Has being married become increasingly hard for you of late? Are you constantly wondering when is it time to divorce but feel uncertain about taking such a big step? Maybe you really want to make your marriage work, but it seems impossible, and now, you’re just looking for signs you are ready for divorce.
Marriage tends to be seen as either black or white. There’s the beautifully dreamy version, where you wear a gorgeous outfit, stand up in front of family and friends and pledge your love to each other forever while an orchestra plays and the sun sets. Then, you settle happily into married life, loving each other a little more every day, living your happily-ever-after.
Or, there’s the completely miserable ‘marriage story’ where you can no longer stand one another, where you can barely be in the same room, you’re constantly yelling at each other and threatening to clean each other out in divorce proceedings.
There is, however, a gray area, where you’re still married, you possibly still have vague feelings for each other but you know it’s not working. Yet, you’re still wondering when is it time to divorce and will your marriage end in divorce anyway even if you don’t take any steps.
If that’s where you are, it’s not a pretty place. So, to help you on your way to a decision, we spoke to Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in separation and divorce counseling, for insights on signs you are ready for divorce.
13 Signs That Indicate It Is Time To Divorce
It’s great if you want to work on your marriage and if you believe it can be saved. But remember there’s no shame in walking away from a relationship that’s not working out. So, if you’re wondering when is divorce the right answer, here are 13 signs that it’s time for a divorce.
1. You no longer trust or respect your partner
Trust and respect are the touchstones of every loving relationship, romantic or otherwise. In a marriage, trust isn’t simply about trusting that your spouse will be faithful to you and the marriage. It’s also about trusting that they will be a partner in every sense, that you will share a common path and feelings forever.
“Marriage, indeed any sustainable relationship, cannot survive only on extreme emotions of love and hate. In a marriage, two people need to trust and respect each other. If one or both of them cannot do it, it becomes very difficult to save that marriage,” says Shazia.
Respect, too, needs to be present in every interaction, every part of a healthy marriage. Even when you’re arguing or disagreeing, respect is what holds you back from being deliberately hurtful or cruel. Respect is also what holds both partners to the agreed-upon standards of healthy relationship boundaries.
If trust and respect are diminished and lost, it’s difficult to work your way back from that. Maybe you’re thinking it’s time to divorce after infidelity if your marriage is ending anyway, or maybe you simply don’t trust that you and your spouse share mutual respect in a relationship anymore. Either way, these could be signs you are ready for divorce.
2. You constantly think about leaving or dating someone else
“I’d been married for a few years. We weren’t very happy, and I didn’t know what to do or how to handle it. I sought refuge in constant fantasies about leaving my marriage, about starting a new life somewhere completely different on my own, and seeing other people,” says Louisa.
Shazia warns that such thoughts and fantasies could be the first step toward active infidelity. “Every action starts with a thought. Being married and still thinking about someone else is a warning sign that marriage will end in divorce since maintaining the integrity of a marriage is the individual responsibility of each partner,” she says.
Related Reading: When To Walk Away After Infidelity: 10 Signs To Know
Now, there are probably times even in the healthiest marriages when we think we want to leave or fantasize about being with someone else. Every time you think about Idris Elba shirtless is not a sign that you are ready for divorce, so don’t go there.
However, if you are constantly channeling your unhappiness into concrete plans of leaving, if you’ve got finances in order for a solo life all planned out and an escape vehicle at the ready all the time, well, maybe you have the answer to when is it time for divorce.
3. There is no emotional or physical intimacy
Intimacy is an overarching quality that stretches across loving relationships like a shield and a continuous electric charge that powers the bond. Intimacy is closely linked to trust and respect and comes in all sorts of forms, physical, intellectual and emotional.
Quiet conversation, laughter, slow kisses, making love, knowing each other’s thoughts with just a glance – all of this comes under the umbrella of intimacy. A marriage or a relationship where this kind of everyday intimacy no longer exists, therefore, becomes little more than an empty shell of what it should be.
“Lack of emotional or physical intimacy is a warning sign that something is definitely not working out in a marriage and both the partners need to introspect to figure out either how to regain the intimacy, or then come to a decision to end the marriage,” says Shazia.
Maybe you’re no longer having sex. Maybe when you do, you just don’t feel it. Your lives feel entirely separate, you’re no longer entwined – two people on the same journey with the same relationship goals. Fading intimacy among couples is common, but ask yourself if this feels especially hopeless.
When is it time for a man to get a divorce, or is it time to divorce my wife? If there is no intimacy left in your marriage, these are questions that could be frequently running through your mind.
4. There are signs of abuse (constant criticism, gaslighting) or infidelity in your relationship
No relationship survives without basic kindness. Sure, there are fights and arguments but to constantly ignore your partner, put them down or refuse to see their feelings as valid constitutes abuse. If you’re thinking, “When is divorce the right answer?”, this is when you take that step.
