In some cases, couples can pin down the exact moment when they knew their marriage was over. This is most likely to happen when factors like substance abuse, infidelity, and domestic violence – the three top reasons for divorce, according to a study – are at play. But not all marriages snap like a chord, some getting stretched thin like a string until they reach a breaking point. These 15 signs your marriage will end in divorce shine the spotlight on instances where a separation builds up slowly.
Are you losing sleep over whether your marital issues are normal or an ominous indicator of a marriage in trouble? Start paying attention to the small stuff. Sometimes the most seemingly harmless irritants point to the stages of marriage breakdown. Let’s take a look at dysfunctional marriage signs that you might just be turning a blind eye toward.
15 Subtle Yet Strong Signs Your Marriage Will End In Divorce
It takes a lot of consistent effort and continuous work to make a marriage work. Think of it as something akin to growing a garden in your backyard. You have to till the soil, prune the leaves, pull out the weeds consistently for the flowers to emerge. Your marriage is no different.
The moment you become lax or start taking things for granted, cracks begin to take hold. If left unattended, these cracks can be your marriage’s undoing. Losing a long-term relationship because you ignored the signs of emotional divorce can turn out to be one of the most painful experiences of your life.
What most fail to realize is that the stages of a dying marriage can often be elusive, until it’s too late, of course. And since we all know the answer to the question, “Are more marriages ending in divorce?”, you mustn’t let the absence of obvious red flags make you complacent. If you feel even remotely restless or dissatisfied, it can help to start looking for these 15 obvious signs your marriage will end in divorce:
1. Change in affection levels
According to research carried out at the University of Texas, too much affection at the beginning can eventually lead to a marriage rut. If the expressions of love and affection peak during the first year or two of the marriage, it can be hard to sustain them in the long run. As the level of affection declines, it hampers the stability of the bond between a couple. As a result, you and your partner say things like:
- “Do you even care for me? I don’t feel like I matter to you”
- “You are nothing. Who do you think you are?”
- “You don’t appreciate me enough. I don’t feel seen and heard in this relationship”
Related Reading: Should You Get A Divorce? – Take This Divorce Checklist
2. Being riddled with suspicion
How do you know it’s time for a divorce? Let’s say you plan a romantic surprise for your spouse, and they react with, “What have you done now?” Or your spouse offers to do the dishes after dinner, and instead of appreciating them for their thoughtfulness, you say, “Don’t think you can trick me into making love to you by doing this.”
Such instinctive displays of suspicion are indicative of underlying trust issues in a marriage. These reactions may be triggered by certain past experiences. Nonetheless, it points to a weak foundation, which qualifies as one of the warning signs of divorce or perhaps even that the marriage is over already.
3. Unaligned expectations
To build a healthy marriage, spouses need to have their expectations aligned. Good communication skills are required to clearly convey expectations. Otherwise, it might become the reason for divorce within one year of marriage or even years later. Married couples need to be on the same page on issues like:
- The importance of personal space and alone time
- When to have kids/how many kids to have
- How to navigate the work-life balance
- How to manage finances
- Emotional needs
- Sexual needs
That’s why premarital planning and discussion serve as the bedrock on which you build the foundation of a happy marriage. It’s absolutely imperative to weed out unrealistic expectations if you want to keep the signs of a failing marriage at bay.
4. Making jokes at each other’s expense
It’s completely okay to pull your spouse’s leg or crack a joke about their quirks or habits once in a while. But if it becomes a pattern for one partner to constantly make jokes at the other’s expense, it can spell doom for your marital bond in the long run and might even signify that the end of a marriage is near.
Every time your spouse makes light of your flaws or faults, it’ll cause you to resent them a little. You may even resort to doing the same to give them a taste of their medicine. Do this dance long enough and a passive-aggressive dynamic takes hold in the relationship. This resentment and passive-aggressiveness can threaten the future of your marriage.
5. A widening communication gap
Poor communication is undoubtedly one of the top reasons for divorce. When you’re living together, day after day, for years on end, making the effort and time to facilitate healthy communication might take a back seat. This is what causes couples to “grow apart”. You cannot read your spouse’s mind and they can’t yours. So, take the time to talk about:
- Each other’s emotional state
6. You stop exploring each other
Once you stop making an effort to explore new sides of each, the spark and love begin to die down. One of our readers confessed, “My marriage is broken. My husband and I don’t talk anymore. He doesn’t care when I’m dancing to the music I’ve never listened to before or when I’m eating something that he has never seen me eat. I feel repulsed by my husband who is indifferent to me.”
