There's no EASY way to know when to leave, but there is an easier way.
At one time or another, almost every married person I know (including my husband and me) has questioned whether or not to call it quits.
It's an incredibly painful question to ask yourself because the only way to answer it is to dig down deep, way past the superficial hurts.
And for most of us, there's no black and white answer about whether you're ready to leave your marriage or not.
There are just too many things to weigh and consider as you figure out what's best for you (and your kids).
At its heart, your question is really about values, respect and what you fundamentally want for your life. (No one besides you will know how to answer this question for you.)
However, sometimes by looking at your marriage from different angles, you can gain clarity.
Here are six key questions to consider as you determine the larger question of whether you're ready to end your marriage, work to make it better, or just accept it as it is:
1. How is your sex life?
Sex is an important part of marriage. At its best, sex is a baring and sharing of both bodies and souls. At its worst, it's just another chore to either do or ignore. The two most concerning sexual problems to have are these:
- You feel trapped, scared or sad when you think about sex with your spouse (and you're not in a sexually abusive situation).
- You've not had sex for a really long time (think a year or more without medical restrictions) despite wanting and asking for it.
In and of themselves, neither of these problems necessitate the need to divorce, but they are most definitely situations that you must address.
If your sex life isn't what you want it to be, this is a golden opportunity for you to reach out and get help. You don't have to continue to live like this. You deserve better and I can help you find the path to getting there.
2. Do you still have basic respect for each other?
Mutual respect is critical for any successful marriage, yet there are moments in every marriage when respect, unfortunately, goes out the window. There might be a serious problem if you feel either of these two things to be true:
- You've lost ALL positive feelings for your spouse.
- You believe your spouse can do nothing right.
This isn't a one-way street though. Obviously, if you (the "core you") truly believe that your spouse has lost respect for you, then that's a problem too. And you need to consider it as you determine your course of action.
If respect is lacking in your marriage, you need to know that it is possible to find respect again.
It won't show up overnight and you might need to start with showing yourself some respect. (I've helped many people rediscover the respect that their marriage was lacking.)
3. Do you find fault instead of finding solutions?
Sometimes it's so much easier to play the blame game than to step up to the plate and admit your part in creating the current situation. It's normal to do this once in a while, but spouses who consistently blame their partner typically do so because they're too self-absorbed, too easily insulted, or simply ignoring the obvious solutions because their hurt (and resentment) runs too deep.
Ending the blame game requires one of you to stop playing, get courageous, and change the rules.
It's by your willingness to change that you allow your spouse the opportunity to change too. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean your spouse will take advantage of the opportunity in the way you want them to.
However, you won't know what's possible if you don't quit finding fault and start finding solutions.
4. Have you developed bad habits?
Now, I'm not talking here about the little annoying habits that we've all got. I'm talking about biggies, such as:
- You've become just parents instead of remaining lovers and partners.
- Deception, lying, cheating (like feeling the need for a separate/private/secret phone) exist in the relationship.
- Bad/non-existent communication leads to fighting all the time or no fighting at all.
- You maintain a vice-like grip on the bad things that happened in the past and use them as weapons again and again and again.
- Every situation becomes a fight instead of asking how you can fix or deal with this.
- You're so tired of trying that you just can't force yourself to do so one second longer.
- You both refuse to meet each other's needs.
- You're living separate lives where you don't really know or care about what's going on with each other.
- You've stopped communicating about anything substantial.
Luckily, habits can be changed - even the bad ones. And even better, when you change, you encourage your spouse to change their bad habits too.
Yet changing habits takes work and awareness that most of us don't naturally possess. (If we did, we would have already changed our habits.)
Most of us need someone else to help us change our behavior. When you're ready to explore how changing your habits could change your marriage, it's time to reach out for unbiased support.
5. Have you remained in your marriage solely because of religious beliefs?
For some people this is enough reason to stay in a marriage and work on it for a lifetime. But for others, their religious beliefs may be masking one or more fears such as loss, the unknown future or even judgment.
If you're staying in your marriage for religious beliefs, but aren't willing or able to work on your marriage we need to talk. Living in fear and misery is no way to live your life. You deserve so much more.
6. Are you and your spouse's visions for the future different?
Do you have incompatible ideas about whether or not to have children, where to retire or even moral and ethical differences? These different visions could provide some interesting discussions (and maybe a few arguments) as you try to reconcile your different dreams and reach a compromise. Or, maybe they're the last straw.
These 6 questions will help you more thoroughly evaluate whether leaving your marriage is the right answer for you or not. And that's all they can do.
For some these questions are enough to help them feel more confident in making their decision.
Together we'll figure out what your next best step is in determining whether you can save your marriage or if leaving your marriage is the right answer for you.