Gaslighting, stonewalling, etc. are all signs of abuse. Think about it. Do you and/or your partner constantly get into screaming matches? Is there cold silence and a refusal to acknowledge each other’s pain thereafter? Are there constant threats of leaving or going to someone else? Do you already suspect infidelity as a form of punishment?
“Any type of abuse ruins a marriage. It brings into stark clarity that there is truly no understanding or respect left between a couple and when that happens, it’s not worth continuing with the marriage as it becomes a sham and a burden,” notes Shazia.
“When is it time to divorce my husband or my wife?” If you’ve been grappling with this question, know that abuse in any form is serious business and needs to be taken as such. Rather than pretending it is ‘normal’ and sweeping it under the rug, take it as one of the signs you are ready for divorce.
5. There is no communication in your relationship
I like a lot of quiet and silence in my life, to be honest. But here’s some truth for you: That’s not the same as a crippling lack of communication in a relationship or a marriage.
Communication problems in relationships are common and crop up frequently. They are especially prevalent if you’ve just had a fight, if there are things you need to say but are unable to (due to lack of time, circumstances etc.), or if you and your partner simply lack the tools needed to communicate effectively.
A lack of communication in a relationship doesn’t just show up when you’re not talking. It’s also when you talk all the time but without saying what’s on your mind or what really needs to be said. Maybe you want to talk about your problems, maybe you want to talk about your day, but it never happens, and it’s been that way for a while.
“If strained relationships are to be seen as locks, then communication is the key to open them up,” Shazia says, adding, “If the key is lost, then the lock cannot be opened, in which case, the lock needs to be broken.”
6. You feel suffocated
A healthy relationship is one where you’re never afraid to express your thoughts and feel your feelings. These deep and authentic parts of you are what help to preserve your unique individuality when you’re in a marriage or any sort of a long-term, committed relationship.
When you’re unable to be yourself in a marriage, maybe you feel like you’re constantly choking back your thoughts because it’ll only lead to an argument, and you’re too scared or too tired to get into all that again. Maybe every time you want to do something for yourself, you feel the silent disapproval or just a general heaviness that there’s no point.
“During my marriage, I was so suffocated, it was like having to put a plastic bag over my entire personality, which then obviously affected the relationship,” says Rob, “I felt like I couldn’t do a thing without hurting my partner and my marriage. And the worst part is, I didn’t know if this was all in my head, or if it was real.”
“When is it time to divorce my husband or time to divorce my wife” could be spinning in your head as you wonder if your marriage is worth it. Our take: If it’s suffocating your entire being, it’s really not worth it. Get that divorce.
7. Your relationship feels stagnant
The best part of being human is that we’re dynamic. We’re constantly growing and evolving, hopefully toward being better, more deeply intelligent, more loving folk. Likewise, human relationships need to move forward; it’s nearly impossible for a marriage to sustain if it’s stagnant.
It could be something as clear as wanting to have children after marriage, though hopefully, you had that conversation before tying the knot. It could be that one of you wants the marriage to evolve emotionally, become deeper, maybe even more spiritual, and the other just isn’t in the same place. This is definitely one of the unhappy marriage signs.
It’s rare that a marriage goes exactly as planned or exactly as per the next steps you had in mind. But it’s important that both partners realize that marriage is a journey rather than a full stop and that it needs to grow within that framework of trust and stability.
When is divorce the right answer is always a tough question. But if your relationship is growing increasingly stagnant, maybe it’s time to make a move of your own and think about divorce.
8. You never discuss your problems
“Problems? What problems? We haven’t got any problems – we’re perfectly happy. Well, of course, we have fights, but that’s normal, isn’t it?” Sound familiar? Is this something you say defensively every time a concerned friend or family member gently asks if everything is all right with your marriage?
It’s true, every marriage, every relationship comes with its share of issues and emotional baggage and problems. No escaping that. But, do you talk about it? Do you discuss these issues that gnaw at your marriage or would you rather perpetually sweep them under the rug, pretending that all is well?
“I didn’t want to admit that my marriage was on the rocks,” says Mallory, “I was brought up to believe that you stay and you make it work and the less you verbalize the fact that things are bad, the better the chance that your marriage will survive. After all, is a problem really a problem if you refuse to see it?”
When is it time for a man to get a divorce, or a woman for that matter? When is divorce the right answer? Well, if you’re sitting around knowing you have problems but are unable to discuss them, or simply refusing to acknowledge them, we’d say these are signs your marriage is on the rocks.
9. There is no common vision for the future
As we’ve said, marriage is a journey and your partner should, for the most part, be your companion for the road. Of course, you’ll have individual dreams and goals, but somewhere, these lines need to converge so that at least one of your ultimate goals is to ensure your marriage works.
