How Do I Know My Marriage is Over?

Here are some key signs that indicate that a marriage may be over:

How Do I Know My Marriage is Over?
  • Lack of commitment
  • Physical and/or emotional abuse (domestic violence)
  • Frequent intense conflicts
  • Addiction to a substance or vice
  • Lack of intimacy and/or extramarital affair(s)
  • Persistent financial troubles
  • Communication breakdown

Every marriage has its ups and downs, but when problems multiply and refuse to die down, the situation can get ugly really and end up in divorce, which is a tragic event in anyone’s life. A spouse can consider saving the marriage before opting for divorce when he/she comes across any of the following signs:

Lack of Commitment

Researchers have discovered that lack of commitment is the biggest cause of divorce. However, commitment just does not disappear all of a sudden. Emotional disconnection often precedes erosion of commitment levels. When the emotional bond existing between spouses reaches the threshold of breaking, commitment may well be gone .

Marriage counselors and therapists suggest that one or more of the following signs can signify that commitment in a marriage is evaporating or has already evaporated:

  • When a spouse nitpicks regularly, and at the slightest excuse
  • When a spouse stops making plans, or stops discussing about the future, with his/her partner
  • When a spouse seems mostly emotionally detached
  • When a spouse’s behavior suddenly changes for the worse or becomes inconsistent
  • When a spouse begins withdrawing from the relationship and the degree of withdrawal increases over time
  • When a spouse is needlessly sarcastic with his/her spouse

All of these could be signs that trouble is brewing in a marriage.

Physical and/or Emotional Abuse (Domestic Violence)

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence is an abusive behavior pattern that one spouse indulges in to control the other spouse. The violence can be emotional, financial (stopping the flow of funds to the other spouse), social, physical, or sexual. It includes threats and actions that terrorize, frighten, force, manipulate, or injure the other spouse.

Domestic violence seriously impacts the affected spouse and the children, who can develop psychological and social problems. Children may be led to believe that violence at home is a normal occurrence, which can turn them into abusers as juveniles or adults. A spouse who gets injured or terrorized by domestic violence can develop anxiety, depression, be prone to panic attacks, develop antisocial behavior, have low self-esteem, experience disturbed sleep, or develop suicidal tendencies.

Domestic violence should not be tolerated. It can be a strong sign that the marriage is over.

Frequent Conflicts

About 58% of spouses and about 72% of couples surveyed by a group of researchers attributed their divorce to constant arguing and fighting. Arguments and bickering are a part of married life, but when they become regular or get nasty, it can cause deep hurt in either spouse. A couple can keep arguing about the same thing, either spouse can play the victim, or a spouse can nitpick because he/she feels unappreciated or unheard. Egos can snowball and either spouse can refuse to understand the other spouse’s point of view.

When arguments become a part of life, things can get out of control, and it may be a precursor to either spouse taking the extreme step (divorce).

Addiction to Some Substance or Vice

If either spouse gets addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, or some other vice, it can shake the foundations of the marriage. Now, addictions do not just go away on their own – the spouse who is addicted should be willing to take medical help and rehabilitate himself/herself. Moreover, rehabilitation can take a long time depending upon the severity of the addiction.

In some cases, a spouse may have the patience to wait for the addicted spouse to get better. In some cases, the addicted spouse can refuse to enter into a rehabilitation program or he/she can develop the same addiction post-rehabilitation. Either way, depending on the tolerance levels of the spouse at the receiving end, addiction could spell trouble for the marriage.

Lack of Intimacy and/or Extramarital Affair(s)

A WebMD survey has discovered that 7% of American adults engaged in sex just 1–2 times in 2020, 10% did not have sex, and 17% had sex just once a month. Twenty-six percent of Americans stayed away from sex in 2021. The WebMD researchers also state that the frequency of sex is directly linked to the happiness index in a marriage.

Having sex less often than normal (about once per week for married couples) has the potential to play havoc with the marriage. Counselors state that a spouse can start seeking alternatives to fulfill his/her sexual desires. If physical intimacy dies or reaches a point of no return, and a spouse starts engaging in extramarital affairs, it is a signal that the marriage may be in trouble.

Financial Troubles

Every person has – or develops – some kind of financial preferences. For example, a spouse can be a saver, spender, investor, risk-averse, miser, or compulsive spender, or may have one or more of these financial preferences. Couples who are madly in love and want to tie the knot often do not reconcile their “financial” personalities, which can cause problems down the line.

Then there may be spouses who indulge in financial power play – for example, starving the other spouse of funds. Then there may be couples who have taken on more debt than their incomes can handle. Chronic financial troubles can lead to fights, resentment, and a communication breakdown. Researchers opine that money differences can lead to divorce. Spouses must watch out for these.

Communication Breakdown

A research study conducted by therapists reveals that spouses stop communicating with each other when they stop respecting each other’s point of view. And, there can be several reasons that are responsible for such disrespect, including some of the factors discussed above.

A communication breakdown in a marriage can lead to:

  • Financial troubles
  • Emotional distancing
  • Misunderstandings
  • Loss of intimacy
  • An uncompromising and uncaring attitude
  • Disrespect
  • Neglect

If one or more of these issues get serious, other problems can creep in, and then the situation can get uncontrollable and spell trouble for the marriage.

These are the signs indicating that a marriage is near, or has crossed, the breaking point. That said, divorce is ugly, and we urge all spouses to slot the issues into three categories – minor issues, serious matters, and catastrophic problems. Then they should try and resolve the “average-level” issues. For unresolved issues and major problems that have led someone to divorce, these should be discussed with an experienced divorce attorney.

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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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