How to Tell If You Need a Divorce

by Fraser Sherman

Every marriage has some problems some of the time. Deciding whether the problems are survivable or signs you need a divorce is a tough call. Stay? Go? Fight to fix things? Give up and start over? To help yourself decide, sit and think, honestly, about whether your marriage is beyond help or worth saving.

Emotional Health

One way to tell if you need a divorce is to look at the emotional bond between you and your spouse. Has it frayed since you tied the knot? Consider these warning signs:

  • Your spouse doesn't care about your feelings. Or you realize you've stopped caring about his.
  • Your spouse constantly criticizes you.
  • You're constantly arguing with each other about trivial things.
  • Your gut is screaming that you want to get away. 
  • Your spouse is abusive. (This one's open and shut: Go!)

Another emotional test is to dip into your memories. If thinking about your past brings a wash of happy scenes and times, it might indicate you'd rather stay. If the memories are negative and bitter, your heart might not be in the marriage anymore.

What Makes You Happy?

Even "happily ever after" couples aren't happy every second of the day. But having your spouse in your life should make you happier, not more miserable. Does it? If the two of you have come to spend your free time apart, for example, you can work to fix that. If you realize you're happier flying solo, that's a warning sign.

Practical Conflicts

Possibly what makes you unhappy is something practical, like money or time. You want your spouse to do more of the cleaning, or at least not make such a big mess. You're job's stressing you out, but you can't keep up your standard of living without it. If you still love your spouse, these don't have to be fatal flaws. Perhaps they wouldn't mind having you earn less if you were able to relax and enjoy yourself more.

Outside Pressures

If you're not happy but you're uncomfortable going, ask what it is that makes you want to stay. Sometimes it's less about wanting the relationship to last than about being afraid of the consequences: how it will affect your children or what your church will say. Or perhaps you're concerned about how it will affect your lifestyle or your finances. Once you identify the voices that whisper "stay," you can decide if you want to listen.

Consider the Alternatives

If you decide you don't want to leave yet, don't just settle for things the way they are. Now that you see the problems, work to fix them. This might take an honest talk with your spouse, or couples counseling or mediation. Ask a friend whose judgment you trust to give you some perspective. If your spouse is willing to work with you, it's possible that you can step back from the brink after all.

About the Author

A Durham, NC resident, Fraser has written about law, starting a business, balancing your budget and fighting evictions, among other legal and financial topics.