If the future and the horizon look completely different for each of you, it’s difficult to imagine a future together. Maybe one of you wants to live in a different city or country, but the other wants to live near their family. Maybe having kids is a non-negotiable for one of you, but the other is undecided. Maybe your financial goals are completely different.
It’s not that such differences are always irreconcilable – you can certainly talk about things and come to a compromise. But when major life and couple goals and decisions are taken without having your partner in mind, it’s a sure sign you’ve grown apart, maybe too far apart to come together in a happy, healthy way.
If you’ve been wondering, when is it time to divorce my husband, or is it time to divorce my wife, sit down and check if your ultimate picture for the future coincides, or not.
10. They are no longer your go-to person
Listen, we don’t believe your significant other should be the one and only person in your life – that’s a lot of pressure to put on any one person or any one relationship. It’s only healthy to have a great circle of friends, family and loved ones who can step up for you.
But, if you’ve married someone, if you’ve chosen to share your mind and your living space with them forever, there needs to be a certain level of intimacy where they’re the first person you want to call when something big happens. Or at least one of the first people you call.
Related Reading: Grey Divorce 101: A Guide To Divorce After A Long Marriage
Lucy says, “I kind of knew my marriage was over when, one night, I woke up feeling sick and queasy. My husband was out, and instead of calling him, I called a friend. At the time, I thought it made sense because the friend lived close by, but later, I realized, I hadn’t even thought of my husband.”
“When is it time to divorce my husband” isn’t exactly the happiest question you can ask yourself. But if he’s not uppermost on your mind when something truly good or truly bad is happening, it’s undoubtedly one of the signs you are ready for divorce.
11. You rarely miss them
Now, you needn’t be joined at the hip (or any other body part) with your partner all day every day. Life tends to encroach upon our time with our partners and it’s only normal that you don’t always see each other as much as needed, or wanted.
But, think about it. If you’re perfectly happy without them and hardly miss them at all when they’re away, how good or healthy is your marriage, really? If it’s a sense of out-of-sight and out-of-mind, maybe you need to rethink why you’re in this marriage at all. Has your quality time love language simply gone silent?
Unless you’re very clearly and emphatically in a marriage of convenience, we’ll assume you chose to marry your partner because you love each other and wanted to be together. When is it time to divorce? Maybe when you don’t miss your partner at all.
12. You’re lonely in your marriage
“I’d been in relationships before where we were together, but I constantly felt alone,” says Elise. “I’d promised myself my marriage wouldn’t be like that, but in the end, it was. My husband was nice enough and we never cheated on each other, but I was lonely. We didn’t do things together, we didn’t talk about what mattered to us.”
Companionship is perhaps one of the key reasons we enter into relationships, a hallmark of love. Feeling lonely in marriage or while you’re in a relationship is one of the worst feelings there is – there’s truly nothing more debilitating than sitting next to someone you’ve tied yourself to and feeling completely alone. If this is what your marriage has been feeling like for a while, there’s a good chance your marriage will end in divorce.
13. You’ve both given up
Fighting for a relationship and marriage means that you still care, that you think it’s worth saving and it still adds value to your life. The loss of this will and instinct to fight could signal the answer to when is it time to divorce.
There is such a thing as stubbornly fighting for a marriage that has gone too far south to be resuscitated. You’ve tried couples therapy, you’ve had endless talks, you’ve taken a second honeymoon, and yet, your marriage remains less than what you need.
But, it’s so much worse when you’re just two people existing in a marriage, too tired, too sad and too confused to fight for this anymore. You know it’s probably over, and you’re done. Now, you’re just waiting for the words to come – that it’s time to end the marriage.
The decision to divorce never comes easy. You might be tempted to stay in an unhappy marriage because of the kids, something Shazia warns against. “This is perhaps the toughest and trickiest of situations where kids are involved, but let’s remember that two unhappy individuals cannot make a happy home or happy kids,” she says.
“Depending upon the age of the children, both the parents should communicate clearly that things are not working out between them as a couple, but they will always be the children’s parents no matter what.
“It’s important to remember that couples sometimes use kids to bargain or blackmail each other, which only makes a divorce worse. While getting divorced, if both partners are mindful of their words and actions, it will make it a lot easier. Divorce can become a path to peace and not to hatred,” she adds.
When is it time to divorce has no easy answers. Maybe it’s time to divorce after infidelity if your marriage is ending anyway because why would you want to stay in such a toxic situation? Maybe you’ve just been constantly thinking when is it time for a man to get a divorce, or perhaps it’s time to divorce my wife.
While divorce shouldn’t be taken lightly, we’re here to remind you that it’s all right to walk away from a marriage that’s making you unhappy. If you feel the need for professional help, Bonobology’s panel of experts is here to help. We hope it works out for you.