How to Know When a Marriage Is Really Over

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The decision of whether or not to leave your spouse is not one to be taken lightly, particularly if you share a home and children. Ending a marriage may be the best course of action when communication and actions between spouses have become damaging or dangerous. Watching for telltale signs that your marriage has become harmful and unhealthy can help you decide if you should part ways with your spouse.

Destructive Conflict

Conflict in marriage can be productive, if aproached properly. If your arguements are full of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling, your marriage may have reached a breaking point. Psychologist John Gottman and his collaborator Nan Silver refer to these negative communication styles as "the four horsemen," as mentioned his article "What Makes Marriage Work?" published in Psychology Today magazine. This kind of communication is typically intended to hurt, insult, manipulate or attack a spouse's character or personality. Stonewalling--refusing to answer or participate in dialogue, usually happens when negativity has reached its peak and hope for peaceful compromise or reconciliation seems impossible. If communication with your spouse has reached this level of disrespect, divorce may be imminent.

Presence of Abuse

Your marriage is ideally meant to be a safe haven, and your spouse someone you can turn to for comfort, love and support. If that dynamic includes some form of abuse, divorce may be best for the entire family, write Drs. Alan Hawkins and Tamara Fackrell, in "Should I Keep Trying to Work It Out? A Guidebook for Individuals and Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce." The National Domestic Violence Hotline identifies three types of abuse: emotional, physical and sexual. Abuse can range from criticism, threats and control to physical violence. If abuse issues cannot be resolved between you and your spouse or with the help of a professional, it may be time to dissolve your marriage.

Infidelity and Loss of Trust

Many married couples are willing to work through a multitude of conflicts and issues, but they often draw the line when a spouse is unfaithful. According to a 2008 Gallup Poll, two out of three Americans said they would not forgive their spouse for cheating. If a couple cannot find meaning in the infidelity, move forward and rebuild the lost sense of trust, intimacy and security in their marriage, they are likely to separate or divorce, assert Hawkins and Fackrell.

Impact of Addiction

When a spouse struggles with addiction, it can have a deeply neagtive effect on a marriage. Many marriages dwindle when an addicted spouse poses a danger or threat to the other spouse or family members, writes social worker Susan Gadousa in her article "So You're Married to An Addict: Is Divorce Inevitable?" on the Psychology Today website. For example, an alcoholic spouse drives the kids while intoxicated or a gambling spouse depletes the family bank account. If you have stood by your addicted spouse for years and he seems unwilling or able to change, it may be time to consider saying goodbye.