There are very few things in life we expect to get right the first time. First pancake? We all know that’s coming out kinda rough. First career? Hey, things happen, it’s fine to mix it up 10 years in. Cars? We trade those out every 5 years or so. So why on earth are we expected to perfectly choose a life partner the first time around? Don’t ignore the signs you need to get a divorce.
I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Divorce might be Personal Development
My divorce was just one milestone in my ongoing personal development journey. It doesn’t define my life, but it does define a moment I chose myself first and foremost. It was incredibly painful, but it was the pain of healing and I have walked through it and am stronger.. Look, I fully believe in honoring commitments. But suggesting that a miserable person has to stay stuck with another miserable person for life? Nope. I don’t like that.
My divorce was finalized over 2 years ago and I can still remember the agony and shame that went into the decision process. It was most definitely not a flippant one. There were weeks of waffling, often in the armchair in my therapists office. How could I face myself if I was a “quitter”? It’s an intensely personal decision, but then again so are many other things in life. Ending a marriage is difficult, but so are many other paths we could choose.
And so, straight from my personal experience, here are 5 signs you need to get a divorce (and please don’t feel guilty about it).
5. You daydream about running away all the time.
Newsflash: this isn’t healthy. Sure we all get that wild urge once in a while. BUT if you constantly dream of leaving and starting a new life, or somehow getting into the witness protection program without your spouse, I’m calling it a major red flag. What’s triggering this escape fantasy? Notice when it happens and see if you can figure out the underlying cause. This will give you a lot of insight into what isn’t working in the relationship, and if you can/want to fix it.
4. Your spouse has given up & doesn’t care about working on the relationship.
Just because someone hasn’t packed up and left, doesn’t mean they are engaged in the relationship in a meaningful way. Or maybe they broke their vows, but promised they would change.
We know in our gut when someone isn’t trying. Trust that intuition.
And I don’t just mean that one day they were tired and didn’t want to talk through a disagreement. What I’m referring to is a pattern of dismissive behavior towards you and the relationship. Perhaps you are in couples counseling, but they never want to do the homework with you. Or you share a need or boundary, and instead of being met with love, you are met with hostility or withdrawal, over and over again. It takes two to keep something healthy, and even more motivation from both to fix a relationship in crisis. When you are the only one trying, it’s definitely one of the signs you need to get a divorce.
3. The kids know your marriage isn’t good. Don’t ignore signs you need a divorce because of them.
Can I tell you how close to home this one hits? I was terrified of breaking my daughter by ending my marriage. At one point, I decided I had to stay another ten years because I couldn’t let her come from a “broken home.” And then you know what I realized?
Our home was already broken.
How could I let her spend another ten years thinking that’s how a wife deserved to be treated? Why would I think it was the better choice to let her form opinions of marriage based on toxicity? I realized that I needed to save myself and she needed to see that. She needed that more than continued lip service to a marriage certificate. Remember: kids aren’t stupid. They know you feel trapped and it doesn’t make them feel good. Yet when they grow up they will instinctively continue the patterns they saw modeled.
Divorce with kids – Use Resources!
Read up on how to go through divorce with kids the healthy way. Enlist the help of a child therapist if you feel some extra support would be good. Don’t lean on your child for support or validation. Never gossip or speak badly about your ex-spouse. There are many resources available for how to walk through this difficult time in an age appropriate way. They will hurt, oh yes they will hurt. And yet, it will become part of their story and forge who they will be as adults. You aren’t breaking them when you walk through it lovingly. Life is growing them.
2. Your spouse abuses you – physically, verbally, emotionally or financially.
Our society has come around to an extent on recognizing domestic abuse, and started supporting victims who are being physically abused in meaningful ways. In my experience, even conservative churches will consider this grounds for divorce. When you enter the verbal and emotional realm, though, opinions are much more divided. In a divorce recovery group, our video lesson ran on about how if you aren’t being hit, you don’t get to use abuse as one of the signs you need to get a divorce. I call that some crazy B.S..
Emotional abuse is abuse.
Manipulation, gaslighting, and other forms of emotional abuse can be every bit as dangerous and damaging as physical violence. Additionally, it can be difficult to spot even for people close to the victim. The wounds are invisible. Without witnesses, it can be challenging to get others to even believe what’s going on. Emotional abusers are masters of convincing their victim they misunderstood or overreacted until the victim feels absolutely insane. Years of this treatment will leave someone feeling like a mere shell of their former self. Same with verbal abuse. Nobody deserves to be belittled, cussed at, or insulted. If this behavior is ongoing, get yourself out of there.
Money can hold power
Discussing financial abuse is still sort of a taboo in our culture. Money and similar topics are considered tacky to talk about. But what if he won’t stop racking up the credit card debt with his purchases? What if she keeps making major financial decisions without working together as a team? Or what if he denies her access to their accounts, leaving her fully dependent on him? See how these scenarios are incredibly damaging to the trust that marriage depends on. Make no mistake, if your spouse is jeopardizing your financial stability, they have checked out and so should you.
1. You are responsible for the one life you’ve been given – how are you going to spend it?
During the ten years my first marriage limped along, I read a lot of material about what can give marriage it’s longevity. Looking back, I really think I was trying to understand what was going wrong in mine. Almost unanimously, experts warned that fairy tale love is not real life. That you won’t be happy all the time. “Don’t chase the feeling, it’ll just wear off in the next relationship too.” Ok, fair enough. I don’t think anyone, realistically, expects to be happy 100% percent of the time.
But what if you are mostly unhappy. What if you are usually tense, nervous, and upset around your spouse? Especially if you have spent time in counseling or other ways trying to set boundaries or help them understand how you feel. That’s for sure one of the signs you need to get a divorce.
We have such a limited number of years on this planet. I firmly believe that our job is to do the best we can with those years. We each have a calling to discover, we each have a purpose to fulfill, and we each should aspire to wholeness. Merely existing in a toxic relationship will not make you whole. It will make you tired and sick. Don’t waste your years preoccupied with the drama and the anguish.
Yes, it’s OK to get divorced.
You deserve to be happy. Fulfillment is out there for you. And it has nothing to do with your relationship status. Know this: the environment you choose to live in will have a dramatic effect on what you can achieve. Don’t sell yourself short by filling your days with poison. Save you energy for yourself and those who can truly appreciate you. Take all the time you need to think through your decision, to make a plan for your exit and how to support your children. But once you see the clear signs you need to get a divorce, go forward with a clean conscience. You’ve got this, you can do it! It’s scary, but when it’s right, it’s right.