What's In This Article
No matter how much work you put in, how many common interests you have with your partner, or how long you’ve been together, some marriages simply don’t work out.
It’s not an uncommon phenomenon: In 2019, court systems throughout the US divorced over 740,000 couples. You’re not the first person to wonder if your marriage is over, and you certainly won’t be the last.
If you suspect that there’s just no saving your marriage, consider some of the steps below to help you process your emotions, prepare for and complete the formalities, and get ready for your new life as a single person.
1. Recognize the Signs
The first step to acceptance of your situation is recognition. To solve a problem, you have to be aware that it’s there. Let’s explore some common signs that your marriage is too far gone to save.
You Are Always Angry At or Dislike Your Spouse
You may feel uncomfortable anger whenever you’re around your spouse, or you might have simply stopped liking them. These realities can sometimes develop on their own, but they’re often catalyzed by a significant event, like:
- A major disagreement
- Recognition of conflicting values
- Infidelity, or even just wandering eyes
Whether one of the above events happened in your marriage or not, sometimes our feelings simply change about our spouse. If suddenly, everything your spouse does—from their morning routine to the way they chew food—annoys you, it could be a sign that your marriage is taking a turn.
While these unpleasant emotions can sometimes be curtailed with counseling, they can be difficult to shake. Whether your spouse developed an irritating behavior during your marriage or some of their quirks simply became grating over time, it’s time to recognize your constant anger or dislike for what it is: a sign that your marriage is in trouble.
Read More: Is my marriage toxic?
You Think About a Future Without Your Spouse
Fantasies certainly have their place. They can make us feel safe, they can help us experiment with new thoughts and ideas, and they can help us process difficult emotions or fears.
But, if you’re fantasizing about a future without your spouse, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate the root cause.
Which parts of your fantasy are different from your current relationship? Is your sex life different? Do you live in a different place, with a different job? Is your spouse downright absent from your fantasies?
Try to reframe your fantasy to include your spouse: How would your spouse have to change to fit into your ideal life? Do you think they’re capable of making those changes, or that the changes are even reasonable for you to request?
If you’ve come to the conclusion that your spouse doesn’t have a place in the life you want to have, your marriage may not be working out. Even if your spouse was the target of your fantasies in the past, people change, and so do our concepts of a life well-lived.
You Don’t Trust Your Spouse
Lack of trust in your spouse can develop after a significant event, or it can slowly fester over time after a small, mostly innocuous incident. You may not be able to fully trust your spouse if:
- You catch them in a lie, no matter the magnitude
- They hide information about their schedule, whereabouts, friends, or finances from you
- There’s been an adulterous incident during your marriage or while you were dating
There are a few ways to try to rebuild trust in a relationship. The first: communicating that the trust issues even exist.
If your spouse had an affair, for instance, and you’re struggling with trust issues, you need to tell them. After all, if you want to trust them and don’t give them an opportunity to make an effort, how can you expect them to change?
Even if you’ve already finished discussing the affair with a counselor, and previously told your spouse you were over it, your feelings are allowed to change. If the affair begins eating at you again, talk to your spouse about it.
The second way to try to rebuild trust is to ask your spouse to make certain changes. Tell them why you don’t trust them, and ask them to make changes that would restore your trust. Offer to reciprocate.
Even if your spouse makes an effort to rebuild trust, sometimes a lack of faith can’t be repaired. If you and your spouse have tried and failed to rebuild trust, your marriage could be on the outs.
You Lost Respect for Your Spouse
Maybe you simply don’t respect your spouse anymore. Whether they made a decision that you don’t agree with, embarrassed themselves (or you) in a significant way, or disclosed values that you don’t agree with, lost respect can be difficult to regain.
Perhaps the feeling is mutual: Do you feel like your spouse respects you? Do they interrupt you when you’re speaking or undermine your opinions? Do they condescend to you? Do they react strongly to your failures or shortcomings? Do they poke fun at your hobbies or interests?
