We spoke to divorced couples about when they knew divorce was in their future.
Fact: Even the most in-love couples have moments when the prospect of divorce crosses their mind. "After a heated argument, a betrayal, or even a rough patch, it's common for individuals to wonder what would happen if they had never met and married their spouse," says Rhonda Richards-Smith, LCSW, a Los Angeles-based relationship therapist. But when do those normal thoughts cross into the this is going to happen territory? We spoke to divorced couples about when they knew divorce was in their future.[post_ads_2]
What the Divorced Couples Say
"Every time I thought of the future, he wasn't in it."
"When I was pregnant with our second child, I kept thinking ahead to what it would be like parenting two children…and I kept seeing myself doing it on my own. At that point, my husband's travel schedule had been insane, so I had been doing the lion's share of the child-rearing myself. After a lot of soul-searching, I realized that we just weren't on the same path at all, and it would be easier for both of us to go our separate ways." —Beth*, 30
"I stopped sharing stuff with him."
"My ex and I went through an incredibly rocky patch, but I think the moment when it clicked that this wasn't going to work was when I had scored a promotion I'd been working toward for almost a year. As soon as I heard the news, my first instinct was to text my sister and best friend. I had to remind myself to tell my husband. It really made it clear we were already living separate lives." —Jessica, 38
"My 10-year-old asked us to get divorced."
"One time in the car, my 10-year-old asked me when mom and I were going to get a divorce. At first, I tried to reassure her that it wouldn't happen, but then when my wife and I talked about the conversation later, we realized that all our daughter knew about us as a couple was tension or fighting. It's not like we got divorced because she asked, but it did make us evaluate what our so-called 'relationship' was doing to our child." —Jeff, 38[post_ads_2]
"I wanted the best for him."
"This sounds weird, but the moment I knew was the moment I stopped feeling angry and jealous toward my now-ex. He and I had been having a ton of disagreements for years, and I would always find any reason to criticize him. But suddenly, it was like I'd lost all the anger and just saw him as some guy who had nothing in common with me. At that point, I knew it was best for both of us to split." —Kate, 30
"I lied to my family."
"There were about two years when I'd make it seem like everything was fine to my family. I hated visiting them because I knew it would mean I'd have to put on a happy face. It was so unlike me, and I knew in order to get myself back, I needed to seriously evaluate my marriage." —Liz, 38
"I wanted to get caught cheating."
"I began flirting with exes and doing really obvious things, like leaving my phone unlocked and on the table, or keeping my Facebook open. It was like I wanted to get caught. I hated how I was acting, and knew my now-ex and I both deserved for me to be a better person and own up to how unhappy I was in our current situation." —Dan, 34[post_ads_2]
"I didn't want to let my friends down."
"We got married relatively young—when I was 22 and he was 21—and a lot of people, including our parents, didn't approve. They wanted us to really get to know ourselves and each other before we made that sort of commitment. Things were fine for the first two years, but after that, we both knew we were in trouble. One night, when we talked honestly about it, we realized neither of us wanted to call it off and admit that other people might have been right. Saying it out loud—that a huge reason we felt we couldn't separate was because we were worried about what people would think of us—gave us the freedom to actually do it." —Alana, 29
"Weddings made me cry."
There was one year where my husband and I went to six weddings, and I sobbed at every one of them. And not because I was so happy for the bride and groom, but because I was so unhappy for ourselves and what we both knew wasn't a fulfilling marriage. That was when I knew that we needed to talk." —Nicky, 35
What the Experts Say
Divorce is an incredibly personal decision, so it doesn't mean your marriage is doomed if you or your significant other has experienced one or more of these feelings. What it does mean is that it's time for some serious soul-searching. Here, the steps you need to take if you're wondering whether divorce is in your future. (Of course, if you feel in any sort of physical or emotional danger, it's important to get out ASAP.)[post_ads_2]
Talk to your husband.
Resist the urge to talk to friends and family about how you're feeling, even though you may be tempted, says Richards-Smith. "They won't be able to provide you with the unbiased opinions you need," she explains. Instead, bringing up how unhappy you're feeling with your guy can help you have an honest conversation about next steps.
Pay attention to timing.
"The worst time to make a decision about divorce is when both of you are going through a life change, like a move or a new baby," says Deborah Hecker, PhD, a Miami-based divorce counselor and author of Who Am I Without My Partner? If you and your guy have recently gone through a big life change, giving yourself permission to get through the situation together before making a permanent decision can be helpful.[post_ads_2]
Go to a therapist together.
Couples counseling can be helpful, even if you're pretty positive you both would be better off apart, since it can help foster the communication skills you need to handle the divorce. "Find a therapist without an agenda," suggests Hecker. In other words, it's not great if the therapist advertises his or her skill in keeping couples together. You want one who understands that, sometimes, the best route for both parties is divorce, and he or she will be able to help you down that road in the best way possible.
"Divorce is hard in a myriad of ways," warns Hecker. That's not to say it's not the best alternative, but you need to make sure that you have the emotional support behind you when you make the decision. "And make sure you think about finances," reminds Richards-Smith. "Run the numbers. And think of what financial arrangements need to be arranged to make divorce a viable option."
Be open to your feelings.
Some days, divorce might seem like the only option. Other times, you might feel like things will be all right. Ambivalence is normal, which is why it's helpful to have an impartial ear — a counselor, a religious advisor, even a journal — to turn to when you need to sort out what's going on in your mind.[post_ads_2]
Don't be afraid to argue.
Typically, it's a bad sign when a couple stops fighting. Instead of working out their issues, they're ignoring them completely, letting the unresolved conflict make them drift even further apart. Sometimes in order to reconnect, a little arguing might be exactly what your marriage needs: "Fights can lead to greater intimacy if the couple processes the fight and repairs the relationship," says Carrie Cole, a certified therapist through the Gottman Institute. So bicker about the important stuff (and the dumb stuff) and see if that helps.
Keep your deal breakers in mind.
Before you got married, you probably had certain qualities or behaviors you knew you'd never put up with. But those can change as you get older — things that seemed OK when you were young may not be tolerable now. And if those new lines are crossed — and you've spoken to your partner about them — it may be time to reevaluate your relationship. "If you think no amount of apology can make the offense go away, then it's time to get divorced," says Monique Honaman, author of The High Road Has Less Traffic. "There are just some wounds that time can't heal." Before you make any big decisions, though, think carefully about whether something your partner does is actually a deal breaker, and not just something that irritates you. If it's the latter, it's time to sit down and talk it out.