Your partner is abusing you or your children
If you are in an abusive relationship—physically, sexually, emotionally, or financially—then staying in the marriage is actually putting you at risk. The same goes for if your partner is abusing your children.
Similar to an addiction, if your partner is abusive, that means they need to get help on their own. “Any kind of abuse, in my mind, is a reason to separate from a partner simply because oftentimes the abusive partner, and perhaps even the other partner, needs to do some kind of work that can’t be done while the couple is together,” says Vilhauer. “It’s safer for the other partner to not be with the abuser while they’re working on their own anger management type of issue.”
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Your partner won’t get treated for an addiction
If your partner suffers from addiction—whether that be substance abuse or an addiction like gambling—that can cause real problems within a relationship, especially if that person refuses to seek help.
“If somebody’s an alcoholic or a drug addict and you’ve done your best to try and get this person to not be an addict, there might come a time when you say I’m not willing to fight the battle with you,” says Meunier.
Plus, in order to be successful with overcoming the addiction, your partner needs to be invested in doing so themselves. “The person with the addiction has to do a tremendous amount of work on themselves that isn’t something the other person in the relationship can really help with,” says Vilhauer. “People have to do the work for themselves because they want to do it for themselves.”
So if you’ve tried to get your partner to undergo treatments for addiction and they won’t commit to helping themselves, that’s an indicator that the marriage is no longer a healthy one for you to be in.
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Your partner cheated on you
Although affairs can often be worked through as a couple during therapy, if your partner doesn’t want to leave the person they’re having an affair with or is not willing to help repair the relationship, that could be a clear indicator that it’s time to get a divorce.
“I think affairs can be healed, but I think the person has to be willing to end the other relationship and not really even be in contact with the person,” says Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Mill Valley, California.
Also, “it depends on what the cheating partner does to atone for the cheating,” explains Amanda K. Logid, L.M.F.T., a mental health professional based in Arizona. “When there’s cheating, the relationship that once was, is over. Moving forward, it’s a new relationship…and if your partner is willing to go through the steps of rebuilding trust, then there’s hope.”
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However, for some people, working through an affair isn’t something they want to do. If their partner is unfaithful to them, that might just be a hard-and-fast deal-breaker. “A lot of people can’t get back to a place of feeling that they can trust their partner,” so if you know that about yourself, we know the relationship likely won’t get better, Logid explains.
You no longer communicate
You hear it time and time again, but communication really is key. The good news is, communication issues can often be ironed out with some professional therapy.
“Getting help of this sort can really allow couples to sort out some of their issues and, perhaps more importantly, teaches couples the skills they need to communicate more effectively, and provides a safe space for honest communication,” says Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D., a relationships psychology professor at the University of Toronto.
But if your partner won’t engage in productive communication, they might be emotionally unavailable, meaning that they are not “emotionally expressive and invested in doing the internal work to communicate feelings as well as offering the kind of support that their spouse requests,” Caraballo explains. “If one partner (or both!) is emotionally checked out then it can be hard to do the work necessary to invest in the relationship and give it the best chance at lasting.”
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There’s no intimacy
Similar to communication, intimacy—whether physical or emotional—can often be improved over time and with professional help. But if you’ve received professional help and the intimacy is still lacking in the relationship, that could be cause for considering a divorce.
“It’s an important need, intimacy,” says Greenberg. But, she adds, it really depends on the cause of the lack of intimacy.
For example, if your partner has a medical problem where physical intimacy is challenging, there are other ways to find intimacy within the relationship if you seek help. However, if your partner is capable of intimacy but refuses to engage in intimacy of any sort, it might be a sign the marriage is in troubled waters.
Your partner has no interest in resolving issues
Wanting to resolve a marital issue requires participation from both partners. “It can’t be one-sided. One person can’t want to work on it and the other doesn’t. I would say that would be a clear indicator that the relationship is not going to work out. There needs to be an equal desire to put forth the effort,” says Vilhauer.
If your partner is willing to go to therapy, try to set concrete measurements of how you’re doing as a couple, says Brandy Engler, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in relationships and author of The Men on My Couch. “If the issue can be laid out in concrete terms, then it can be measured,” says Engler.
So for example, if you set ‘rules’ for what intimacy looks like for you and your partner, you can easily keep track of whether you’re meeting that concept of intimacy by checking in on a weekly or monthly basis. “I like this because it supports an evidence-based decision for getting a divorce,” says Engler. “Each partner can clearly see what did or did not happen over a course of time.”
You and your partner can’t operate from a place of “we”
A strong and solid relationship should always operate as a team—which means speaking in terms of “we,” rather than “I,” or “you.” When the word “we” disappears from the vocabulary, you begin “living two separate lives,” Logid explains. This is a huge issue “because there has to be a constant connection…that’s what we think about as a marriage.”
This is also a factor when you both can no longer agree on important things, like a shared life plan, having kids, where to live, or career paths, Caraballo explains.
Your partner doesn’t respect you (or vice versa)
If your partner doesn’t respect you or you’re finding it challenging to respect your partner, it’s probably time to evaluate the health of your marriage. “Why would you want to be treated badly your whole life and disrespected?” says Greenberg. “Especially if you tried to set limits and boundaries around it.”
But once again, there are some factors in disrespect that might not warrant a divorce. For example, if your partner suffers from a mental illness and will occasionally disrespect you when they’re struggling with that illness, but are seeking help and getting better, then that’s likely something the two of you can work through, says Greenberg.
On the flip side, if you find that you don’t have respect for your partner, that might not be possible to work through in a marriage. “If you can’t find respect for your partner, it’s very difficult to feel like you really want to stay in a relationship with them,” says Vilhauer.
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You don’t trust your partner
Trust is at the center of every relationship, so if you lack it—or your partner lacks it in you—that could be a sign that it’s time to get a divorce. But the truth is, oftentimes trust can be repaired—it just takes a while, and the partner who broke the trust has to be committed to repairing it.
“There has to be some level of acknowledgment,” says Greenberg. “Acknowledging you did something that had a big impact on the other person.”
If your partner isn’t taking accountability or refuses to try to repair the trust, that’s an indicator that they might no longer be invested in the marriage.
“When you’re shutting down, attacking your partner, or avoiding any sort of accountability or responsibility for the problem, you’re ultimately conveying that you don’t care about your partner’s emotions or experiences,” says Bockarova. “Over time this erodes the trust, safety, security, reliability, and dependability in your partnership.”
Your kids want you to get a divorce
You hear it time and time again from couples who are unhappy: “We’re staying together for the kids.” But the truth is, if you’re in a miserable marriage but you have kids with your partner, staying in that marriage could actually be harming your children more than helping them.
“Research shows the best thing for any child is to have two happy parents, not necessarily two married parents,” says Vilhauer. “So that’s oftentimes not even in the children’s best interest if they know that the parents are not happy together. That creates its own tension at home and difficulty for kids as they’re growing up.”
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So if you’re only staying together for your children’s sake—and especially if your children have indicated they’d prefer you and your partner get a divorce—that’s a clear sign it might be time to consider a split.