How to Know when Your Marriage Is over

Three Parts:Uncoupling (Disconnecting)Unhealthy Behavioral PatternsIrreconcilable Differences

Ending a marriage is never an easy decision, and it's not a choice you should make quickly or lightly. While every situation varies, though, there are some common warning signs that could suggest your relationship is already over.

Part 1
Uncoupling (Disconnecting)

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    Spend time together. You need to spend time with each other to make the marriage work. If you avoid each other and feel relieved when you aren't together, it could be a sign that you've completely disconnected from the marriage.[1]
    • Ask yourself how much time you spend with your spouse, then compare that to the amount of time you spend at work (excluding the time you must spend working), with friends, with family, or online. Evaluate the amount of time your spouse spends away, too.
    • While it's perfectly fine to spend time apart, you do need to spend time together. If you're devoting more of your free time to a source other than your spouse, or if your spouse is doing so with regards to you, there's a problem.
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    Talk about communication problems. If you and your spouse are no longer able to communicate openly about topics that truly matter, you won't have the means to solve problems in your marriage.
    • You need to talk about issues beyond the mundane. Open communication is a foundational point of emotional intimacy, and without it, you'll inevitably become disconnected. This can be an even bigger problem if the two of you refuse to be open with each other but can talk to others with a greater degree of vulnerability.
    • Ask yourself who you share big with first. The answer should be your spouse. If you would rather talk to anyone else over your spouse, even if it's only a relative, you've already lost the emotional intimacy you need.
    • Similarly, ask yourself if you're really interested in hearing about your spouse's life, too. You need to be willing to listen and care about your spouse; otherwise, you'll end up pushing him or her away.
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    Work as a team. Spouses who can work through everyday life as a team can typically make their marriages last, but if you abandon each other in pursuit of your own self-interests, you won't be able to coordinate your daily lives in an effective manner.
    • Marriage requires you to live your lives together, and teamwork is essential in making that work. You need to make joint decisions about matters that affect you both, including everything from parenting to finances.
    • You also need to view your spouse as a team when thinking about your own ambitions, and the favor must be returned. Spouses who work toward separate goals will naturally drift apart from each other.
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    Touch on intimacy issues. Physical intimacy is an important part of any marriage. Refusing to spend time in one another's arms signals a severe loss of both physical and emotional attraction.
    • A lack of physical intimacy doesn't always spell the end of a marriage if the problem if the problem is rooted in physical or mental health issues, but if the matter is caused by a simple lack of desire, it could be a very bad sign.
    • Note that physical intimacy includes sex, but sex isn't the only issue. Other forms of physical intimacy can be just as significant: holding hands, cuddling, etc.
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    Think about the future. More precisely, think about a future without your spouse and evaluate how that makes you feel. If such fantasies evoke a strong sense of happiness, your subconscious might be sending you a sign that things are over.
    • This shouldn't be your only reason for ending things, though, and you shouldn't rush the process along after one or two fantasies. Such daydreams are often unrealistic, especially if they're the result of a mid-life crisis, so you shouldn't decide your future on them.
    • On the other hand, if there are other problems in your marriage and you find more bliss from the thought of separating than you find in the idea of staying together, you should take that as a red flag.

Part 2
Unhealthy Behavioral Patterns

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    Respect each other. Both spouses need to have a healthy level of respect for one another. If either one of you demonstrates a lack of respect for the other, you'll become opponents rather than allies.
    • Signs of disrespect are fairly obvious, and the disrespected spouse will usually feel rejected or condescended to on a regular basis. In many cases, this type of problem can be resolved through communication or counseling. If ignored, though, a lack of respect can wear things down beyond repair.
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    Look for signs of narcissism. Everyone demonstrates some degree of self-importance, but both spouses must be able to recognize the others' contributions just as well as his or her own.[2]
    • Ask yourself how you communicate about your contributions. If you're constantly competing by comparing how hard you work or how much energy you spend on your shared responsibilities (kids, household, pets, etc.), both of you probably assume that the other spouse has it easier. That can cause you to feel mistreated and view your spouse as an enemy.
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    Beware of overwhelming negativity. Spouses in healthy marriages will argue, but when your arguments and other negative interactions consistently out-number your positive interactions, your marriage could be in serious trouble.[3]
    • As a general rule, there should be five positive interactions for each negative interaction. These interactions can be both minor or major.
    • Chronic complaining and blame-throwing are standard signs of insurmountable negativity. Both acts pin spouses against each other, which will cause you to push one another away instead of drawing you closer together.
    • Note, however, that you may not need to worry too much if you're wondering about whether you're having more bad times than good. In most cases, marriages overwhelmed by negativity are obvious to those involved and those around them.