Not being interested in you and your life could be one of the signs your wife has checked out of the marriage or your husband is no longer emotionally invested. But this doesn’t mean all hope is lost. You can try and spin these signs as things you need to work on. Look at it this way: instead of it being one of the signs a marriage cannot be saved, it’s an opportunity to get to know your partner better. Walk up to them and joke about the cranberry muffin you’ve never seen them touch before and ask, “Excuse me, have you seen my spouse somewhere?”
Related Reading: How To Tell Your Husband You Want A Divorce?
7. Financial infidelity is one of the signs a divorce is coming
How to know when a marriage is over? One of the underrated signs to look for is financial infidelity. If you and your spouse have trouble talking about money without it turning into a big fight, consider it one of the 15 signs your marriage will end in divorce. Think about how well you know your partner’s monetary habits or their relationship with money:
- Where does their money go?
- Where is the income coming from?
- Does your partner trust/respect you enough to share financial information?
Dishonesty about money – be it secret spending or building assets without each other’s knowledge – can lead to serious trust issues in your marriage. A lack of trust, combined with a shaky monetary situation, makes for a cocktail of marital disaster. Financial conflict can turn out to be one of the strong signs you should leave your husband/wife.
8. You enjoy your time apart
It’s one thing to take some personal time every now and then to rejuvenate/unwind but if you both look for excuses to avoid each other, it means you don’t want to be married anymore. Here are some top unhappy marriage signs:
- You and your spouse have started enjoying spending time apart than together
- You and/or your spouse would rather do anything else than be with each other
- Instead of communicating effectively, your spouse gives you the silent treatment
- Your time together is filled with uncomfortable silences
- You feel uneasy/on edge in your partner’s company
9. You talk over one another
How do you know it’s time for a divorce? If you and your spouse tend to cut each other off mid-sentence or talk over each other – especially during arguments and fights – it’s definitely not a healthy relationship. Though it’s a very clear unhappy marriage sign, it’s also one that most people ignore. A Reddit user wrote, “To start with, there are some boundaries you should not go outside, such as (but not limited to):
- Bringing up the past
- Threatening to leave
- Comparing them to their parents
10. A lack of intimacy
It’s natural to feel lonely in a marriage without intimacy. According to the New York Times, 15% of marriages in the US are devoid of sexual intimacy. On its own, lack of physical intimacy may not be a red flag, especially in older couples. But when triggered by other underlying factors, it becomes a cause for concern. For instance, the risk of sexless marriages and divorce can be high if:
- You and your spouse have stopped being intimate due to a history of cheating in a marriage
- One of the spouses is married and thinking of someone else/is considering leaving marriage for someone else
- One partner begins to withhold sex as a form of punishment or revenge
11. When your marriage is over, you vilify each other
Let’s say you and your spouse are going through a rough patch, resulting in a lot of clashes, fights and disagreements. If either one or both partners start vilifying the other in front of the other – be it your children, family, or friends – it’s a sign that you have stopped caring about your marriage and your spouses.
Your problems have become too big for you to be able to contain them anymore. Once you start airing your dirty linen in public, there is little hope left. If your question is, “Will my marriage survive?”, the answer is a “no” if you keep disrespecting each other regardless of who’s watching.
Related Reading: 13 Things To Do When Your Husband Ignores You
12. A need to win arguments can be one of the signs a marriage cannot be saved
While it is natural to want to have the final word in an argument, the desire to win arguments even at the cost of your relationship is a worrying sign. Your compelling desire to win can cause fights to linger on for days, weeks, or even months. It can lead to growing resentment in your marriage, which only signifies:
- You care more about winning than coming to a resolution with your partner and resuming normalcy
- There is no room left anymore for compromises/adjustments
- You view your spouse, not as a partner but as an adversary
- You don’t see eye-to-eye with them on most issues
13. You don’t appreciate the little things
It is not the grand gestures or important relationship milestones that make a relationship great. It’s the little things you do for each other, day in and day out, that count. Couples in successful marriages take the time to savor and appreciate little gestures like:
- Making breakfast for your spouse
- Them bringing you coffee in bed
- Picking desserts on your way back home
But when your marriage is falling apart, appreciation and gratitude do out the window. If nothing you do is good enough for your spouse – or vice versa – it is an indicator that you neither appreciate nor value each other anymore. This is clearly one of the signs your wife has checked out of the marriage or your husband no longer wants to fight for the marriage.
14. Not talking about the future means the end of a marriage is near
While it may be hard to say if divorce within one year of marriage will happen or not, you can tell that you’re at the fag end of your marital journey if you stop planning a future together. The whole idea behind marrying someone is to build a life with them. As such, conversations about what your life would be like five years down the line or where you’d live post-retirement are normal in a healthy marriage. Chances are, if you’ve reached the stage where you’d much rather not discuss the future with your spouse, at a subconscious level, you can already sense the signs of divorce on the horizon.
