How to Know if Your Marriage is Over
Are you going through the normal stages of a long-term relationship, or is your marriage finished? These 7 signs a marriage is over will help you see your relationship more clearly.
“In my work doing marriage coaching, I have noticed that very often the turning point in a marriage is when a couple hits rock bottom,” says Mort Fertel. “It’s not until they’ve been through the worst that things start to get better.”
Feeling like you’ve hit rock bottom in your marriage isn’t necessarily the worst thing to happen in your relationship. Sometimes rock bottom is where you need to be, so you can save your marriage. Read through these signs your marriage is over, and be open to ways to rebuild your relationship. At the end of this article I share several books that will help you work through these signs your marriage is over…and perhaps even save your relationship. Or, you might decide you need to learn how to survive a loveless marriage.
7 Signs Your Marriage is Over
Remember marriage coach Mort Fertel’s words: just because you’re struggling with problems in your relationship, doesn’t mean your marriage is headed for divorce court! The following issues may represent the end of one stage of your marriage….and may herald the beginning of a new, healthier chapter of life. In fact, Mort says cheating husbands are more likely to build stronger marriages.
If financial debt or other money problems are destroying your marriage, read How to Stop Money From Causing Relationship Issues.
1. Your partner can’t see the reality of your marriage
If your spouse doesn’t understand how his actions are affecting you – and even worse, refuses to compromise – then your marriage will be difficult to rebuild. To rise from rock bottom, both partners have to see how their actions or inactions are affecting the relationship – and both partners have to be willing to work on it. If your spouse refuses to accept responsibility, then you have to decide if you want to stay in your marriage the way it is…or end it.
It’s difficult when your partner refuses to see what’s happening in your relationship. But, that refusal alone may be the only sign you need that your marriage is over.
2. Your spouse sees how thing are, but doesn’t care
You can communicate until you’re blue in the face, but if your partner doesn’t care how you feel or whether the relationship is healthy, then perhaps it’s a sign your marriage is over.
Marriage coach Mort Fertel says, “Ironically, communication techniques sometimes give people clarity that they don’t care what their spouse thinks or feels. They ‘got it,’ but it doesn’t matter to them anymore.” Communication doesn’t matter much if your spouse doesn’t care.
Does your partner care how you feel?
3. You don’t connect with your spouse
When you first got married, you probably felt understood, heard, and connected with your partner. Time passes, and the stress of daily life and kids and jobs and money and house all take a toll…and you find that you’re not connecting anymore. This isn’t necessarily a sign your marriage is over – it just means you need to make the time and effort to reconnect.
This isn’t necessarily a sign your marriage is over. Many couples go through ups and downs, and all relationships need care and attention. Not connecting with your spouse right now doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to think about divorce.
4. You have different visions of the future of your marriage
He wants a four million dollar home on oceanfront property; you want to live in a cottage in the country. He wants six children; you’d rather be childfree. He wants his mom and aunt to live with you in his four million dollar home; you can barely tolerate Christmas dinner together. To keep your marriage together, you need to agree on your vision as a couple or family – and put each other first (and your financial goals, parents, or careers second).
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Sometimes you don’t need to read signs your marriage is over, because you know divorce is the best option. If you aren’t financially independent or free to walk away, read How to Get Money to Leave Your Husband.
5. You’re not physically intimate (but this isn’t always a sign your marriage is over)
This may not be a sure way to tell if your marriage is over — it depends on your physical and mental health — but if you have no love life to speak of, then you probably aren’t connecting on an intimate emotional and physical level. The less you connect, the less healthy your relationship is…and the more likely your spouse is ending the relationship.
Again, it’s possible that you’re simply in a dry desert stage of your relationship. Can you regain intimacy? Start working on the emotional aspects of your marriage, and the physical part may happen naturally.
6. You fight the “wrong” way in your marriage
If you can’t focus on the topic of your argument, opting instead to bring up past mistakes or reopen old wounds, then your marriage may be leaning towards “over.” The more past conflicts come into current arguments, the less healthy your marriage is. This may not be a certain sign your marriage is over, because it’s actually fairly easily remedied if both spouses are willing.
Learning how to resolve conflict in marriage may involve going to a counselor, or simply reading books about communication. But this goes back to the previous signs a marriage is over: are you and your spouse willing to do the work it takes to reconnect?
7. You partner cheats – and wants to end the marriage
Many couples survive marital infidelity, and even have a stronger bond because of the cheating. Other couples split up right away, while other marriage limp along for years or decades…and the cheating partner remains unfaithful.
Cheating in and of itself isn’t necessarily a way to tell if your marriage is over…it’s how the partners act after the infidelity that determines if they’ll stay together.
How to Save Your Marriage
In How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, Drs. Patricia Love and Steven Stosny say that talking about your relationship makes women move closer but it makes men move away. They studied this dynamic between men and women, reached a truly shocking conclusion. Even with the best of intentions, talking about your relationship doesn’t bring you together, and it will eventually drive you apart. The reason for this is that underneath most couples’ fights, there is a biological difference. A woman’s vulnerability to fear and anxiety makes her draw closer, while a man’s subtle sensitivity to shame makes him pull away in response. This is why so many married couples fall into the archetypal roles of nagging wife/stonewalling husband, and why improving a marriage can’t happen through words.
What are the natural phases of a long-term, committed love relationship? Read Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love by Linda Carroll. You’ll recognize where you are in the cycle of your marriage, and start understanding different strategies for staying happy and committed, even in difficult times.
In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, John Gottman offers strategies and resources to help couples collaborate more effectively to resolve any problem, whether dealing with issues related to sex, money, religion, work, family, or anything else. Whether you see all seven signs your marriage is over – or just one – this book can help you save your relationship. It’s packed with new exercises and the latest research out of the esteemed Gottman Institute, and will help you lift your relationship to its highest potential.
I welcome your thoughts on these signs your marriage is over. I can’t give you advice, but the books on saving your marriage may help. You might also consider getting marriage coaching from an online source of support, such as Mort Fertel. He gives relationship advice, and shares his perspective on the signs of a marriage ending.
If you and your husband are willing to work on your marriage, read How to Go on a Marriage Retreat Without Leaving Home.
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