Part 3
Irreconcilable Differences

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    Try to work things out. If you or your spouse refuse to acknowledge the problem and try to fix it, it will be nearly impossible to save your marriage. One person won't be able to fix a problem that involves another person, so both spouses must commit to fixing the marriage.
    • Sometimes, this type of problem occurs when one spouse is unable to see the reality of the problem. If your spouse turns a blind eye to the strain, he or she won't be willing to take steps to fix it.[4]
    • In other instances, the spouse may acknowledge the problem but remain unwilling to fix it simply because he or she no longer cares.
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    Give therapy a time limit. Marriage counseling can help many marriages, but if you've been seeing a therapist for a year or longer and nothing changes, additional counseling may not be enough to help your situation.
    • Even if both of you want to fix things, you might not be able to do so if your differences or problems run too deep.
    • That being said, understand that slow progress is still progress. If a year of therapy produces zero progress, it's usually a bad sign. If you've made even a little progress in that time, though, there could be a decent chance of working things out.
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    Discuss your visions of the future. Problems can arise when both spouses have polar opposite visions of the future. Differences like these won't always end a marriage, but they might if you are unable to find middle ground between your goals.
    • Disagreements regarding whether or not to have children are some of the most common issues here. If one of you is absolutely certain that you want kids and the other is absolutely certain that kids are out of the question, there's no way to compromise, and the issue will be a continual source of tension and strife.
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    Compromise. No two people will ever think exactly alike. Sometimes you'll need to compromise your wishes for the sake of your spouse, and your spouse will need to do likewise for your sake. Once either party refuse to compromise, you won't be able to reconcile yourselves to one another.
    • Some of your wants and needs will match, but many won't. Both of you need to be clear and honest about your own wishes, and in return, both must also be willing to listen and adapt to those wishes as needed.
    • When either spouse refuses to engage in the act of compromising, or when you reach a point where compromises can no longer be made even if you both wish you could do so, your marriage might be on its way to a dead end.
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    Deal with addictions. If either you or your spouse has an untreated addiction, you'll need to treat it and actively work toward recovery if you don't want it to completely destroy your marriage.
    • Addictions will always be the primary focus of an addict's life, which is why they can be so destructive. If your spouse has an untreated addiction to anything, he or she will prioritize it over your marriage or your family.
    • Typically, an addict will also refuse to accept responsibility and may try shifting the blame onto his or her spouse. This only deepens the problem.
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    Remain faithful. Even though infidelity will strain any marriage, marriages can still survive if the cheating spouse mends his or her ways. Cheaters who show no remorse for their actions or otherwise refuse to remain faithful won't have what it takes to make a marriage work, though.
    • It's a bad sign if the cheating spouse remains friends with an ex-lover, especially when that ex-lover is the one with whom your spouse cheated. An unwillingness to part from that individual suggests a lack of commitment toward making amends within the marriage.
    • Similarly, if one spouse has cheated on the other more than once, it could suggest that he or she is unable to remain monogamous and, as such, unable to make a marriage work. This is especially true if the cheater refuses to accept responsibility.
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    Accept unchangeable issues. Sometimes, two well-meaning spouses may try working things out, but certain problems regarding lifestyle, health, or other "set" circumstances prevent a happy resolution.
    • For example, if you have a heterosexual marriage and your spouse confesses to being homosexual, there's really no way to work around the issue. Even if you two care about each other emotionally, you won't be able to remain romantically attached.
    • As another example, while some couples can remain together in the face of tragedy (e.g., the loss of a child), other are unable to do so. If being around one another deepens the sorrow to an unhealthy degree, parting ways might be the most caring response.

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Categories: Marriage Issues