Throughout most of my marriage, I had contemplated a divorce. All the warning signs were there, however, I would make excuses of why I should stay and in the interim, sacrifice my happiness. Then one day, I had my “aha” moment and realized I had the strength to go down this path and take a leap of faith. Ultimately, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and have just one regret, which is not leaving sooner and allowing too much time to pass by.
Deciding whether you’re in a failing marriage that’s beyond repair is not a choice that comes easily—especially when you’ve put in the work to try and salvage what feels like a loveless partnership. You may have chosen to overlook those first signs that divorce is the best move for you (I know I did) and you’ve been coping with an unhappy relationship. Or perhaps you hope that the marriage still has some fight left and you’re not ready to leave. It’s not a decision to take lightly. But now, whether it’s a matter of one too many arguments, trust-sapping infidelity, or something else entirely, you’re contemplating a permanent split.
My consultation with a gentleman earlier this week brought this topic up during our conversation. “Steven” has been married for over 30 years, most of which have been tumultuous. His fears were crippling him from deciding whether to divorce and was hoping I could answer this for him. I’m asked many questions as a divorce coach, in particular the question of whether someone should move forward and seek a divorce. This is not an easy question since this is not for me or any other professional to give you that answer. However, I can give you the most common signs that you should consider a divorce and take a leap of faith.
Winning is everything. If fighting is about placing blame and the constant need to “win” the focus becomes power. This is usually a red flag.
Forgiveness is not possible. Infidelity in a marriage is a major bump in the road, but not always a deal-breaker. It’s possible to move on and have a healthy relationship so long as both parties are willing to forgive and move on. However, if you’re both dredging up past issues every time there’s an argument or are holding onto resentment, then it’s most likely the marriage won’t survive.
It’s tumultuous all the time. Every relationship has its difficult periods occasionally, however, conflict and feelings of disconnection shouldn’t be constant. If it’s hard far more often than it is inspiring or pleasurable, it may be time to move on.
You put your kids, career, or friends first. Your kids and career require both your time and attention. However, when any one thing takes over, leaving little room for a partner to dedicate time and attention to the marriage, it will put enormous stress on the relationship. When your relationship with your friends, kids, and even your career is all you talk and think about, the wedge between spouses this causes, the prospect of divorce looks pretty appealing.
You’re not being your authentic self. When you constantly must put on your “game face” and not be your true self, this is very hard to overcome. If you must filter your opinions, and hide your true beliefs from your spouse, for fear you’ll be rejected if you’re truly “seen,” it’s hard not to resent your partner.
You’re overcompensating on social media. I’m convinced there are more negatives than positives in terms of the use of social media and its effects on relationships. Let’s face it, what you see on social media like Facebook and Instagram is an extremely edited version of people’s lives. It’s very easy to hide the reality of your life such as an unhappy marriage. If you find yourself or your partner suddenly oversharing on social media, it’s usually an attempt to cover up the truth. In other words, feeling the need to show the world how wonderful your relationship and life is, when in reality you know it’s not, may be a sign that your marriage is falling apart. Also, if you are spending hours on social media rather than spending time with your spouse, this too, is another sign your relationship is not in a good place.
You look for opportunities to provoke your spouse. If you’re constantly testing how far you can push your marriage before it completely shatters, you’re playing divorce roulette. Psychology experts say that once you start trying to push your spouse’s threshold, it’s possible that you subconsciously want to end things but are afraid to make the move and hope they do. For example, if you leave a flirtatious text up on your phone in hopes that your spouse reads it, you may subconsciously hope this will initiate a conversation or argument about why you have been unhappy.
For example, if you leave your computer open to an inappropriate (read: flirtatious) email exchange, you may secretly be hoping your spouse finds it, so they’ll initiate a conversation about why you’ve been unhappy.
You’ve planned your exit strategy. If you’re opening new bank accounts and credit cards or looking for a new job with a better salary in hopes of gaining more financial independence, this planning is usually a sign that you believe your marriage isn’t working. You’re not “all in” and you most likely have one foot out the door already.
If you find that you’re frequently confused about whether you should, or should not, get a divorce, here’s my opinion. When an individual is “confused” about deciding on something, really what they are doing is lying to themselves by saying they don’t have the answer. You’re most likely not confused, but rather, scared of the action you know you most likely want or should take. If divorce is something you are constantly wondering about, then it’s likely you already know your answer.
Hayley Lisa, The Divorce Coach for Men