Making the Decision to End Your Marriage (2023)

The decision to end a marriage is often one of the most challenging choices people will face during their adult lives. For many people, it is a process that involves a long process of debating whether to stay or go.

There is no easy way to determine if divorce is your right choice. Only you can weigh the pros and cons, assess the impact it will have on your life, and determine if moving on from your marriage is the best option.

If you are agonizing over whether or not to file for divorce, this article discusses some of the steps you can take in this process.

Factors to Consider Before Ending Your Marriage

Divorce is a significant life change and often represents a major source of stress and grief for many adults. According to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, a measure of life events that increase the risk of illness, divorce ranks as the second most stressful life event, coming in behind only the death of a spouse.

Because divorce is such a big decision, there are several factors to consider before ending your marriage. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you discussed your concerns? Before you opt to end the marriage, start by clearly communicating your concerns about the future of your relationship. If you haven't made it very clear to your partner that there is a problem and that something needs to change, they may never make your concerns a priority until it's too late.
  • Have you talked about what it would take to save the marriage? While some marriages might be beyond repair for various reasons, it is essential to consider what would realistically have to change for you to stay together.
  • Have you thought about what might come next? Divorce can solve some problems, but it can also create others. It is important to think about what your life might look like post-divorce. When making this life-changing decision, recognize what you'll lose and don't count on what you may receive: If your main reason for wanting a divorce is because you're unhappy, being single again maynot make you happier.
  • How will you manage the impact of divorce on your children? While you might ultimately decide that you will no longer be a couple, you'll still be co-parents. Before ending your marriage, consider how you will minimize the harm to your kids and work together to raise your children.
  • Have you considered the financial consequences? Beyond the emotional aspects of divorce, ending your marriage can have significant financial consequences. Before making a choice, sit down with a financial advisor and talk to a lawyer. Understanding your situation and the laws in your state can help you better evaluate the financial impact of divorce on your life.

Research suggests that divorce has significant economic effects, which disproportionately impact women. One study found that women lost approximately 40% of their incomes in the year following a divorce, while men experienced a 5% gain.

Signs It Might Be Time to End Your Marriage

Only you know the answer to whether you're better off staying married or getting a divorce. Sometimes marriage is worth saving and sometimes it isn't. It's important to face the realities—and not just the fantasy—of divorce.

Some reasons why you might decide that divorce is the right option include:

(Video) Signs Your Marriage Is Over And Not Worth Fighting For | Signs You Need To Get Out NOW!


Abuse is a sign that you should never ignore. If there is abuse in your marriage, it is important to start planning how to leave the relationship safely.

Abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Controlling behavior, neglect, and financial abuse are also red flags you should never ignore.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact theNational Domestic Violence Hotlineat1-800-799-7233for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

If you are in immediate danger, call911. For more mental health resources, see ourNational Helpline Database.

Differing Goals or Values

Sometimes people in relationships find that they have different goals for the future. While such differences can often be resolved through discussion and compromise, conflicting visions of the future are sometimes simply incompatible.

Studies indicate that a lack of shared goals can harm relationships and increase the risk of divorce. Interdependence theory suggests decisions made by each person in a relationship have an impact on the other. While it isn't realistic to have goals that align perfectly, making important decisions that don't reflect each other's values and goals can severely impact the relationship's health.

Significant differences in values and beliefs can create conflicts in relationships that may not be resolvable. In such cases, ending the marriage might be the best solution for both of you.

(Video) Should You Leave Your Marriage? 7 Things To Consider Before You Separate


If your marriage is creating distress, making you unhappy, or affecting your ability to function, it is a sign that divorce should be a serious consideration.

While married people tend to be happier and have better health, research has shown that people in unhappy marriages experience significant declines in health.

Lack of Intimacy

Intimacy is an essential part of any healthy relationship. It isn't just about physical closeness; it is also about your emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and experiential connection.

While it is normal for every relationship to have its ups and downs, serious intimacy problems can emerge due to conflict, stress, poor communication, and other issues.

In some cases, it is possible to recapture the intimacy in your relationship. But if that isn't possible, you might consider whether it is time to end the relationship.

Research has found that lack of intimacy in a marriage is the most common reason for divorce.


If you do all of the work in the relationship, it can put a marriage in peril. Examples of one-sided relationships include being the one who does all the housework, performs all the emotional labor, and provides all the financial support.

