Are You Headed for a Divorce? 6 Tell-Tale Signs You Are

It’s not uncommon to wonder if you weren’t in a committed relationship, what life might be like. Even the healthiest of relationships have momentary wanderlust of freedom, sex with someone new, agency over changing careers, vacationing or relocating without having to consider someone else’s feelings. Free of responsibility toward others, it’s liberating to be selfish and to do as you please.

Are you headed for a divorce?

But if you think like that more frequently than not, you or your partner might be heading toward divorce. In my clinical experience, here are 6 tell-tale signs your marriage might be heading toward a divorce:

  1. Comments like, “We need to work on our communication,” or “We/you need therapy,” and “I don’t feel connected to you like I used to.” Frequently, this is a wife’s bid for connection, to get her partner to tune in and work on the relationship because she’s feeling disconnected. She’s longing to be heard, seen and to be prioritized. All too commonly, some husbands avoid dealing and denies the severity of her statements as fleeting or as meaningless complaints. He tunes her out. But over time (varies from a couple years to 10 years or more), the wife stops trying to get her partner to engage in the marriage. This is when she begins to disengage, meaning, she simply stops making these comments and essentially has given up hope for healing and connection. So when she finally utters the “D” word, the husband thinks it’s “out of nowhere!” The wife expresses, “I’ve been telling you for years this relationship wasn’t working for me.” By this point, it’s too late for the wife. She has made up her mind after years of pleading to work on the marriage; couple’s therapy is fruitless.
  2. Your partner, particularly men, are consistently busy at work, leaving you home alone most nights and weekends. Everyone gets a busy season, but when one partner is questioning the relationship, they find reasons to not be around and work is a convenient excuse. My research shows work becomes a safe haven from conflict and a place they can focus their attention and feel successful. If your partner is throwing everything they have into their work without carving out some alone time with their spouse each week, over most weeks, or if traveling, over a long period of time, then that’s a sign they are avoiding connecting with their spouse. It may or may not involve making time for someone else, but regardless, it shows they are not prioritizing you.
  3. Lack of sex or diverging sexual desires. Sure, we all get into funks. Stress, hormones, kids, sleep deprivation, depression…these are all legitimate reasons to reduce sexual intercourse. If over a period of time there are no or few attempts to engage in intercourse with your partner, there is a serious problem in the relationship. Initiation of sex is a bid to connect, a plea for intimacy. Over time, when both or one partner shuts down their bodies to their spouse, finding their way back to one another becomes increasingly difficult. Additionally, when one partner wants to open the relationship up to other partners at the consent of their spouse or begins yearning for sexual fantasies that are inconsistent with previous patterns seemingly out of nowhere, it’s important to explore what is motivating the new behavior. Consistent lack of sex or a request for a new sexual adventure does not alone determine that you’re headed for divorce, but when combined with some of the other telltale signs, there’s a strong correlation that things are getting worse.
  4. Moving into a separate part of the house. Whether a different bedroom or a whole other wing, moving into another space for more than a night or two is a place holder for moving out and on.
  5. Acting out. Acting out comes in many forms, defensiveness, constant criticism, picking fights, addictions, affairs, and so on. Acting out alone as an isolated incident does not a divorce make. Rather, it’s in the consistency of behavior that leads to sabotage and active pushing away of the other person that begins to drive a wedge between partners.
  6. Secret-holding, withholding and shutting-down behavior. The opposite of acting out, behaviors like stone-walling, pulling away, and suppressing your true feelings also creates emotional and psychological distance. Over enough time, it erodes trust and intimacy and breeds loneliness for both partners. If unaddressed over time, this form of managing emotions – yours and others – begets resentment and is a sure sign your relationship is unsalvageable if left to resolve itself.

If you’re noticing your partner or you are exhibiting any of these signs on a fairly consistent behavior, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Prevention is the best protection for connection.

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