Wanting to keep your family intact is an admirable goal. Often, counseling, coaching, or working with a mentor or religious leader can repair rifts in a relationship. Sometimes, divorce is the only option for restoring peace and allowing healing.
How do you decide whether your troubled marriage is like a car that isn’t running well and needs a thorough service from a good mechanic or if it is a totaled vehicle that can never be road-worthy again, no matter how skilled the mechanic might be? Here are some indicators that divorce is the only option for moving forward in a healthy way:
Every relationship has disagreements and frustrations. If you start thinking or speaking about your partner with contempt, that’s a sign you may have moved past normal levels of conflict and annoyance. Contempt is when you look at someone with disdain and a lack of respect. It’s very challenging to come back from that.
“I hate it when my partner won’t stand up for me with his family” differs from, “My partner is a spineless wimp who can’t stand up to his mommy.” The latter is full of disdain. If that’s how you think about your spouse or how they speak about you, you may have reached a point where counseling and thoughtful conversations won’t help.
Differing Values and Visions
You will have challenges if you and your spouse see the world dramatically differently. If those differing views mean you have different values, then you may need to consider divorce. Partners with different outlooks can have a successful marriage. If they can find common ground or unite around the values they do share, their relationship can thrive. However, if your values differ fundamentally, there may not be enough common ground to keep you together.
Perhaps one of you wants children, and the other prefers to remain child-free. That’s not an area where there is much middle ground. Family size, parenting approaches, religion, and finances are all areas where many couples find they differ too much to be able to make the marriage work. Divorce may be the only solution if you don’t have the same vision for the future or value vastly different things.
More Bad Than Good
When the negative interactions start outweighing the positive, your relationship is in trouble. If you look back on the previous weeks and months and realize that you are upset with your spouse or they are upset with you more often than not, that’s concerning. According to researcher John Gottman, 5-to-1 is the magic ratio. That’s five positive interactions for every negative one. If your relationship dynamic is far from that ratio, things are out of balance. Do you spend more time criticizing each other, being unsupportive, getting or having your feelings hurt, or disrespecting one another than caring for and supporting each other? If so, divorce can remove that overwhelming and unhealthy negativity from your life.
While the number of negative experiences may be more significant than how intensely you fight, severe arguments are still a bad sign. It can be tempting to think you won’t benefit from a divorce because you don’t fight often. However, you can’t ignore fights that are exceptionally ugly or hurtful. Some things aren’t easily forgotten or forgiven. Intense fighting may mean your life would be more peaceful and your self-regard higher if you ended your marriage.
Successful relationships allow for conflicts. Those couples can separate differences of opinion on an issue from a lack of respect for the person who holds that opinion. Fights don’t become generalized. They stick to the subject at hand. If you and your spouse are frequently unable to do that when you disagree and your arguments are more about personal insults or criticisms than disagreements on a specific subject, it may be time to consult a divorce attorney.
Lack of Trust
Whether it stems from infidelity, discovered financial secrets, or a pattern of untruths, it’s tough to come back from a lack of trust. Occasionally, intense marriage counseling can repair broken trust. However, if you aren’t making progress with your counselor or still feel you can’t trust your partner, this may validate feelings that your marriage is no longer the best thing for you. Staying married to someone you don’t trust or who doesn’t trust you is seldom healthy. If that’s your situation, think carefully about your options and whether you want to spend the rest of your life in a relationship without trust.
If your spouse abuses you emotionally, physically, or sexually, your relationship is badly broken. For the sake of your well-being and the safety and mental health of your children, please consult a divorce lawyer if you are experiencing abuse. You don’t need to tolerate that behavior. Your partner is showing you that they don’t respect you or the vows they made. Getting out can save your mental health and even your life.
While all of these are signs you may have reached the point where divorce is your best option for having a healthy, happy future, this list is far from complete. For some couples, there are dramatic signs like these that the marriage is over. For others, they simply realize they’ve drifted apart or become indifferent about their partner. Whether your relationship has explosive issues or you find yourself apathetic about your life with your spouse, divorce may be the best–or even the only–path toward restoring your sense of well-being and your enthusiasm for life.