(Video) Staying in your marriage "for the kids"? Watch this

While it is normal for each person to have differing roles in a marriage, a profoundly unequal division of labor signifies that a marriage may be headed for divorce.


Growing indifference between you and your partner is another significant sign that your marriage might be headed for divorce. Apathy erodes the emotional connection you share. If you've stopped caring about one another, it is a sign of a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Before divorce, people often go through a period of detachment, where they emotionally disconnect from their partner. Growing indifference can often be a sign of this detachment. It can sometimes be a form of self-protection in an unhappy relationship, but it can also be a way of preparing yourself for the end of a relationship.

Other Problems

Other problems, such as substance use or infidelity, are also reasons for divorce. The top reasons why marriages end include:

  • Loss of intimacy and love
  • Communication issues
  • Lack of trust, respect, and sympathy
  • Growing apart

While less common, violence, addiction, accidents, illnesses, and personality were also cited as reasons for divorce.

One study found that divorce was often preceded by a "final straw" that compelled a person to finally end the relationship. The most commonly cited "final straws" were infidelity, domestic violence, and substance use.

Impact of an Unhappy Marriage

For many couples, the amount of time they've already invested in their marriages has a lot to do with their decision to stay or to go.It's generally easier for a younger married couple to divorce and start their lives over again than for partners who've been together for a decade or more.

But staying in a state of indecision can also take a toll. Sticking with a marriage that isn't working is an example of the sunk costs fallacy, which involves feeling reluctant to abandon a decision because you've already invested so much in it. Ultimately, failing to decide to stay or go means more time wasted and more stress.

Consider these effects of being in a state of limbo:

(Video) The 5 Signs Your Relationship Is Over

  • Your health:Your health is also being compromised if you aren't sleeping well or not exercising and eating healthy foods.
  • Your job: Your job may be in jeopardy due to moodiness and lack of attention.
  • Your other relationships: Your children, friends, and other family members may feel your sadness, frustration, impatience, fear, anger, and indecision.

Steps to Take Before Making the Decision

Before you make the decision to end your marriage, there are steps you can take that might give you some clarity. Taking these steps might help improve your current situation, but they can also help you get ready to deal with the major changes and upheaval that divorce can bring to your life.

  • Manage the stress in your life: Marital conflict can be a major source of stress. It is also more difficult to make a decision when you are overwhelmed with feelings of stress. Taking control of your stress levels can give you the clarity you need to make the right decision for your future.
  • Make a plan: Devise a survival or backup plan to give yourself more control over your life. You may never have to use it, but it's good to have it anyway.
  • Focus on creating stability: Get yourself on stable ground so you can handle whatever comes your way. This can involve building your support network, taking care of your health, and planning for your financial future.
  • Prioritize self-care: If your physical or emotional safety depends on being separated from your partner, you must make that your priority.

You may need some time away to view your marriage more clearly. Getting away alone, even for a weekend, can help you sort things out. For many people, this is when something clicks inside and they know what to do.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you're contemplating divorce, see a professional licensed counselor that works with couples—even if you go alone.

Be sure to see someone with a good amount of experience in couples' work. Sometimes a therapist with a lack of understanding of relational interactions will help put the nail in the marital coffin. Better yet, you both can try discernment counseling, a type of counseling that focuses solely on helping couples decide whether they want to end their relationship or work on it.

The Best Online Marriage Counseling Programs

Moving Forward

If you decide to proceed with a divorce, it is important to take steps to support your health and well-being throughout the process.

If you do make the decision to divorce, be good to yourself. Remember that if your marriage fails, it doesn't mean you're a failure. Some unhealthy relationships are not meant to succeed. Sometimes people keep trying to make sense of something that doesn't make sense or can't be solved.

A Word From Verywell

Ending your marriage is a difficult and complex decision. It pays to give it adequate thought and consider all of the alternatives before making a decision. You might decide that staying with your partner is the right choice, but you might also decide that divorce is the right choice. Whatever you decide, make sure that you care for yourself, consider the impact it may have on your life, and consult professionals who can help.

