Ideally, you’ll never have to wonder when to divorce. But even our best intentions sometimes come up short, and we have to admit that things are not the way they should be.
Many marriages start out positive — you invest your hopes in another person and watch as the two of you grow together. Regardless what is said during the wedding ceremony, the old “till death do us part” line isn’t true anymore. We are unwilling to die linked to a person that doesn’t make us feel whole, or who is harming us in other ways. When married life becomes too painful, too fraught with emotion, too heavy to bear, we have to come to a decision — to move on, or to fight and stay together.
How can you possibly know if it is time to consider divorce? You start by determining at what point you’re unwilling to fight for the marriage anymore. Is it after an incidence of physical or emotional abuse? Will you stop fighting for your marriage after a single act of infidelity? Or do you practice the philosophy of forgive and forget . . . how far will you go to save your marriage?
Once you’ve come to a point where putting together the pieces of your relationship seems too much of a burden, you’ll just know. It is as simple as that. Having said that — if your answers to the following questions are most often “Yes”, you should consider your marriage in the danger zone.
- Does every life situation turn into a fight? If every crossroads, every decision, every trivial part of your life turns into a fight, this means that you and your partner simply don’t see eye to eye anymore.
- Do you feel like your relationship is based on respect? If your partner doesn’t respect you, or if you don’t respect your partner, how in the world do you think you’ll ever drag respect back into your marriage? The idea of re-engaging one another with respectful attitudes is a tough one.
- Do you find you and your partner are constantly referring back to past fights? If your marriage has become a shopping list of complaints and painful memories, you may be well on your way to divorce. If you and your partner can’t ignore the past in favor of a better future, you’re halfway divorced as it is.
- Are you and your spouse sexually compatible anymore? If there are any sexual problems in your marriage, you’re looking at a long and difficult road back to health. It is seriously unlikely that a marriage beset with sexual problems will ever improve. Once you and your partner have grown out of sexual attraction to one another, there’s very little anyone can do to reignite that spark.
- Are you stifling your partner’s growth? Is your partner stifling your growth? A marriage should be about building each other up, not holding one another down. A solid marriage means that one partner makes the occasional sacrifice for the good of the other partner, and vice versa. If you find yourself cramped by your partner or feel you are keeping your partner from flourishing, the marriage is headed for the rocks.
- Have you and your partner changed so drastically that you no longer share any values? It is important for married couples to share some common ground, though they don’t have to agree on every point. Do you and your partner still share moral, spiritual, or ethical values at all? If you and your partner have drifted this far apart, do you think it is possible that the two of you have become completely separated?
- Do you find it difficult for you and your spouse to compromise? A solid marriage is built on the ability to meet in the middle, not on a couple’s tendency to argue the fine points at the extremes of an argument. If you and your spouse are no longer able to give up a little bit to win the day, your marriage is headed down a dark path.
If your answers to most of these questions is “Yes”, you and your partner are in deep trouble. Sure, marriage counseling can work, and spending time together to work out your differences is always a good idea — but the above questions indicate a marriage that is headed for disaster.
It may be time to divorce when you and your spouse are nothing but trouble for one another, when you no longer provide any relief from a hard day’s work, when there’s no “love” left in your home.
Think about these questions, and talk to your spouse openly about your concerns. It may be the first honest conversation you’ve had in a long time.