The last thing a couple who is getting married thinks about is divorce. Marriage is supposed to be forever. Unfortunately, reality shows us differently. Approximately half of marriages end up in divorce, with women initiating the majority of them. While no marriage is perfect, some are irreparable. What exactly are the signs that a person is ready for a divorce?
Divorce doesn’t happen overnight. No couple is happily in love on Monday and thinking about divorce on Tuesday. By the time the thought of divorce arises, the relationship has been eroding for years or months. Small disappointments turn into major communication obstacles. What was once love turns into indifference.
When Conflicts Remain Unresolved
Fighting and arguing are frequently thought to be one of the leading causes of divorce. That, however, is not the case. The actual culprit isn’t arguing; it’s not resolving the differences. For example, a couple may argue about the husband’s continuous long hours at the office and unavailability at home. If they care about each other and their marriage, some type of compromise will eventually be reached, even though they argue. Perhaps the husband agrees to work shorter hours. Or he promises to forego his weekend golf games to be with the family. The wife may agree to get an outside interest to keep her from being lonely. As long as they are willing to talk, the arguing is not the problem. Signs of an imminent divorce can enter the picture when no one is talking any longer.
People stop talking when they confuse complaining with criticizing. In the above example, the wife is complaining about being alone. If the husband takes her remarks as a personal complaint, he’ll become defensive and the issue will remain unresolved. That is why complaining, in effect, can help move communication along. Criticism, on the other hand, amounts to a judgment on the other person, which will strain any marriage.
When the couple has reached the stage where neither really listens to the other and has no intentions of adjusting his or her behavior, the conflicts will remain unresolved and erode at the marriage. When discussion ends, anger and bitterness emerge and take the place of active communication. The marriage has, in effect, narrowed down to, “I just don’t care any longer.” This is an important sign you may be heading for a divorce.
Lack of Communication
Lack of communication isn’t always the opposite of arguing, but it can be. Mostly, a lack of communication results from not sharing your thoughts and feelings. We all have an inner, very personal life. Perhaps we have a dream we are afraid to follow. Or, we feel hurt when our partner doesn’t remember special occasions. Communication requires sharing these thoughts with the person to whom we are married and active listening. Communication builds trust, while the lack of communication degrades trusts and affection.
Lack of communication can take many forms, such as one spouse being hypercritical, a refusal to listen to the other person, or simply being unwilling to share important thoughts – perhaps out of fear or embarrassment. When nothing is discussed, nothing can be fixed, which leads to frustration.
We have discussed the importance of resolving problems through compromise. When there is no communication, no compromise can be reached. In many instances, when communication is lacking, one or both spouses will seek relief outside of the marriage.
Indifference and Emotional Disengagement
Indifference and emotional disengagement are the antitheses of anger. Where there’s anger, there is still some amount of caring and emotional involvement. Indifference and apathy are the most effective ways to erode a marriage and clear signs that you may be ready for a divorce.
Imagine being married to someone and feeling … nothing. No anger, no resentment. Just nothing. All there is left is a painful, numbing void. You desperately want to recapture at least some of the old feelings, but they are no longer there. Regardless of how badly you want to hold on to the marriage, you can almost see the end in sight. Don’t underestimate the power of indifference. If you feel your spouse’s indifference directed at you, the pain can be overwhelming. If you find yourself indifferent to your spouse’s actions, even an affair, it’s a sure sign you are emotionally ready for a divorce.
Without emotional engagement, you are living as roommates, with physical encounters rare or non-existent. What was once a passionate relationship has deteriorated not with a bang, but a sad whimper. It’s a marriage without a pulse.
Lack of Sex
Sex is what makes a married relationship different from other relationship. You can love any number of people in different ways, but the physical expression of that love is usually reserved for marriage. There are a number of reasons why a couple’s sex life can deteriorate into nothingness. One partner may have a low sex drive. Other couples can be busy with children and career, leaving them too tired for sex. Sex can fade when one partner has or has had an affair. Or, a couple can simply become bored with each other. Sex, the ultimate expression of love, has become a meaningless chore, if it happens at all.
When both partners are satisfied with a sexless marriage, the relationship can probably endure. However, when one person wants sex and the other doesn’t, it leads to obvious feelings of rejection. Lack of sex can be a sign that the marriage is no longer functional and headed for divorce.
Increased Outside Interests
When two people become emotionally disengaged, they begin to focus their interest away from each other. This can mean work, children, or some new hobby – anything that keeps them from interacting more than is necessary and to keep the growing sense of loneliness at bay. Certainly, at this point, having an affair becomes very appealing. You want to fill the emptiness with something. Anything.
Thoughts about Single Life
Perhaps you’re not yet thinking about the “D” word. You’re simply living in a kind of limbo, neither here nor there. However, you find yourself remembering your single days with pleasure. Those fun weekends with friends. Being able to come and go as you pleased. In your mind, the past begins to look better and better while the present no longer holds anything positive or pleasurable.
Whether consciously or unconsciously, you begin to wonder – just hypothetically, of course. Could you survive on your salary alone? You find yourself glancing at apartment ads and wonder what you could afford in a decent neighborhood. If you haven’t left the marriage physically, your mind is wandering toward another life, one that doesn’t include your spouse.
Be careful about glamorizing the single life. The grass invariably looks greener somewhere else. But if you truly want to escape your marriage, remember what being single has to offer you. The more you imagine that life, the better it begins to look. At this stage, it’s all over but the leaving.
Taking that final step isn’t easy. It isn’t meant to be. However, unless your partner is abusing you and you feel otherwise uneasy, it’s smart to prepare for the eventual divorce for the simple reason that while divorce may be the only logical choice, it will be difficult unless you pave the way ahead of time. Preparedness is crucial, and many people don’t take the time to actually “plan” for the divorce. That can be a huge mistake. If you jump into a divorce before you are ready, the situation can end up extremely acrimonious. The chances of an amicable and easier divorce are exponentially higher when you feel emotionally, physically, and financially ready.
1. Reconnect with old friends with whom you’ve lost touch. You’ll need a lot of emotional support during the divorce proceedings, and friends can be a tremendous resource.
2. Expand your social network beyond friends. Find something that captures your passion, such as volunteering, dancing, or going back to school. Making new friends will broaden your interests.
3. Divorce can take a huge bite out of your self-esteem, so make sure you will feel good about yourself when the time comes. Lose weight, if necessary. Invest in a few nice and flattering outfits. Start to wear makeup again. The truth is, you’ll feel better if you look great.
4. Consider your budget. Will you be able to afford the single life? If not, adjust your career/work plans so as to allow for enough income to enable you to support yourself. What amenities or luxuries can you live without if need be?
5. Think about the children. Are you comfortable sharing custody with your ex? Will you be able to handle their fears, anger, and insecurities?
It’s true that no relationship is perfect. But when indifference and lack of physical and emotional intimacy have left you feeling lonely and numb, it is time to really be honest about the signs that indicate you may be ready for a divorce.