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13 Signs Your Marriage May Be Over and 7 Things to Do Next

Acknowledging that a relationship is coming to an end gives you time to prepare.

Key points

  • There are common signs that indicate a relationship is at risk for a final break-up.
  • Divorce is the final solution to an unworkable marriage; partners need to be sure this is the step they want to take before filing for divorce.
  • Self-care is important as relationships end, but self-care is more than massages and meditation. Financial stability is essential self-care.

Every relationship goes through rocky patches, but when the rocky patches cover most of the relationship terrain, you may feel that it's time to rethink the permanency of your marriage. Here are 13 signs that your relationship may be nearing its conclusion:

  1. Abuse of any sort—physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, spiritual, etc.—is present and there is no willingness to acknowledge the abuse by the abuser or to stop the behavior.
  2. There is an absence of respect and mutual concern between you and your partner, and your partner is not willing to reflect on or change their behavior.
  3. Apathy towards one another has replaced caring for one another.
  4. You decide to take an objective look at your relationship, and when you reflect on the pros and the cons of staying together, the cons seriously outweigh the pros.
  5. Any difference of opinion between you and your partner rapidly devolves into an argument, and no one is willing to give ground. Fighting and silence have replaced negotiations and debate. Differences are now impossible to work out as neither you nor your partner sees any benefit in ceding ground.
  6. Your partner has an addiction—whether to substances or processes—and refuses to acknowledge the addiction or seek treatment. You can’t address a problem if you refuse to admit there’s a problem.
  7. You no longer share your inner thoughts or emotions with your partner; if you try, they tune you out, leave the room, express a lack of interest, or ask you to be quiet about the topic.
  8. Conversations have been replaced by the bare minimum of words exchanged. Communication only happens when it’s absolutely necessary.
  9. Your partner is seemingly living a separate life from you—they are coming and going as they wish and refuse to share their whereabouts or their plans with you.
  10. Your partner, or you, have been unfaithful to the other, in what you both considered a monogamous marriage, and there is no expression of guilt or a desire to repair the damage the infidelity has caused.
  11. You dread coming home from work and find yourself putting in longer hours just to have a reason to not come home. Home, as a place of safety, security, and acceptance, does not exist in the same way anymore.
  12. Sexual intimacy and desire between you and your partner are no longer present or sexual repulsion or aversion has developed and there’s no mutual interest in addressing this problem.
  13. Your fantasies of the future no longer include your partner and thoughts of escape are almost always on your mind.

What to Do When You Realize Your Marriage Is Ending

Divorce is the final solution to an unworkable marriage; however, partners should be sure that this is the step that they want to take prior to filing for a divorce. Without both partners willing to help make the marriage work, it is likely time to seek legal counsel. The next steps may include:

  1. Organize your finances, if you haven't already. This includes setting up individual bank accounts (if you haven’t already done this) canceling joint credit accounts, and updating direct deposit accounts and automatic payments from bank accounts. Money is a common point of contention in the dissolution of marriages, so start cleaning up finances as soon as you begin thinking about the possibility of the marriage ending. Research shows that women’s financial status suffers significantly after a divorce, so plan accordingly and do all that you can in order to avoid as much hardship as possible.
  2. Shore up your own individual support network. Friendships can be lost when marriages end, so attend to the relationships that you don’t want to lose once you and your partner begin living separate lives. The need for a strong support system cannot be overemphasized—friends and family who are on your side can be the lifeline you need when you’re no longer part of a couple.
  3. Recognize that you may feel grief when the marriage ends. Even when you’re leaving a bad marriage, there can be a significant sense of loss. Grieving not only for what was but what could have been or should have been, is normal. Don’t let these feelings overwhelm you, though. Seek out a support group where others can commiserate with you as well as share their own experiences and successes.
  4. Find a good counselor if your support network isn’t sufficient or you’re coping with emotional distress that is disrupting your ability to manage your responsibilities and daily life. Feelings of overwhelming sadness, guilt, regret, and anxiety may be lessened through effective counseling.
  5. Create new routines for yourself that involve people and activities you enjoy. Now that you’re no longer defined by the role you assumed when you married, it is time to create an independent, individual identity that reflects who you feel yourself to be.
  6. Make time to discover new passions or rekindle prior interests. Take advantage of online interest groups, too. If you can’t afford that new kayak or adventure just yet, getting involved in clubs or online interest groups can be a way to start learning and planning for the future.
  7. Remind yourself not to give up on relationships—not every love story is going to have a fairytale ending but meeting new people can be worth the risk going forward. Going slow, not expecting to find your soulmate, and being focused on having fun can help you temper your hopes for finding lifelong love.

If Children Are Involved

Put the needs of your children first. Ensure their needs are front and center of any financial agreements with your partner. Center their emotional needs regarding custody arrangements. Support their overall adjustment and well-being in whatever ways you are able to manage.

Keep children’s routines as predictable as possible and as similar to pre-divorce routines as possible. Kids are resilient, but when their foundations crumble, it can take a toll on their capacity to “go with the flow.” Staying in the same schools, participating in the same extra-curricular activities, and being able to spend time with their friends are important to their overall well-being.

Change, though, is inevitable when a child’s parents get a divorce. If new schools and a new home are part of the post-divorce life, and your child is showing signs of wear and tear from the changes, such as regression in their behavior to earlier stages, anger, irritability, separation anxiety, or school refusal, seek out counseling as quickly as possible. School counselors can provide assistance and there are often school-based or community-based support groups for children whose parents are divorcing/divorced. Children benefit significantly from individual, group, and family counseling. Family counseling is helpful both pre- and post-divorce.

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