If you suspect that your spouse doesn’t respect you, you’re very likely to reciprocate. Pay close attention to your behavior around your spouse, and see if you can identify yourself doing any of the above behaviors. You can try to change them, but if it doesn’t resolve your lack of respect, it might be a sign that your marriage isn’t working out.
You Don’t Want to Be Alone with Your Spouse
Are you dreading being alone with your spouse? It could be a sign that you simply don’t want to be around them anymore.
But, you should think about the root cause of your feelings: Is your spouse boring you? Are conversations with them no longer interesting? When you spend time together, are you doing compelling things?
Sometimes it takes an increase in novelty (like vacations, date nights, or spontaneous activities) to reignite appreciation for the banalities of everyday life. If you’re trying to reignite your marriage, consider putting some energy into having a new adventure. Try to let loose, have fun, and enjoy time with your spouse.
But, if you’re not feeling the love again after some effort in the novelty department, you might just feel like your spouse isn’t doing it for you anymore. It might be time to reconsider your marriage.
You Don’t Have Sex Anymore
A dead bedroom can wreak havoc on any marriage. Again, think about the root cause of the problem:
- Are your insecurities keeping you from initiating sex?
- Are you still attracted to your spouse?
- Are you bored with the sex you’re having (or were having)?
- Does your spouse ignore your advances, or show signs of not being attracted to you anymore?
Some of these root causes can be mended with effort. For instance, if you and your spouse have given up on sex out of boredom, try fulfilling some new fantasies, purchase some toys, or try incorporating a third sex partner.
But, if you’re simply not attracted to your spouse anymore, or they’re no longer attracted to you, this can be difficult to overcome. It’s imperative that you’re honest with yourself—and, eventually, your spouse—about what’s causing your sexual hangups, which could be the downfall of your marriage.
2. Acknowledge and Embrace Your Emotion
Once you’ve recognized the signs that your marriage may be deteriorating, you’ll likely be met with a variety of emotions:
- You may be angry that your spouse betrayed your trust, or that your spouse isn’t making an effort to repair your relationship.
- You may be sad that you’re not attracted to your spouse anymore, or that they’re no longer attracted to you.
- You may be embarrassed by something your spouse did in public.
- You may be happy that you’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and that single life is within sight.
Whatever you’re feeling after you recognize that your marriage is ending is perfectly okay. Emotions are nothing to be ashamed of, and embracing them is the first step to creating an action plan that honors them.
3. Talk to Your Spouse About Getting a Divorce
Once you’ve acknowledged your emotions, you’re ready to share them with your spouse. While asking your spouse for a divorce may sound like a daunting task, you’ll likely feel an overwhelming sense of relief after you have “the Talk.”
There are three important things to keep in mind as you prepare to talk to your spouse about divorce:
- Be prepared to answer your spouse’s questions about why you think the marriage is over. You’ll have to be honest with your spouse and yourself about the realities of your relationship.
- Find a supportive person who can lend an ear throughout the process. They can help you prepare for “the Talk” and help you process your emotions afterward.
- Remember that divorce is common and that it’s okay for your marriage to end. Not all relationships work out.
Processing your emotions and becoming comfortable talking about them is integral to a successful talk with your spouse, which is arguably the most important part of the divorce process.
4. Grieve Your Marriage
But, emotional processing isn’t only important before asking for a divorce: Emotions don’t go away once you’ve had “the Talk,” after all.
Even if you’re looking forward to a single lifestyle, feelings of grief or bittersweetness will likely arise throughout the divorce process and after the separation is finalized. Give yourself space to grieve your marriage.
Think about the good times you had with your spouse. Your wedding day, the birth of your child, vacations together, and career successes don’t become unhappy memories once you accept that your marriage is over.
Embracing the positive memories and reassuring yourself that you’re taking action to prevent further negative memories will help you do the most important thing during a divorce: starting to move on from your spouse.
