What's In This Article
The short answer is that you should not feel obligated or pressured into remaining in a situation that is detrimental to your quality of life. If you are truly unhappy in your marriage and it hasn’t gotten better, it may be time to start that conversation.
There are many reasons why you may be unhappy in this relationship. Maybe you’ve grown apart from your spouse, you two have changed as people, or the relationship has turned volatile or abusive.
Not everything should last forever, and sometimes marriage is one of those things.
One thing to be aware of is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution regarding relationships, marriage, and especially divorce and separation. What worked for one couple may not work for another.
While there are resources that can help you reach a decision, you are ultimately the only one who will know if this marriage should be ended.
That being said, there are some things to consider when asking yourself this difficult question that may make it easier to come to a conclusion.
1. Why Are You Unhappy?
Many things can happen in a relationship that causes unhappiness. Asking yourself what is causing you to feel this way may help determine if there is an alternative to leaving. Identifying the cause of your unhappiness may also help pinpoint exactly why you need to leave.
Some things may not feel worth salvaging. If something has happened in your relationship that has caused you to view your partner differently, broken the trust between you both, or otherwise created irreparable damage, it may be time to call it off.
Events like cheating, abuse, and betrayal are all very justifiable reasons to seek a divorce. These actions create a breach of trust that often cannot be forgiven (and does not have to be).
Staying in a marriage after experiencing this kind of hurt can cause significant distress and is likely not going to be beneficial to either party in the long run.
Marriages with the amount of turmoil and duress that these sorts of events can cause may even be detrimental to your physical health in the long run. Studies have found that marriages with many conflicts negatively impact the health of partners over time.
Even if you haven’t experienced one of these tell-tale wrongs in your marriage, any sort of constant conflict affects your well-being. If there are continuous arguments in a relationship, neither party benefits, and the relationship may be better off if ended.
But, your reasons for leaving a marriage don’t have to be related to a volatile relationship. Other important reasons to want to leave your spouse include conflicting worldviews, changes in lifestyle, and simply falling out of love.
Incompatible sexualities are also incredibly valid reasons for wanting to end a marriage that creates distress.
Other things, such as disagreeing on having children, can be points of contention that cause the significant conflict mentioned above, which again is not healthy for either party.
2. Have You Done All You Can Do?
While it can be very tempting to immediately jump to divorce (and in some cases, this is absolutely the first step you should take) there may be other ways of improving your happiness that doesn’t lead to calling off the relationship.
If your marriage can be salvaged depends on what caused the unhappiness and if you believe there is anything worth repairing. You should not feel obligated to mend a marriage based on what society expects of you. Some relationships shouldn't continue.
The damage that makes a marriage irreparable depends on the relationship and each person involved.
Most people may not be able to repair a marriage after an affair or the discovery of a long-held secret (such as immense debt or a criminal record), and that is okay.
If you want to attempt to repair the relationship, especially in these cases, you absolutely should seek out a relationship counselor or therapist.
Marriage counseling is always a good step if you are hesitant about divorcing. Therapy and counseling can help you and your partner learn to communicate and perhaps resolve the major issues that have caused the unhappiness in your marriage.
Having a neutral third party to offer a look into your relationship and how it may be dysfunctional may alert you to issues you weren't aware of.
Sometimes simply being able to get help communicating the subjects of conflict can fix a marriage that seemed hopeless.
Another thing to consider is that sometimes the issue isn’t the relationship but the mental health of you or your spouse.
Those who suffer from depression or other mental illnesses may find that their mental health is causing relationship turmoil. Depression can affect those around the depressed individual as well.
When a depressed partner falls into an episode or is not receiving treatment, they may start neglecting themselves and their daily tasks—sometimes without realizing it.
Their partner is left to pick up the slack, which can negatively impact their mood. Partners may start feeling more like caregivers to the depressed spouse, and can negatively affect the relationship over time.
In addition to seeking counseling, ensure you’ve tried to implement changes to improve your marriage. Even if these changes have done nothing, knowing that you made a good-faith effort and things still aren’t working can help you decide if it’s time to throw in the towel.
If you have tried to make changes in the relationship and you’ve noticed your partner isn’t putting in any effort to salvage things, you may have another reason to leave.
In the end, knowing you’ve done all you could to save this relationship can help you leave it without guilt.
3. Do You Have Kids?
Having children makes divorce harder. Though many people may say it is best to stay together for the children, that is not always the case.
If you are in a marriage with constant fighting and conflict, it may actually harm the children more if you stay together.
Marital conflict impacts children whether the parents stay together or divorce. If you and your spouse would get along more amicably after separation, that may be the best for your children.
Sometimes though, staying married may give your child access to more benefits than if you were to separate.
These benefits should be considered, along with how much conflict and fighting may occur between you and your spouse. If one outweighs the other significantly, that should impact your course of action.
If your unhappiness is so significant in the marriage that it will affect how well you can care for your children, then separation may still be the best option. Ultimately, you want to give your children the most stable and nurturing environment possible.
For some couples, this may mean sticking it out for a few more years, for others it means separating as swiftly as possible.
4. Do You Feel Safe?
Unhappiness brought about by abuse is always a reason to leave. When a relationship makes you feel unsafe or threatened, that relationship is very unhealthy.
If your spouse makes you feel worthless, doesn’t let you do things you want to, forces or manipulates you into doing things you’re uncomfortable with, or otherwise belittles, embarrasses, or isolates you, you should consider leaving them immediately.
Any violence threatened or acted upon you is not a sign of a relationship worth repairing.
There are many resources for victims of domestic abuse. This website can be exited quickly and offers help for those whose internet usage may be monitored.
Leaving a hostile or abusive relationship should never be mocked or questioned. In these cases, you cannot do anything to repair the relationship. Your spouse is at fault for the destruction of the marriage, and you are doing the best you can by leaving them.
If you do not feel safe in a relationship, there is no question about if you should leave.
5. Leaving Is a Difficult Decision
No matter what your situation is or what has brought you to consider leaving this marriage, it will not be an easy decision to make. Many factors make a relationship reach this point, and the best conclusion depends on each individual and what is best for them.
In some cases, people put off the finality of divorce for decades. Separation without that official proclamation of divorce may be a good way to clear your head and trial life without your spouse.
But this can just be a way of delaying the pain and stress that a divorce brings.
There is no one right thing to do in this situation. Your happiness is crucial. The decision to leave your spouse should not be taken lightly, though. Divorce can be very complicated and costly, even when amicable.
Once you’ve stated that you want a divorce, there is no going back. Even if you rescind, this will be a blow all of its own to your marriage.
Leaving an unhappy marriage can start a new chapter in your life. Though the decision should not be rushed, it isn’t always the wrong one.
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.