(Video) Before You End Your Marriage...Separate


How do I know if ending my marriage is the right thing to do? ›

Here are seven signs from experts that a Carmel family law attorney believes mean a marriage might be over.
  • Lack of Sexual Intimacy. ...
  • Frequently Feeling Angry with Your Spouse. ...
  • Dreading Spending Alone-Time Together. ...
  • Lack of Respect. ...
  • Lack of Trust. ...
  • Disliking Your Spouse. ...
  • Visions of the Future Do Not Include Your Spouse.
Dec 7, 2019

How do you know when to leave your marriage? ›

Leaving a Marriage After 60: How to Know When it's Time to Let Go
  1. You Are in an Abusive Relationship.
  2. You Do Not Get Treated with the Respect You Deserve.
  3. You Justify Your Happiness and Mental Health.
  4. You Feel Nothing Will Change for the better.
  5. You Are Not Being True to Yourself.
Sep 27, 2022

Is it better to divorce or stay unhappily married? ›

American studies mirror our findings. A 2002 study found that two-thirds of unhappy adults who stayed together were happy five years later. They also found that those who divorced were no happier, on average, than those who stayed together.

How do you know if your marriage is beyond repair? ›

What does real trouble look like?
  • There's no emotional connection. ...
  • Communication breakdown. ...
  • Aggressive or confrontational communication. ...
  • There's no appeal to physical intimacy. ...
  • You don't trust them. ...
  • Fantasising about others. ...
  • You're not supporting each other and have different goals. ...
  • You can't imagine a future together.

What is stonewalling in a marriage? ›

Stonewalling, one of the Four Horsemen, is Dr. John Gottman's term for one or both partners shutting down when feeling overwhelmed during conflict. Rather than confronting the issue, someone who is stonewalling will be unresponsive, making evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, or acting busy.

What is the #1 cause of divorce? ›

Lack of commitment is the most common reason given by divorcing couples according to a recent national survey. Here are the reasons given and their percentages: Lack of commitment 73% Argue too much 56%

What is walkaway wife syndrome? ›

What Is a Walkaway Wife? Also referred to as the "neglected wife syndrome" and "sudden divorce syndrome," walkaway wife syndrome is "nothing more than a term used to characterize a person who has decided they cannot stay in the marriage any longer," says Joshua Klapow, Ph.

What is the first thing to do when leaving a marriage? ›

What to do before leaving your spouse
  1. 6 Steps to leaving your spouse. Prepare yourself for the coming months. ...
  2. 1) Consult with a lawyer. ...
  3. 2) Prepare yourself financially. ...
  4. 3) Consider all your housing options. ...
  5. 4) Think about your children, if the separation involves them. ...
  6. 5) Gather important documents. ...
  7. 6) Find emotional support.

Should I feel guilty for leaving my marriage? ›

As long as it's a healthy form of guilt. At the very least, most people in marriages that end in divorce will experience some form of guilt or another. When you experience guilt, as long as it's not prolonged, obsessive or irrational, it usually means that your moral compass is just fine. Guilt is a normal reaction.

When did you realize your marriage is over? ›

"If you're no longer spending any time together, if one or both partners is spending all their time at work, with friends, online — and if feels like a relief not to be with each other — it's a sign that you've already disengaged from the marriage." You don't support or listen to each other.

What to do before telling spouse you want a divorce? ›

Be prepared, know what you want to say, and give your spouse some warning about what's coming.
  1. Don't Ambush Your Spouse. ...
  2. Pick a Private Place. ...
  3. Be Prepared for Anger. ...
  4. Plan What to Say. ...
  5. Don't Blame. ...
  6. Stay Calm. ...
  7. Avoid a Trial Separation. ...
  8. Maintain Boundaries.
Jun 9, 2017

Are most people happier after divorce? ›

The study found that on average unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier than unhappily married adults who stayed married when rated on any of 12 separate measures of psychological well-being. Divorce did not typically reduce symptoms of depression, raise self-esteem, or increase a sense of mastery.

What are the hardest years of marriage? ›

While there are countless divorce studies with conflicting statistics, the data points to two periods during a marriage when divorces are most common: years 1 – 2 and years 5 – 8. Of those two high-risk periods, there are two years in particular that stand out as the most common years for divorce — years 7 and 8.

At what point is a relationship not fixable? ›

What makes a relationship 'unfixable' according to experts, is when two people are no longer willing or able to commit to one another and make the relationship work. Add lockdown into the mix, and the challenge becomes just as intense.

How do you know if a relationship is irreparable? ›

You Don't Trust Your Partner Anymore. In a relationship, you go through the highs and lows of life with your partner but when you begin to question your partner's reliability and trust, it's a sign your relationship is beyond repair.