5. Start the Divorce Process
Once you’ve had “the Talk” with your spouse, you’ll have to begin the legal process of getting a divorce.
Like marriages, every divorce is different. Some divorces are smooth, quick, and easy, while others are drawn-out, fraught with tension, and inconvenient. However your divorce proceeds, you’ll need emotional fortitude and a strong support system to help you start and complete the divorce process.
The first step is to review your state’s divorce laws and procedures. If you become overwhelmed by the legal jargon, or you simply can’t comprehend where to start, consider hiring a divorce attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, don’t skip representation: Plenty of legal aid agencies exist in every state, and they could connect you with a low- or -no-cost divorce lawyer.
Whether you choose to hire an attorney or brave the divorce process without legal help, make sure that you keep accurate, thorough records throughout the process. Even if a piece of paper doesn’t seem important to you at the moment, keeping thorough records could help you if anything goes awry.
6. Tell Your Family and Friends
Once you’ve started the divorce process, you’ll need to share the news of your upcoming separation with pertinent parties.
If you and your spouse have children, they need to be the first to know (other than the person you’ve asked for emotional support, and your attorney). Make a plan with your spouse to tell your children, and consider:
- Where and when you’ll tell them about the divorce
- How you’ll answer their questions about your marriage
- Whether you’ll tell your children separately or together
- How your household will change during the divorce proceedings
- Will you create a temporary shared custody arrangement?
- Will everyone keep living at home together?
- Will one parent take on more (or less) responsibilities like attending sports games, preparing school lunches, or transportation duties?
It’s important to prepare your children for a lifestyle change as best as possible. Consider enrolling them in counseling to provide third-party emotional support during this turbulent time.
After you and your spouse tell your children, divvy up any remaining relatives with your spouse, or make a plan to tell certain people together. There are many correct ways to tell your friends and family, and you should create a plan that works for both of you.
7. Consider Counseling
Counselors are useful during numerous stages of life, but they can be particularly helpful during the divorce process. There are a few different counseling routes you could take during the process, and you don’t even have to limit yourself to just one:
- Consider individual counseling to process your emotions, get help making a plan, or simply seek support during a difficult time. If you already have a counselor, consider increasing the frequency of visits during the transition.
- Think about couples counseling for yourself and your spouse, especially if you’re going to be co-parenting after the divorce is finalized. Even though your marriage may be over, a third party could help settle disagreements during the divorce process, help you remain emotionally vulnerable with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, and assist with action plans for child-rearing.
- Entertain the idea of whole-family counseling sessions that include your minor children. Professional counselors can ask helpful questions and encourage all family members to maintain honesty and respect throughout the process. Children especially benefit from professional emotional support during divorces.
Even if you have excellent mental health, on the whole, a counselor can be incredibly beneficial during a significant life transition like a divorce.
8. Define What You Want to Become Next
Don’t get too caught up in the trials and tribulations of your divorce process. Take some time to focus on the positive outcomes of the end of your marriage, like a single lifestyle. Ask yourself, “So, I got divorced. What now?”
It’s completely up to you to decide what you want to do—and whom you want to become—next. While you don’t have an entirely blank slate (we never really do), you have significantly more freedom to make significant life changes now that you’re the only person you need to consult.
Where have you always wanted to vacation? What cuisine have you always wanted to try? What career path would you choose if you could do it all over again? What—physically or otherwise—are you attracted to now?
Use questions like these to brainstorm your next steps. Figure out what you want to do, and then…
9. Embrace Your New Life
While you should at least think about what you might want to do with your single life, remember that not everything goes to plan (your marriage didn’t, after all).
Keep an open mind about singlehood, and keep an eye on the positive for now. It’ll take a long time for you to completely recover emotionally, so making an effort to keep your day-to-day life light and positive will make a huge difference, even if you’re still down in the dumps.
Your post-divorce dreams are within reach. All that’s left to do is make them come true.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.