Every couple will have their rough patches here and there, which is completely normal. However, when these rough patches become more and more frequent, it may be time to consider other options. Perhaps having a serious conversation with your spouse where you explain your concerns about the deteriorating status of your relationship, or marriage counseling to dig into the root cause of all your petty arguments may be able to right the ship. Unfortunately, there are also times where, despite all your effort, nothing will make things work.
Ending a marriage is an extremely difficult decision to contemplate. You have likely spent years planning and building a life together with your spouse: You may have a home, pets or children together, shared goals and future dreams planned over years of late-night heart-to-hearts — and now you are pondering tossing all of that aside. However, everyone deserves to be happy, and if you are miserable in your marriage, divorce might be your best option.
Many couples stay in broken relationships far too long before they finally decide to take action, which can be even more stressful and harmful than divorce. While there is no formula to tell if a marriage is truly unsalvageable, make sure you take the time to explore every alternative, as this is a decision that should not be made lightly. There are many different considerations you should contemplate when determining if divorce is the right direction to go in your life.
Do negative interactions with your spouse outweigh positive interactions?
While all couples will have their disagreements, those sort of exchanges should not dominate your relationship. Relationship researcher John Gottman determined the “magic ratio” between positive and negative interactions is 5 to 1 for a healthy and stable relationship. If you are finding it difficult to remember positive experiences with your spouse, it is a pretty good sign that there are serious issues with your marriage.
Do you have recurring arguments over core beliefs?
Opposites attract, but that doesn’t mean opposites can make it work forever. If you and your spouse have had opposing views over a major fundamental principle (or principles) since before you even said your vows, your marriage may have begun on a shaky foundation. You might have thought one of you would eventually cave if you were together for long enough, say on differing views on children or religion, but you cannot rely on that to happen. Think to yourself, would you be willing to pull a 180 on a central pillar in your belief system? If the answer is no, then how can you expect your spouse to compromise their own?
Have you or your spouse threatened divorce in an argument?
One spouse threatening the other with divorce is a fairly common method to try to turn the tides of a heated argument; however, it is also a very bad sign for the strength of a marriage. Just like you should never point a gun at someone unless you truly intend to shoot, you should never threaten divorce unless you mean to go through with it. Not only is it a meaningless way to win an argument, but hollow threats detract from the severity of divorce. The monumental impact of ending a marriage completely changes the course of your lives, and the high-strung situation of an argument is not the time or the place to discuss such a serious matter.
Are you both on the same page?
If you and your spouse are both unhappy with the relationship, there is clearly something wrong. It may take one of those awkward and uncomfortable conversations about how you feel deep down — the kind of conversation most sane people try to avoid at all costs (which obviously isn’t healthy, but no one really enjoys those talks…). Still, both of you need to dump your baggage on the table. Not only can this be a weight off each of your shoulders, it also serves to point out areas that can be worked on toward reconciliation or show that both of you feel the flame has died out for good.
Do you feel the need to avoid time alone with your spouse?
If you are constantly making up excuses to hang out with your buddies after work or on the weekends, even when there really isn’t an actual reason, it could point to deeper problems. You can probably remember a time when you wanted nothing more than to spend all the time you could with your spouse. Maybe it has been a while since you felt that way, but consciously / unconsciously avoiding him or her is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
Do you fantasize about ending your marriage / never married in the first place?
If your daydreams are more than just the typical “grass is always greener” kind of thoughts, you may already be subconsciously preparing yourself for divorce. It’s a classic catch-22: Single people dream about the joys of a relationship, and when you’re in a relationship it’s normal to feel an urge to be single. However, if this urge is becoming more persistent than just the passing curiosity or fantasy, it could point to underlying problems in your marriage. Don’t necessarily run to a divorce attorney if you have a momentary yearning to be single, but also be wary if those thoughts linger and start seriously affecting your mood or how your treat your spouse.
If you take these questions into consideration and don’t like some of the answers you get, it doesn’t mean you need to immediately rush out and file for divorce. They can, however, help you isolate certain issues that may be causing a rift between you and your spouse. If you are able to catch them early and you are both willing to work, it is entirely possible that you could salvage your marriage and be happier than ever.
You may also find that issues run deeper than you thought and the spark of your marriage has truly disappeared. Despite the pain and challenges of divorce, you will be much worse off staying in a miserable marriage. You can recover after a divorce with time, but you cannot fix a broken marriage by avoiding the root of the problem.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”