How to Know When It's Time for Divorce

by Shelley Frost ; Updated March 15, 2018

Despite the divorce quizzes you may find online, there's no set of criteria to check that mean you need a divorce. Deciding to split from your spouse is a very personal decision. You are the only person who can decide if you've had enough and the marriage is no longer sustainable. When trying to decide when it's time to divorce, look for certain patterns or major issues that often lead to the end of a relationship.

Major Betrayal You Can't Overcome

Infidelity, lies and other forms of betrayal harm a marriage. While your marriage can survive betrayal, you have to be willing to move past the indiscretions and repair your relationship with your spouse. If you are the person who betrayed your spouse, he needs to be willing to forgive you before the marriage can improve. If one or both of you can't get past an act of betrayal, it may be time to split.

Failed Attempts to Save the Marriage

Couples struggle for a number of reasons. Whatever the cause of your marital friction, consider how much effort you've put into trying to save the relationship. Have you gone to counseling, tried to reconnect and committed to making the marriage work? Are you willing to do more to save the marriage? Perhaps one person is trying hard to make things work, but the other person doesn't want to put in the effort. If you've tried everything possible to save the marriage, but nothing is improving, divorce may be an option to consider.

Unmet Needs

When you get married, you become a team. Part of being in that relationship is taking care of each other's needs. That doesn't mean your partner needs to cater to your every whim, but it does mean she should work to make sure your emotional needs are met. If you start to ignore each other's needs, it may be a sign that the marriage is in trouble. Sometimes, you might notice tending to needs becomes very one-sided with one person failing to care about the partner's.

Staying for Kids, Finances or Similar Reasons

People often stay in unhappy marriages because they think it's best for the kids. Others stay because it's financially much better to stay together. Perhaps you stay because you like the social status you have with your spouse or you're afraid to be on your own. When you stay with your partner for a reason other than love and wanting to be together, it's a potential sign that you need to reevaluate your motivation.

Any Type of Abuse

An abusive situation is one that no one should accept. If your spouse abuses you physically or mentally and refuses to change or get help, you need to protect yourself by leaving. Mental or emotional abuse may be more difficult to identify. If you're not sure if you're in a mentally abusive relationship, seek the help of a counselor to work through your thoughts.

Incompatible Values

Couples disagree on things from time to time. He likes pastrami while you prefer turkey. He orders a beer while you order a glass of wine. Small differences are normal and make life interesting, but major disagreements on core values and major decisions can make it very challenging to stay together. A major source of conflict leading to divorce is money. If one person is very thrifty and values saving and the other blows money without thinking twice, the marriage may become strained. Another deal-breaker might be one spouse who values family and spending time together, while the other tries to buy his family's love with gifts instead of spending quality time with them. If you can't work past the differences in a major area, you may consider divorce.

Contempt or Disrespect

The way you treat each other can be an indicator that it's time to split. Having contempt for your partner is a major red flag. Contempt may show itself as criticizing in a hurtful way, eye-rolling, mocking or name-calling. You might notice that you both attack each other instead of focusing on the behavior that needs to be changed. These types of interactions lack the respect that should happen in a marriage.

Feeling Like It's Right

Only you know how you feel about your marriage. If you're constantly questioning whether you should leave, you may already know your answer. It's natural to feel nervous or scared about leaving behind the familiarity of a marriage. Follow your instincts. If you feel like your marriage is over and you would be better off alone, let that be your reason for divorce. You don't need to justify the decision with a major reason.

About the Author

Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.