What is gaslighting in a marriage? ›

The term gaslighting became popular in the 1960s. It is used to describe the manipulation of another person's perception of reality. Gaslighting is a common tool used by narcissistic and abusive spouses to control their partners. When done correctly, gaslighting can make a spouse doubt their own senses and memory.

What are the four horsemen in marriage? ›

The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

What is emotional abandonment in marriage? ›

In the context of a marriage, the feelings of neglect, being left out, and not being heard are collectively referred to as emotional abandonment. It occurs when one partner is so preoccupied with their own concerns that they are unable to notice the struggles, concerns, or problems their partner is experiencing.

Who initiates divorce more often? ›

A study led by the American Sociological Association determined that nearly 70% of divorces are initiated by women. And the percentage of college-educated American women who initiated divorce is even higher.

What ends most marriages? ›

Content Considerations for Premarital Education
  • Infidelity. Over half of all participants cited infidelity as a major reason for divorce and infidelity was the most often endorsed “final straw” reason. ...
  • Substance abuse. ...
  • Domestic violence. ...
  • Financial hardship. ...
  • Marriage expectations.

Why do people stay in unhappy marriages? ›

Fear. The threat of physical violence, further emotional abuse, harming your children by depriving them of a nuclear family, and concern about how friends and family will perceive them are commonly-cited reasons why people may choose to stay in an unhappy marriage.

Why am I so lonely in my marriage? ›

Loneliness in a marriage can be caused by a number of different things. Family, work, and stress often play a role, but internal factors such as your own unrealistic expectations and fear of vulnerability can also make it hard to connect with your spouse.

What is a disconnected marriage? ›

Relationships that lack emotional intimacy are characterized by feelings of isolation, disconnection, and a lack of emotional safety. Even though there's time spent together, there's no real emotional connection or understanding between you. And the effects of a lack of intimacy are serious.

What is a run away marriage? ›

Usually, you elope to get married without anyone knowing in advance. The word elope probably originated with the Middle Dutch word lopen, meaning "run away." Couples who elope typically don't seek anyone's permission before running off to get married, not even their parents.

What should I do before I leave my husband? ›

What are the steps to leave my husband/wife?
  1. 1) Gather Documents & Keep Records. ...
  2. 2) Open a Separate Bank Account & Create Your Own Budget. ...
  3. 3) List Property & Other Assets. ...
  4. 4) Plan the Logistics of Your Exit. ...
  5. 5) Contact a Divorce Lawyer. ...
  6. 6) To Tell Your Spouse Or Not. ...
  7. 7) Tell Your Children. ...
  8. 8) Leave.
May 6, 2021

How to prepare for a divorce as a woman? ›

10 Pre-Divorce Moves Every Woman Should Make
  1. Phone an attorney (or two or even three) I often hear women say they “aren't ready” to talk to a lawyer. ...
  2. Gather the documents. ...
  3. Document your expenses. ...
  4. Alter your will. ...
  5. Rethink your health proxy. ...
  6. Open a bank account in your name. ...
  7. Start saving. ...
  8. Build your credit.

Is it right to stay in an unhappy marriage? ›

Staying in an unhappy marriage may breed feelings of insecurity, resentment, or despair, Neupert says, which may then lead you and your partner to argue more frequently. More frequent conflict can increase those negative feelings, creating an emotionally draining cycle.

Should I divorce my husband if I still love him? ›

There's nothing wrong with continuing to love the person you are divorcing. Hatred or lack of love isn't a prerequisite to divorce. But recognizing that you're not satisfied in the marriage might be. It's okay to end something that isn't working.

What not to do before you get divorced? ›

The Don'ts of Divorce
  • Don't take matters into your own hands. ...
  • Don't go against court rulings. ...
  • Don't expose your kids to your animosity. ...
  • Don't confide in your kids. ...
  • Don't try to be a hero. ...
  • Don't rush into another relationship. ...
  • Don't forget to be a parent.
Oct 26, 2022

Do people regret divorce? ›

On average, a third of divorced couples regret their decision to end their marriage. In a 2016 survey by, researchers interviewed 254 women and 206 men and asked how they felt about their divorce. They found out that 27% of women and 32% of men found themselves regretting divorce.

Who is more likely to remarry after a divorce? ›

Men Are More Likely to Remarry

The rate for women was significantly lower, at only 19.4 per 1,000 women eligible for remarriage. This data indicates that men are consistently more likely to attempt a second marriage than women. Over the past decade, there has been a decline in remarriage rates for both men and women.

