If you think you’re ready for a divorce but are nervous about taking the leap, look for these five signs to help you decide.
Filing for divorce is a life-changing decision, especially if you have children, so it’s essential to consider all relevant factors and make sure you’re confident in your choice. Divorce affects your lifestyle, your children’s lives, and your finances, and the decision involves both practical and emotional considerations. Couples who have decided divorce was right for them say these five signs helped them make up their minds. If these signs are present in your relationship, divorce may be the right decision.
1. The relationship isn't working for either of you
A relationship is something that you and your partner maintain together. For it to work, both parties need to be satisfied. If one person wants a divorce while the other wants to work on the relationship, both parties are not on the same page, and counseling might be a good first step before divorce. On the other hand, if both parties agree that the relationship is no longer working, divorce may be the next logical step. Joy Cipoletti of DivorcedMoms.com wrote in the Huffington Post that divorce shouldn’t be the first option when a marriage is on the rocks; being honest with each other about your needs and wants may be enough to change the relationship for the better. If that doesn’t work, then it’s time to consider divorce.
Similarly, Elayne Savage, P.h.D, author of Breathing Room: Creating Space to Be a Couple, told Woman’s Day that in a happy relationship, partners work as a team on parenting, household chores, and supporting each other’s careers. "If you've both started moving in completely separate orbits, or if you're not working together on day-to-day issues, it's a sign of serious trouble," she said.
2. Your arguments aren't productive
Ideally, arguments are hashed out in a constructive way, by listening to each other’s concerns and reaching a resolution that works for both parties. If the arguments in your marriage have become toxic — and are more about “winning,” or hurting your partner than they are about reaching a solution — or if the same arguments come up again and again without triggering any positive changes, that’s a sign that divorce could be on the horizon.
Unproductive arguments tend to be “about the same topic over and over again," said Lauri Puh, a family and divorce attorney-mediator in New York City. "You are arguing over the same issue and it increases in frequency. And there is no resolution — it doesn't go anywhere." She told Woman’s Day that 69% of couples in the midst of divorce reported unresolved arguments that led to feelings of hopelessness. "Marriages that reach this place are toxic—you're no longer civil, and all discourse is either attacking or defending,” she said, adding that mutual respect is key to a healthy relationship.
Alisa Bowman, author of Project: Happily Ever After, agrees. She told Woman’s Day that if one person brings up the same issue multiple times, asks for help solving it, and makes it clear that the marriage cannot last if it is not resolved, it is up to the other spouse to make an effort. "One partner can't do all the trying on his or her own," she said. Her rule is that if it’s been a year of fighting about the same issue with no change, it’s time for a divorce.
Fighting about little things could also be a sign of bigger issues. Take Tiffany, who told her story to Prevention. She bought cases of bottled water for her children, which her ex-husband found to be a waste of money. “It turned into a huge blow-out," she said. Her therapist helped her realized the fighting wasn’t necessarily about the water bottles, but that people sometimes make a big deal out of a small issue instead of discussing their underlying frustrations with the relationship as a whole.
3. You can imagine a better life for yourself without your partner in it
People think about divorce during arguments or unhappy times in a relationship. If one spouse did something hurtful, or if one person feels trapped in a circumstance that has made him or her unhappy, it can be taxing on the relationship. It’s normal to think about divorce when things are hard, but if you’re thinking about it even when things are ok, that’s a bad sign. If you’re sitting at family gatherings thinking about divorce, even as others might look at your family and think you’re happy, it’s probably a sign you’re emotionally checked out, and divorce may be the right course of action.
Similarly, thinking about someone other than your spouse or daydreaming about being single are red flags. "Daydreaming happens because all the other things make you start to feel hopeless," Puhn told Woman’s Day. She says it’s one of the most serious signs. Daydreaming about what life would be like without your spouse can lead to affairs, which are not a healthy way to end a relationship. "If you are daydreaming, you have the greater responsibility to lead the charge or go to counseling,” she said.
4. You avoid being home
Karen Clover of McKinney, Texas told Prevention that she used to make up reasons not to go home at night, but brushed it off because she thought she should stay married. "When I said, 'I do,' that meant for life, so I chose to ignore the warning signs,” she said. She didn’t like going home because her ex-husband expected her to follow his strict rules, and belittled her, among other things that made her uneasy there. Eventually, she realized that not wanting to be in her own home was a sign she could no longer remain in the marriage.
Savage told Woman’s Day that when a marriage is near the end, couples tend to become disconnected from each other. "If you're no longer spending any time together, if one or both of you is spending all your time at work, with friends, online—and if feels like a relief not to be with each other—it's a sign that you've already disengaged from the marriage,” she said.
5. Your gut is telling you it's time
Gut instinct is often correct, as Courtney Klein found out the hard way. She moved to another country to be with her boyfriend, who she eventually married. He treated her as a “trophy” and pressured her to dress in certain ways. "I felt very vulnerable and because I didn't have a support system overseas, I allowed myself to become totally dependent on him. In retrospect, I should have left before we got married,” she said. On her wedding day, she had a gut instinct to flee, but ignored it. Now that she’s divorced, she listens to her gut every time.
While not every fleeting thought should be taken seriously, especially when it comes to something as big as divorce, a constant, nagging feeling that your marriage isn’t working is a gut instinct you should listen to.
Divorce is not something to be taken lightly, but if these signs apply to your marriage, it might be the best decision for you and your family. An experienced divorce attorney can help you figure out what’s right for you, and then make the process as painless as possible. Mike Schiffman has more than 35 years of experience litigating divorce and family law cases. Contact Schiffman Family Law today for a free one-hour consultation to learn why an informed decision is always your best option.