15. You give up on your marriage
This doesn’t necessarily have to be something as dramatic as “My wife left without warning” or “My husband suddenly wants a divorce”. But the trouble in paradise begins when you stop making efforts to:
- Reach out/make time for each other
- Show affection/plan date nights
It’s a sign that you have checked out emotionally and don’t care about what becomes of your marriage. You’re able to picture a life without your partner, and moving on doesn’t seem that difficult. When your marriage is over (at least in your mind), here’s what you can do…
What To Do When You See Warning Signs Of Divorce
What to do when you realize that your marriage is not in a good place? Speaking on the subject, psychologist Dr. Aman Bhonsle previously told Bonobology, “For starters, don’t get distracted by other people’s opinions. Your marriage is your personal issue, just like going to the bathroom. No one else can tell you when you should take a shower or wash your face.”
When you find yourself at a difficult crossroads in your marriage, you have three possible options. It’s up to you to decide which one works best for you:
1. You can try making it work
One of our readers asked us, “I think my marriage is over. But I am not 100% sure. Is my marriage salvageable?” On when to leave a marriage, Dr. Bhonsle advises, “There is no one-size-fits-all solution. But if you’re not sure where your marriage is headed, consider seeking couples therapy to know where you stand and why you are standing there.
“A clinical psychologist will give you objective advice and will maintain confidentiality (unlike your relatives/neighbors/friends). So many of my clients have gotten back together after marriage counseling.” If you are looking for a mental health professional, counselors on Bonobology’s panel are just a click away.
2. You can opt for a trial separation
In a trial separation, the husband and wife live separately for some time to see whether living apart is truly a better choice for them. Does time apart help a marriage? Yes, this is the time when you can figure out if you want to reconcile or are happier without each other.
A study conducted on 20 separated people indicates that separation is a “private” and “lonely” experience. Also, the sampled people said that separation was ambiguous and its outcome was unclear. To avoid such ambiguity, remember this marriage separation checklist:
- All marital property like house/cars belongs to both (assets aren’t divided legally)
- All the earned income is considered joint income
- You and your partner can write the rules of separation in an informal document to avoid tiffs
3. The D-word
How do you know if divorce is the answer? If your marriage is riddled with glaring red flags like domestic violence, alcohol abuse, etc, or if you both tried working on your issues by seeking professional help/opting for a trial separation but nothing seemed to have worked, it’s time to contact a divorce lawyer/divorce attorney.
How to end a marriage peacefully? Dr Bhonsle says, “There is no such thing as a happy divorce. Divorces are always painful/unpleasant.” But here is a list of things you should certainly AVOID doing:
- Using your children as pawns/mediators
- Hiding assets from your spouse to gain an unfair advantage
- Threatening your spouse
- Jumping head first into a new relationship
- Denying your partner time with your kids/breaking rules specified by a licensed clinical social worker
- Abuse, addiction, infidelity are the most obvious signs that your marriage is in dire straits and you need help to safeguard your own interests
- Other indicators of a failing marriage include not making each other feel special, sexlessness and lack of intimacy, resentment
- A dire need to win arguments is one of the signs of a failing marriage
- Lack of mutual respect is one of the top unhappy marriage signs
Finally, when your marriage is falling apart, it can leave you feeling on edge. Dr. Bhonsle says, “You can move on at your own pace. Is this your temporary or permanent retirement from the world of love/romance? It all depends on your own risk appetite. Take a soccer player as a metaphor. After an injury and bedrest of 6 months, he may choose to stretch, train and come back to the game. Or he may even be done with the sport and choose something more leisurely like snooker/golf. His example holds true for the world of relationships too. Are you ready for Round 2?”
This article has been updated in April 2023.
In the US, about 40 to 50% of marriages end in divorce. Noticing early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship can help reduce this number if you know what to look for. The obvious signs often include lack of respect (domestic violence), lack of emotional/physical intimacy and communication gaps.
Incompatibility is a leading reason for divorce, followed by infidelity and money issues. My friend told me, “The day my spouse slept with someone else, was the day I gave up on my marriage. Loyalty is the foundation of a happy marriage.”
Instead of blaming him for the lack of sexual intimacy, just use “I” statements. For example, “I don’t think I am emotionally equipped to spend my life with one person” or “This marriage is not working for me”
It is hard to pinpoint a single reason for an unhealthy marriage, as each relationship is unique. However, incompatibility, unrealistic expectations, resentment, growing apart, lack of physical intimacy, not respecting each other are some of the reasons that drive a wedge between couples.
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