Who loses more in a divorce? ›

While many men are quick to say that their ex-wives took everything, including the dog—or that is what many country songs lead you to believe, anyway—the truth is that women often fare worse in a divorce.

What occupation has the highest divorce rate? ›

Key findings
  • The type of job with the highest divorce rate is military work. ...
  • Following military workers, those who have a job in health care support have the next highest divorce rate. ...
  • Drilling down to the 100 most common individual occupations, bartenders top the list with a divorce rate of 4.34%.
Mar 28, 2022

What are 5 warning signs to divorce? ›

6 Warning Signs Your Marriage May Be Headed For Divorce
  • There is an Emotional Distance. ...
  • You Are More Like Roommates Than Spouses. ...
  • There is a Lack of Intimacy. ...
  • Your Spouse is Always Busy. ...
  • There Are Signs Your Spouse is Cheating. ...
  • Everything You Do Seems To Irritate Your Spouse. ...
  • When It Is Time To Consult With A Divorce Lawyer.
Sep 19, 2022

What are the stages of marriage breakdown? ›

Most marriages go through at least three distinct stages: 1) romantic love, 2) disillusionment and distraction, and 3) dissolution, adjustment with resignation, or adjustment with contentment (Larson, 2003). Stage 1 typically occurs prior to marriage and within the first several years after couples tie the knot.

How do I know if I'm making the right choice in divorce? ›

Before going any further, below are some things to consider to decide if divorce is the best choice or not.
  • Decide Who The Marriage Is Not Working For. ...
  • Don't Get Involved With Other People. ...
  • Don't Let Anger Drive You And Your Spouse To Divorce. ...
  • Get Situated Financially First. ...
  • Keep Divorce Personal.
Jan 20, 2020

What are toxic marriage signs? ›

Your relationship may be toxic if it is characterized by behaviors that make you feel unhappy, including disrespect, dishonesty, controlling behaviors, or a lack of support.

What is a dead bedroom? ›

Social media sites have popularized the term, “dead bedroom,” where one person's disinterest in sex leaves their longtime partner feeling frustrated, unappreciated, depressed and resentful. This struggle over bedroom intimacy can cause other aspects of the relationship to suffer as well.

How many years does the average marriage last? ›

What is the average length of marriage? On average, the length of a marriage in the U.S. is seven to eight years. Some states have a higher rate than others, but the divorce rate for the country is around 50%.

How do you know if your marriage is worth saving? ›

15 signs your marriage is worth saving
  1. You're having second thoughts.
  2. It all started when you had kids.
  3. You still value the sanctity of marriage.
  4. You still want to work on your marriage.
  5. You can't picture your life without your spouse.
  6. Your problems aren't really about your relationship.
  7. You still love the person.
Jan 14, 2022

When should you stop trying to fix your marriage? ›

10 giveaways to stop trying to fix a relationship
  1. Ignored needs. As mentioned, we all have needs, but if you can't find a way to reconcile your needs, this could be one of the signs your relationship is beyond repair. ...
  2. Secrecy and fear. ...
  3. Abuse and trauma. ...
  4. You're trying to change your partner. ...
  5. No intimacy. ...
  6. Emotional disconnect.
Dec 30, 2021

What are the signs of falling out of love? ›

9 scientific signs that you're falling out of love
  • Their imperfections start to stand out. Yulia Mayorova/Shutterstock. ...
  • Communication diminishes. ...
  • You develop a wandering eye. ...
  • You've fallen for someone else. ...
  • You stop thinking about a future together. ...
  • You don't want to be intimate anymore. ...
  • Your priorities change. ...
  • You feel trapped.
Dec 15, 2017

At what point do most marriages end? ›

After all, almost 50% of first marriages, 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. While there are countless divorce studies with conflicting statistics, the data points to two periods during a marriage when divorces are most common: years 1 – 2 and years 5 – 8.

What are reasons to end a marriage? ›

Reasons for Divorce
  • Commitment. ...
  • Infidelity. ...
  • Conflict and arguing. ...
  • Marrying too young. ...
  • Financial problems. ...
  • Substance abuse. ...
  • Domestic violence.


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2. Exit Strategies: Leaving A Marriage Or Long-Term Relationship
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3. How understanding divorce can help your marriage | Jeannie Suk Gersen
5. How To Decide Whether Or Not To End Your Marriage
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