Should I Get A Divorce? How To Know If/When It’s Time To End Things

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Sometimes, marriages are wonderful, blissful partnerships that last an entire lifetime.

And sometimes they’re not.

In fact, some marriages can shift from loving, supportive partnerships to excruciating situations that both parties despise. 

Nobody goes into a marriage expecting to divorce, but many factors can contribute to that kind of a breakdown.

If you’ve put in the work and given your marriage every chance to survive, and those efforts have all failed, you really have two choices: spend the rest of your lives together in absolute misery, or make the decision to divorce.

Naturally, there are as many different divorce-prompting scenarios as there are relationships on the planet, but there are a few that are more common than others.

If you’re trying to decide whether to sever that cord or not, you may be dealing with one (or more) of the following issues.

1. You can’t stand each other anymore.

All relationships ebb and flow, and both annoyance and conflict are inevitable, to some degree.

But if you’ve reached the point where you stay late at work to avoid spending time at home, or sit in your car and try to talk yourself into going inside the house, that’s another situation entirely.

Some married couples just grow apart over time. This could be because they rushed into the marriage before really getting to know one another first. Or perhaps life circumstances, stress, and various other issues have caused significant tensions between them.

Familiarity can breed contempt, and if that contempt has risen to the point where staying together is mentally and emotionally painful, why would you continue to put yourself, and each other, through that?

Sometimes, ending a marriage is the kindest thing you can do – both for yourself, and for the other person.

2. There’s no sexual intimacy, or the two of you have become ‘siblings.’

This is more common in couples who are over the age of 50 or so, but it can happen in any relationship, at any age.

Now, some people may be perfectly happy in long-term, platonic relationships. If both partners are okay with the situation, that’s great – they can have a comfortable, friend/sibling-based partnership for as long as it lasts.

If one partner isn’t happy being platonic, however, things get far more uncomfortable.

The one who wants intimacy with the other will end up feeling hurt and rejected when they’re turned down time and time again.

In turn, the platonic partner will feel uncomfortable and resentful about being harassed for sex, and will retreat further into themselves.

There’s also the possibility that both partners feel sibling-like toward one another. If this happens, and there’s still a strong friendship and solid emotional relationship, it might be able to be negotiated.

Open marriages or polyamory can be options, depending on the partners’ comfort levels with these kinds of arrangements.

If, however, both parties would prefer long-term relationships that involve physical intimacy, and don’t want to share partners with other people, there’s really only one option.

That said, if your relationship/friendship is really solid, you don’t have to part ways.

You’re still family, right?

So in this case, a divorce is really just untying that particular knot, allowing you to pursue the kinds of relationships you both need.

You can still be super close – just make sure that your new partners know that you two are very close, so there’s no worry about jealousy or other unpleasantness.

3. You have “irreconcilable differences.”

People change a lot over the course of a relationship, and not always in the same direction.

After all, we can change from one week to the next, so you can only imagine how much people can reinvent and reform themselves over several years.

If your personal growth is compatible with your spouse’s, then these changes can be navigated together, even if they’re polar opposites. Mutual respect, support, and care don’t have to be based on agreeing on absolutely everything.

But if your personal changes can’t be negotiated harmoniously, you may find that you have absolutely nothing in common anymore.

Furthermore, you might be at each other’s throats all the time because you’re just that incompatible now.

Some of these potential “deal breaker” changes could include:

  • Incompatible religious conversion
  • Polarizing political views
  • Addictive behavior that they refuse to get help for
  • Sexual leanings that the other doesn’t share/support
  • Gender transitioning

Some people do just fine in relationships with their complete opposites, and others don’t. And that’s okay.

Be true to yourself, as well as what you do and do not want in a relationship. If the two of you can’t negotiate a middle ground, or you’re just too polarized in different directions, then it’s best to part ways.

4. When the unforgivable (or unforgettable) occurs.

Forgiveness is wonderful, and is absolutely sacred when dealing with other people. After all, human beings are flawed, fallible creatures, and we screw up a lot.

Recognizing other people’s fallibility, vulnerability, and very human frailty is wonderful – it allows us to understand their motivations, and to forgive them sincerely.

That said, sometimes people do things that are so awful, we get absolutely flattened by their behavior.

We might be able to forgive them on some level, but we’re either haunted by their actions (or words), or – if it was truly atrocious – can’t get past what they’ve done. 

As an example, someone I know discovered indecent content of the most heinous kind on her husband’s computer. She was so horrified that she called the cops on him, and moved back into her parents’ place while he was being processed.

This is a perfect example of a situation that couldn’t be reconciled: she was too horrified by his behavior to even think about sticking around.

p>If what occurred was bad enough, one might not even be able to face their spouse at all. In fact, like the situation above, they may be so horrified by their actions that they don’t want anything to do with their partner anymore.

If you are dealing with a situation that you truly can’t handle, it’s absolutely understandable that you want to cut ties, walk away, and try not to look back.

The great poet Alexander Pope once said:

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

To that, I’ll add:

“…and cutting ties for your own safety, sanity, and well-being is absolutely fine.”

5. The relationship is abusive.

If your marriage has become abusive and unsafe, it’s time to go.

Hopefully you’ve tried to address these issues, as there are usually underlying reasons that may contribute to them. But if positive, real change isn’t happening, then staying will only cause further harm.

Abuse doesn’t need to be physical violence toward you. Neglect, emotional cruelty, gaslighting, prolonged silent treatment, and other psychological attacks… these are all forms of abuse that can damage a person a great deal over time.

These can sometimes rear their ugly heads when one partner wants to end the relationship, but they don’t want to be the “bad one” by severing things.

Maybe they think you two should stay together for the kids’ sake, or perhaps your cultural background or religion frowns upon divorce. So all that tension, discomfort, and resentment rears its head in awful, damaging behaviors.

If you’ve tried to confront your partner about this and things haven’t improved, or if you’re scared of them, please get help. Talk to your friends and family, seek the help of a therapist or counselor, and don’t be afraid to call the police if you need to.

Abuse is never acceptable, and it certainly has no place in a marriage. If this is something you’re dealing with, get out ASAP.

6. There is nothing left to “fix.”

If things have been bad for a while, you might both be putting in the barest effort to maintain a semblance of peace in the house.

Both spouses might be wracked with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and countless other issues that occur when people are in awful situations, but not speaking – or acting on – their truth.

As mentioned earlier, some relationships last a lifetime, and some don’t. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that a marriage has “failed,” but rather that your pairing has run its course.

If you’ve changed careers, that doesn’t mean that you “failed” at your previous one, did you? But rather, you changed and outgrew the one you pursued earlier, and needed to pursue greater fulfillment in a career that suited you better.

If you really have done all you can to keep this relationship afloat, and nothing is working, it’s probably best for both of you to move on.

Hopefully you’re on good enough terms that you can work together to take care of your kids, pets, and projects together. You may even discover that you get along far better as close friends than in an intimate partnership.

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If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re already pretty sure about the decision you’re leaning toward. You might just need a bit of reassurance that this choice is the right one. Hopefully we’ve been able to help you know whether or not it is.

Ultimately, “divorce” doesn’t have to be a horrible word. After all, if you’re both unhappy with your situation, ending it allows both of you to start new, more authentic journeys.

There may be a grand adventure waiting for each of you that you won’t be able to embark upon until this cord is severed.

If you can do so with love and positive intention rather than anger or bitterness, all the better. Consider this parting to be an act of love: both for yourselves, and for each other.

This entire situation may seem a bit intimidating, but to quote Seneca: 

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Still not sure whether or not to divorce your husband or wife? Or just need some help through it? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.