talking to a wall.
Reluctance to face real issues or have meaningful conversations might indicate that maybe it’s time to get a divorce. “Unless two partners can sit across from each other to voice their feelings, concerns, and emotions, and feel heard and validated, a relationship cannot work. If there is a complete breakdown of communication channels and every conversation turns into a battle for one-upmanship, it becomes near-impossible to work through issues and find solutions,” says Jui.
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3. You avoid spending time with them
Being in a marriage does not mean being around each other 24/7. Two people may have unique passions and want different things and it’s healthy to spend some time apart from your spouse. Reading a book, going shopping, spending time alone in a café, even traveling alone when married, etc. are important for your growth as an individual.
But when you use these habits and your need for personal space as an excuse to avoid your partner, it becomes one of the sure signs you are ready for divorce. A happy couple follows their respective routine and indulges in their recreational activities, all the while looking forward to sleeping next to their loved one, and talking about their day.
But do you now wait to get into bed only after your spouse is asleep? Or worse, do you make excuses not to come home for days on end? If the answer to these questions is yes, maybe it answers your question, “How do I know when I need a divorce?”
4. Your spouse is never your priority
Tell me if this sounds relatable – you just cut the third call from your husband/wife because you are having a good time at a team lunch and you don’t want to spoil your mood. You would choose a walk in the park with a friend any day over a date night at home with your loved one. If you are not bothered anymore about the promises you made to your spouse or their happiness and well-being, we see some trouble in your marital paradise.
If your partner has slipped so far down your priority list that you don’t even factor them in when making plans, no matter how big or small, that’s when divorce is inevitable. “Your spouse stops being your priority when you use your friends or office work as a distraction or an excuse to not go home. Avoiding alone time at any cost and not prioritizing your significant other even when they need you is an intimation for a divorce as it clearly says this relationship is beyond repair,” says Jui.
5. You are defensive in all your statements
In a healthy relationship, when a problem occurs, you sit down with your partner from time to time and discuss each other’s behavior and air out your issues. And, it goes without saying that you do it in a respectable manner. For instance, by saying something along the lines of, “I love you, but I wish you’d help me do this.” However, if you’ve been noticing that you get defensive about anything that your partner says, perhaps all is not well in your marriage.
Owing to the growing distance or chronic conflict in your marriage, you’re probably not ready to accept even sensible criticism. You diminish their opinions and are ready with a retort, closing all doors for open communication, which makes your partner feel angry and frustrated. You can count it as one of the signs of a failing marriage.
However, this is not to say all hope is lost. Being defensive or unable to communicate healthily doesn’t necessarily indicate divorce as long as both partners are willing to get to the root of their issues, accept responsibility for their part in pushing the marriage to the brink, and most importantly, work toward making things better.
6. Your heart races when you think of them
And not in a good way. When your marriage is rife with troubles, a racing heart does not mean butterflies in the stomach, feeling a happy nervousness at the thought of being with them like you did in the initial stages of a relationship. Here, your heart races out of stress and fear of another squabble with your partner, something you would immediately avoid if you could.
Pay attention to what your body is trying to signal. Do not take the physical responses to your spouse’s presence lightly. You will find yourself popping blood pressure pills if you do not address these reactions. A negative physical reaction is a big relationship red flag and one of the most telling unhappy marriage signs you’ll get divorced.
“Toxicity in relationships can become an incessant source of stress and anxiety, especially for the person at the receiving end. If left unchecked, the anxious feelings can escalate and manifest in the form of physical symptoms like sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, insomnia, eating disorders, and more,” says Jui. If that’s what you’re going through, it’s among the surefire signs you should divorce your wife or husband. No relationship is worth losing your health and well-being over.
Related Reading: 15 Signs Your Marriage Is On The Rocks and Almost Over
7. The criticism is incessant
When divorce is inevitable, literally everything that your partner does feels like an attempt to let you down and it sets you off. The actions could be as insignificant as dropping a bowl by mistake or sneezing in the middle of a movie. Throwing tantrums with generalized statements like “You always do this” or “You never help with the household chores” are all negative criticisms that can never have positive outcomes.
If you can’t overcome constant irritability with whatever your partner does and everything they say pushes you to criticize them even more, consider it as a sign that you regret your marriage and want a divorce. On the other hand, if you are on the receiving end of these demeaning remarks no matter how hard you try, you may have to reconsider the whole situation. Only those who have lived under the shadow of a narcissistic spouse know the pain of it and we don’t see why you should bear it day after day.
8. Your conversations are contemptuous
A contemptuous conversation indicates a lack of value in a relationship. You will notice a gradual shift in approach whenever you have a conversation with your husband/wife. There will be countless sighs, eye-rolling, sneering comments, name-calling, and hostility. Even your body language will alter. You will either point fingers at your partner or talk with your arms and legs crossed.
Every other exchange between you and your partner is overloaded with taunts and general mockery. Neither of you is willing to hear the other out. When there are no signs your husband wants to save this marriage or your wife wants to work at improving the relationship, go ahead and start taking action, be it filing for a separation or marriage counseling, before it gets any worse.
9. You do not address the elephant in the room
This is one of the most telling signs of a failing marriage. You fight over the slightest of things and all of your arguments are rude, condescending, and contemptuous. Yet, neither of you is willing to address the actual problem. You would have a massive clash about something your spouse did three months ago but you cannot get yourself to talk about what is bothering you now, even if that means you have to spend countless nights being mad at each other.
