When you’re struggling with the “is my marriage over?” question, you may find yourself veering from “yes, our relationship is done” to “there’s still hope for our marriage!” in the space of minutes. How do you know if your marriage is over or if it’s going through a natural down cycle?
“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 marriage coach Mort Fertel. “It’s not until they’ve been through the worst that things start to get better.”
So, one way to know if your marriage is over is to ask if you’re at rock bottom yet. Are you at the lowest point of your relationship? How do you know? The truth is that you won’t find the answers you’re searching for in a blog post about marriage. The only place you’ll find the truth is within you, your husband, and your decision together as a couple to either commit to saving your marriage or ending it (hopefully, without waging a war that involves the whole family). But since you’re here, you might as well read the most common signs a marriage is over…
“I just want to put this out there for all the other women in unhealthy relationships and to the wives who are ignoring the signs their marriage is over,” writes Kara on 5 Signs You Should Give Up Hope in Your Relationship. “My mom stayed married to my dad for 36 years even though she kept asking me if their marriage was over. It was a terrible relationship and I kept telling her to leave, but she wouldn’t. So that’s why I don’t ask for or give relationship advice. Nobody listens. They already know the truth. I do know that if you’re seeing signs you should give up hope, then you shouldn’t keep hanging on to a dead marriage.”
Your first job is to figure out why you’re wondering if your marriage is over. What brought you to this point? What circumstances, decisions, behaviors, words and events led you here? That is more important than the signs of a troubled marriage below. You have more power and control over your life than you may think.
Is Your Marriage Over?
My research uncovered the 7 most common signs a relationship is over. Remember that even if your marriage contains every one of these struggles, you may not be looking down the barrel of divorce just yet. It depends on you, your husband, and your decision as a couple to pursue a healthy marriage or let it die a sad death.
Which will it be, I wonder?
1. Your husband doesn’t care about your relationship or life together
If your husband doesn’t understand (or care) how his actions, words or decisions are affecting you, then maybe your marriage isn’t as solid as it could be. If he has no interest in working with you to compromise or build a better relationship then your marriage won’t be easy to save. If you hit rock bottom years ago and both of you have no idea how or desire to get up off the floor and rebuild your life, then it seems to me that yes…your marriage is over.
When you ask your husband, “is our marriage over?”, what does he say? If he doesn’t bother to respond – or if he says yes – then you have your answer.
2. Your husband sees your marriage clearly, but doesn’t care
“Ironically, communication in marriage sometimes give people clarity that they don’t care what their spouse thinks or feels,” says marriage coach Mort Fertel. “They understand how their partner feels and thinks, but it just doesn’t matter anymore.”
Couples get tired of the fighting, of the emotional battles, of the constant bringing up of the past and going over the same tired territory over and over. One of the most difficult – and common – relationship problems is the simple lack of energy and motivation to continue to try to save a troubled marriage. You’re both too aware of the problems because you’ve been dealing with them forever…and it just doesn’t seem worth the effort anymore.
3. You don’t connect with your husband
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. You’ve drifted apart.
This isn’t necessarily a sign your marriage is over – it just means you need to make time and effort to reconnect. Of all the signs on this list, lack of connection is probably the easiest to fix. So if this is the only sign your marriage is over, then you can rejoice! And start reconnecting with your husband.
4. You have different visions of the future of your marriage
Your husband wants a four million dollar home on oceanfront property; you want to live in a cottage in the forest and write books about elves. Your husband wants six more children; you’d rather sit in a corner and daydream about forest cottages and elves. Your husband wants his grandpop and nana to live with him in his four million dollar home; you can barely pick up the phone when grandpop calls.
So, you tell me: is your marriage over because your goals, visions, and dreams are from different planets? Or, are you both willing to work together to find a happy middle ground that includes both forest elves and grandpop?
5. You’re not physically intimate
Different expectations about physical affection isn’t a sure sign your marriage is over – but it takes a toll on your relationship.
How are you and your husband doing in the intimacy department? You’ve gone through stages of closeness and distance in the past…how long did it last? Is this phase different? When was the last time you felt close to your husband? All these questions contain the answer you’re looking for when you ask “is my marriage over?” I don’t have those answers. You do.
I’m not trying to be flippant or cavalier about your relationship, because I know you’re in pain. This isn’t easy for you, and I’m sorry. I really am. My heart goes out to you, and I wish you weren’t struggling with this difficult question. But the answers you’re searching for are within you. You may not want to face the truth, and you need to find strength, courage, and wisdom.
6. You fight the “wrong” way in your marriage
Back to the signs your marriage is over…
If you and your husband can’t focus on one point of discussion when you try to resolve questions, then you need help focusing. You need to learn how to fight the “right” way in your marriage. The right way to argue means you stick to the topic at hand, and don’t bring up the fact that you’re still struggling to trust your husband after his affair three years ago.
The right way to argue in a relationship is to NOT bring up past mistakes or reopen old wounds. The more your past problems enter current arguments, the less healthy your conflict and communication style is. Fighting the “wrong” way in marriage isn’t necessarily a sign your relationship is over; you can learn how to fight clean if you’re both willing to learn.
7. You husband cheated on you and wants your marriage to be over
Enough said. If he had an affair and wants to leave you, then you need to face the truth.
Actually, the sad reality is that many wives – and husbands – refuse to admit the truth. Why? Because it’s painful. Actually, it’s not just painful…it’s devastating and heartbreaking for the whole family. That’s why so many relationships limp along for years or decades even when the cheating partner is unfaithful. It hurts to let go of a marriage, of the life you had together, of your dreams and hopes and plans.
You’re more likely to save your marriage if you and your husband have a common vision. What is your “why” for being married, for building a life together? One of the strongest, most courageous ways to heal your relationship is to focus together on your faith. If you and your husband can put your faith in and love for God above all else, then you have a much better chance at saving your marriage.
How do you feel? Tell me how you are, if your marriage is over, what you want to see happen next. Start planning your next steps, because it’s in your plans that action will begin.
Read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work- A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert by Dr John Gottman. Besides knowing your own self – and your husband – this is an excellent way to know if your marriage is over! This book will show you what you need to do to save your relationship and restore your marriage.
Don’t give up on your relationship yet – it is VERY possible that the best is yet to come! Maybe you’ve hit the natural “rock bottom” life cycle of your relationship…and maybe you just need to start rebuilding your marriage.
The Gottmans provide vital tools – scientifically based and empirically verified – that you can use to regain affection and romance you lost through years of ineffective communication and bad fights. Yes, you can work through the resentments and problems…but you have to make the time and effort to commit to saving your marriage.
And yes, you CAN go from “Is my marriage over?” to “I thought my marriage was over, but we pulled through this together!”