Warning Signs That It Is Time to Leave a Marriage

BernardaSv/iStock/Getty Images

Some couples grow apart over time, with each person exploring avenues that include less of the other. But how to know it’s really time to divorce? While everyone has a different level of tolerance, a few red flags might be be taken as signs that it it's time to break ties and find a better life.

Trouble Managing Conflict

Everyone fights at some point; just divvying up who is going to do the dishes is enough if you've already done them 12 nights in a row. But certain conflict behaviors -- such as withdrawal or inability to communicate -- are more likely to lead to divorce, note University of Michigan researcher Kira Birditt and others, in a study of 373 couples published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2013. Because these behaviors are often stable over time, those unable to discuss their issues calmly or productively might be headed toward separation. But divorce comes with its own set of conflicts, and fighting is not inclined to decrease, especially if you have children. Conflict might be a red flag to leave, or a sign to see a professional to evaluate the good and the bad parts of the marriage overall before signing divorce papers.


Physical infidelity -- sexual interaction with others -- is the most obvious sign that it is time to leave. But women define more physical actions as infidelity than men, say Texas State University researchers Victoria Thornton and Alexander Nagurney in a 2011 study of 125 men and 233 women published in Psychological Research and Behavior Management. While women may see hand-holding or a kiss on the lips as cheating, men might focus on the more explicit behaviors. However you define it -- physical cheating, emotional affairs, romantic relationships or Internet affairs -- all are all red flags that it might be time to leave a marriage.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse such as name-calling or put-downs can cause sadness or other depressive symptoms, according to Howard University professor Charles P. Mouton M.D. and others in a study of 93,676 women that was published in Annals of Family Medicine in 2010. And women aren’t alone; men are also negatively affected by name-calling. If your partner is constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough, makes fun of you or calls you names, it might be time to move on to something better.


Domestic includes physical abuse that causes injuries or broken bones, sexual violence or threats of sexual violence. If your partner hurts you physically, this is not a practice that is likely to stop over time. Get out now and contact a domestic violence support hotline or the police to maintain your safety.