That’s just what happened with my friends, Rob and Elsa. From the very beginning, their marriage was filled with sullen silence and huge arguments about things that didn’t matter at all. During those long spells of the silent treatment, Elsa would often wonder, “Does my husband want a divorce?” And her fears turned out to be true. As you stop caring about what your partner has to say and would rather sweep all the issues under the carpet, that’s when divorce is necessary.
Related Reading: 5 Kinds Of Fights You Pick With Your Partner When You’re Falling Out Of Love
10. The only game you play is the blame game
Openness and acceptance? What’s that? All you and your partner do is blame each other for ruining your respective lives. Both of you seem to think that you’ve given so much of your time and energy to this relationship, but the other person just doesn’t seem to appreciate it enough and they would rather put in the effort to ruin the bond.
Blame shifting becomes the defining pattern of your relationship. If only you could take a shot every time you blame each other for something super insignificant and create a drinking game out of it! Sadly, neither of you knows how not to take things too seriously and that makes your entire relationship dynamic point at the signs that it’s time for a divorce.
11. Forgiveness is no longer an option
Couples arguing is honestly not a big deal as long as both partners know when to let go and move on from an issue. In the spontaneous flow of a relationship, partners apologize to each other and move on. However, if your relationship is marred with negativity, you can’t or don’t want to let go of the minor conflicts. Your marriage has transcended all possibilities of forgiveness. If this is the case, and forgiveness is not an option anymore, do yourself a favor and find a good divorce lawyer.
“If you cannot find it in your heart to forgive your partners for their mistakes, or worse still, if you let misconceptions take hold in your mind and hold grudges against them for mistakes they may not have actually made, it will only lead to contempt and resentment. Any marriage that has been infested with contempt and resentment is at best a hollow shell of a relationship that cannot hold its ground in the face of adversities,” says Jui.
12. You stonewall each other
As you grow tired of fighting with your partner, you will shut them out. You avoid arguments by withdrawing yourself from the relationship and this tendency of stonewalling becomes the final nail in your relationship coffin. You stop paying any heed to what your partner is saying, almost as if you’re giving them the silent treatment.
You only give monosyllabic responses when it is absolutely necessary, and in the worst case, you ignore their existence even when they are sitting right next to you. When a marriage comes to this, it only says that the mere presence of your spouse is getting on your nerves and you feel disconnected from them all the time. Any mature, self-respecting person would consider this to be one of the signs you should divorce your wife/husband.
13. You’ve stopped initiating in bed
Diminishing sexual desire in a marriage or a long-term relationship is not unusual, and most couples go through an ebb and flow of sex drive, dealing with many dry spells along the way. Fatigue, the struggle to strike a work-life balance, sickness, the responsibility of the kids, social obligations, and so many things can get in the way of a couple’s sex life, dimming the fire of desire.
However, if you haven’t felt chemistry with your partner without any valid reason for a long time, it is an indication that your marriage has come to a dead-end. You are drifting apart in your relationship and in your heart, you know that you are not ready to remedy the situation. If marriage counseling fails at this point or you are trying to channel your sexual desires toward a different romantic partner, you should accept that your relationship may have run its course.
Related Reading: Has Your Husband Checked Out Emotionally? 12 Signs Of a Failing Marriage
14. Verbal and physical abuse has become frequent
According to a study by WHO, worldwide, almost one-third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. Abuse can also be verbal, mental, or emotional, and directed at a partner of any gender. Whatever the dynamics, there is no excuse for it. If you or your partner cannot be around each other without hurting each other, don’t delay the inevitable.
There is no love valuable enough to tolerate abuse. Strike that, if there is abuse in a relationship, it cannot be based on love. A loveless marriage where you’re subjected to emotional, physical, sexual, or verbal abuse epitomizes the signs you need a divorce. Your marriage may be beyond redemption but by walking out sooner rather than later, you can protect yourself from a lifetime of trauma and scars.
15. You’ve begun strategizing a split
Do you imagine different situations in your head where you and your spouse get into a fight and you declare a divorce? Or have you already started giving excuses to stay away from home, all the while planning a split? Perhaps, you have even met with a lawyer or two to weigh your options and see how a divorce battle might play out.
Well, the signs divorce is inevitable couldn’t get more apparent than this. If your instincts are constantly directing you toward the need for a fresh start, the writing is on the wall – it’s time for a divorce. You have valid reasons to end the relationship and deep down you know it’s not going to work out. Now, all you need is the courage to take the leap and serve them divorce papers.
- You know you are ready for a divorce when you can’t trust your spouse and communication has fallen apart in your marriage
- They are off your priority list and you make excuses to spend time apart
- You constantly criticize each other and go to any length to prove yourself right in an argument
- There is no emotional or physical connection left between the two of you
- Blame-game becomes your method of conflict resolution and there is no space for forgiveness as you hold on to grudges forever
It can be difficult identifying the toxic traits when you want to desperately hold on to a marriage. If you are able to relate to at least 4 to 5 of these unhappy marriage signs you’ll get divorced, your marriage is on its last legs. Accept it and act accordingly. It’s perfectly understandable if you want to give your marriage another chance despite relating to a lot of the warning signs.
Ending a marriage is never easy. If you want to make sure you’ve exhausted all your options before going down the D-lane, consider going into couples therapy. With the help of an expert, you can get to the root of your issues and find a way to work through them. Even if you do decide to get a divorce, seeking therapy can help you resolve the trauma from a toxic marriage and rebuild your life. Whatever the situation, skilled and experienced therapists on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
This article has been updated in Oct 2022.
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