Ending a marriage is never an easy decision, and it requires a lot of introspection. While each situation is unique, there are certain main warning signs (such as contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and evasiveness) that can indicate a serious problem. Pay attention to warning signs, assess your feelings, and identify reasons for continuing or ending the relationship. Since this is a very difficult decision, it is also helpful to turn to trusted loved ones for advice and support.
Part 1 of 3: Spot the Major Warning Signs
Step 1. Look for signs of contempt such as teasing, glares, or hostile insults
Expressions of contempt are non-verbal statements or behaviors that attack people's sense of identity. Contempt is motivated by feelings of disgust and intense dislike. Therefore, it is one of the most serious signs and indicates that a marriage is in difficulties.
- Expressions of contempt can be offensive statements, such as "You are a loser," "I dislike you," or "You never do anything right."
- The signs of contempt can also be non-verbal. You or your spouse may tease or tease when the other enters the room.
- One of the couple could say "How was your day?" And the other could respond by rolling his eyes, ignoring the question, or reacting badly by saying "That is something that does not concern you."
- If you think you or your spouse have great contempt for each other, it may be time to distance yourself. If both of you are willing to work to save the marriage, a marriage counselor could help you create a more respectful environment.
Step 2. Treat personal criticism as a warning sign
All married couples complain about mania, but criticism becomes a problem when it becomes personal. If you and your spouse launch personal attacks and put-downs all the time, it's time to take steps to improve communication.
For example, "I feel humiliated and ignored when you don't answer my questions" points to an action. “You always stare into space when I speak to you. There is something wrong with you”is a personal attack
Step 3. Pay attention to constant defensive attitudes
When one or both spouses frequently attack the other, being together can be like walking on eggshells. Ask yourself if you've always had a need to defend yourself, have you constantly anticipated feeling guilty, or automatically assume that your partner is about to insult you.
Think about how often your partner becomes defensive. Notice if either of you constantly say things like "It's not my fault," especially without provocation
Step 4. Pay attention to evasive signs
To resolve a conflict, a couple must keep the lines of communication open. Evasions (when one or both parties close, back away, or ignore) are a sign of a serious breakdown in communication.
- Keep in mind that it is okay to delay resolving a conflict until both of you have calmed down. However, a spouse should say, “I prefer not to talk about it right now. I think we both need time to calm down”, instead of ignoring the other.
- Also, if you notice that you keep failing to figure things out, this could be a sign of a bigger problem. Disagreements can promote growth if you can resolve them as a couple, but they can become unhealthy if the same conflict persists.
Step 5. Keep track of your positive and negative interactions
It is normal for spouses in a healthy marriage to argue from time to time. However, arguments and other negative interactions should not outweigh positive interactions. If you and your spouse have more fights than love shows, it may be time to work on the underlying problems in the relationship.
- It is also important to keep track of how much quality time you share, and whether you have made an effort to make time to be together. In the moment, it can be easy to feel like they fight all the time, but this is not always the case.
- As a general rule of thumb, there should be five positive interactions for every negative interaction. Positive interactions include hugs or kisses, praise, deep conversations, or potluck.
- Be aware that an emotionally abusive person might offer expensive gifts or treat their partner like a king or queen most of the time. Forms of abuse, including physical violence, threats of violence, isolation, attempts at humiliation, and humiliating insults are never acceptable. No positive interaction justifies abusive behavior.
Step 6. Think about the quality of your conversations
Quality conversations are common in a healthy marriage. Think about the last time you and your spouse had a deep conversation about your feelings, opinions, or curiosities. If you have short talks only about the necessary issues, it is time to address the situation.
It's normal to go through difficult and stressful periods when communication is impaired. However, it is important that you distinguish if you do not want to talk after a long day because you are stressed or if you never want to talk to your spouse because you despise him
Step 7. Evaluate your physical and emotional intimacy
Some married couples are not intimate, and that works for them. However, if you and your spouse are experiencing a steady decline in physical and emotional intimacy, you may be disconnecting.
- Some examples of physical and emotional intimacy include saying "I love you," praising each other, expressing appreciation, trusting each other, holding hands, hugging, kissing, snuggling, and having sex.
- Again, “down” periods are normal, but there is a difference between not being intimate because you are exhausted or stressed and not being intimate because you don't like your spouse. Other indicators include selfish behaviors such as a spouse spending a lot of money or making professional decisions without consulting their partner.
- Communication and intimacy problems due to contempt or dislike are difficult to overcome, and could signal that it is time to go your separate ways.
Part 2 of 3: Assessing Your Feelings
Step 1. Make a list of things that could save the marriage
Think about the steps both of you must take in order to save the relationship. Draw a line in the middle of a sheet, write what you should do on one side, and what your spouse should do on the other side.
- For example, in your spouse's column, you can write "Attend to my feelings, be more intimate, express more love and affection." In your column, you can write "Use kinder words, stop making personal attacks, stop using work as a distraction from my marriage."
- Ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. Do you think you and your spouse can make these changes? Are you willing to come to an agreement?
- Know that both of you must make changes to save the marriage. For example, as much as your spouse has been unfaithful to you, both of you must address the underlying reasons for their behavior.
Step 2. Determine if you fantasize about being single
How do you feel about having a future without your spouse? Do you often think about being single, living alone, hanging out with other people, and moving away? If these fantasies bring you a sense of happiness or relief, your marriage could be on shaky ground.
- Keep in mind that all people daydreams and have fantasies. Don't rush to end a marriage just because you've thought about the idea of having a different life.
- Ask yourself if the thought of separation gives you more joy than the idea of staying together. Do you fantasize more frequently and in more detail? If this is the case for you, and if there are other warning signs, it's probably time to go your separate ways or take action to save the marriage.
Step 3. Identify if you want to save the relationship out of fear
Do you want to continue with your marriage because you love your partner and want to achieve common goals? Or are you afraid of the financial and personal difficulties that you would have to face after a separation? Be honest with yourself and determine exactly why you have not parted.
- If you want to stay with your partner because you love them and want to achieve common goals, you will have a greater chance of resolving the conflict.
- Separations and divorces can be scary, but a marriage joined by fear is not stable. Your friends and family can offer you practical and emotional support. At this point, it may seem impossible, but in time, you will get back on your feet.
Step 4. Ask yourself if you want to keep the relationship for your children
It is very normal that you are afraid that the divorce will harm the children. However, children of divorced parents do better than those whose parents are in a toxic relationship.
If your kids are the only reason you're staying in the relationship, ending the marriage might be better for them
Step 5. Talk to a trusted friend or family member to get a fresh perspective
It is normal to feel confused and that you do not find an easy answer for your situation. Go to your loved ones for advice. Family members or good friends can help you better understand your feelings.
- For example, you can say, “Juan and I have been having problems. Sometimes I think things are worth fixing. In others, I feel like it's time to pack my things. I feel so confused and overwhelmed that I need a friend who can help me solve this. "
- Know that your loved ones may not be mental health professionals, and you shouldn't make decisions based on their opinion alone. However, being able to express your feelings can help you gain clarity, and a loved one who knows you well could shed some light on the situation.
Part 3 of 3: Talk to Your Spouse
Step 1. Make your concerns about marriage clear
If you haven't already, you should open up with your spouse about your feelings. Tell him that things are not working and that you are afraid the marriage is over. Stay calm and try your best not to appear angry or blame him.
Mention specific issues, such as “We don't treat each other well anymore, and I can't remember the last time we said more than two words to each other. It seems like we have a hard time with each other, and I don't think this environment is good for either of us. "
Step 2. Establish whether you are both willing to figure things out
If you or your spouse refuse to acknowledge the problem and try to resolve it, it will be impossible to save the relationship. One person cannot resolve the conflict on their own, so both must commit to saving the marriage.
- If you're willing to figure things out, you can say, “We both have a lot to improve, but I'm willing to try. Do you think we could go to a therapist to rebuild our connection?
- As scary as it sounds, showing yourself vulnerable could be the first and most important step. Your partner may not know that saving the marriage is important to you.
Step 3. Talk about goals and plans
Problems arise when both spouses have opposite views of the future. Having different goals is not always a reason to end a marriage, but both of you must find a way to agree to make things work.
- If you both share the goal of saving the relationship, you will have a better chance of reconciling. However, they may be better off going their separate ways if you think that work, dating, or having more independence are more important than marriage.
- Other examples that could be the cause of conflicts are disagreements regarding where to live, whose career goals are prioritized, and whether or not to have children.
Step 4. Find a marriage counselor if they haven't already
If you both decide that you want to improve the marriage, make an appointment with a couples therapist and consider individual therapy. A licensed professional will help you identify the underlying issues in the conflict, develop skills to resolve disagreements without attacking yourself, and provide an objective perspective on the situation.
If you've been in therapy for months or years and are not seeing progress, it may be time to accept that your best option is divorce
Step 5. Stay calm and be patient if you decide to end the marriage
If you are unwilling to save the marriage, make an effort to calmly and tactfully inform your spouse. Avoid bringing up divorce during a heated argument. Pick a time when both of you are calm, and do your best to be empathetic, but practical.
For example, you can say, “We haven't been happy for a long time, and I don't think it's possible to bridge the gap that separates us. I appreciate the happiness we have shared, but going our separate ways is the healthiest decision for both of us. "
- Infidelity and other betrayals of trust are hard to overcome. However, it is possible to save a marriage after cheating on a spouse. With the help of a counselor, rebuilding trust is often easier than dealing with deep-seated contempt and dislike.
- If you are a victim of physical or emotional abuse, it is time to end the marriage, if you can do so safely. If you are at risk of a situation of physical violence, call the emergency service and seek support through your trusted loved ones.