Making the Decision to End Your Marriage

How to know when divorce is the right move

Couple sitting on opposite sides of the bed, close-up of young woman looking distressed
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If you're thinking about ending your marriage, you're likely facing one of the most difficult decisions of your adult life. Many partners struggle for a very long time before making a firm choice about whether to stay or go. Are you agonizing over the decision of whether or not to file for divorce? If you are, other aspects of your life are probably being negatively impacted while you're in this state of limbo.

Areas of Your Life Negatively Impacted by Indecision

  • Your job: Your job may be in jeopardy due to moodiness and lack of attention.
  • Your other relationships: Your children, friends and other family members may feel your sadness, frustration, impatience, fear, anger, and indecision.
  • Your health: Your health is also being compromised if you aren't sleeping well, or if you're not exercising and eating healthy foods.

Primary Reasons People Stay

For many couples, the amount of time they've already invested in their marriages has a lot to do with their decision to stay or to go. It's generally easier for a younger married couple to divorce and start their lives over again than it is for partners who've been together a decade or more.

Are You Better off Married or Divorced?

Only you know the answer to the question of whether you're better off staying married or getting a divorce. Sometimes a marriage is worth saving and sometimes it isn't. It's important to face the realities—and not just the fantasy—of divorce. 

Things to Consider

When making this type of life-changing decision, recognize what you'll lose and don't count on what you may receive: If your main reason for wanting a divorce is because you're unhappy, being single again may not make you happier.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Do you feel as if you have nothing left to give to your marriage?
  • Has all the forgiveness, hope, and patience in your heart run out?
  • Do you feel indifference towards your partner?
  • Does your partner treat you badly or show indifference?
  • Is there a complete lack of intimacy? Not just sex, but emotional intimacy, affection, and laughter as well?
  • Has there been a long history of addiction, abuse, or infidelity?

If you've said yes to these questions, you may be at the point of no return in your marital relationship. Feeling indifference or becoming emotionally detached is a strong sign that your marriage is over.

What to Do Before Making Any Major Decisions

  • Attempt to reduce the stress in your life.
  • Get yourself on stable ground so you can handle whatever comes your way.
  • Devise a survival or backup plan to give yourself more of a sense of control over your life. You may not ever have to use it, but it's good to have it anyway.
  • If your physical or emotional safety depends on being separated from your partner, you must make that your priority.

You may need some time away to view your marriage more clearly. Getting away by yourself, even for a weekend, can help you sort things out. For many people, this is when something clicks inside and they know what to do.

Seek Professional Help

If you're contemplating divorce, see a professional licensed counselor that works with couples—even if you go alone. Sometimes a therapist with a lack of understanding of relational interactions will help put the nail in the marital coffin, so be sure to see someone with a good amount of experience in couples work. Better yet, you both can try discernment counseling, a type of counseling that focuses solely on helping couples decide whether they want to end their relationship or work on it.

Moving On

When it's time to throw in the towel, chances are you'll know. You'll experience an "aha" moment of clarity as to what you need to do.

If you do make the decision to divorce, be good to yourself. Remember that if your marriage fails, it doesn't mean you're a failure. Some unhealthy relationships are not meant to succeed. Sometimes people keep trying to make sense out of something that doesn't make sense or can't be solved.

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