If you’re struggling with the difficult “Should I get a divorce?” question, you may need an unbiased external perspective that isn’t overwhelmed by emotion. Here are 10 signs to help you decide if divorcing your husband is the best choice, inspired by Should I Stay or Should I Go?
“It takes a lot of bravery to look right at the truth of your situation,” writes Lundy Bancroft in Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can – and Should – Be Saved. “Sometimes it’s hard to look at what you know to be true because it seems like you won’t be able to face the overwhelming sadness of it. These kinds of sad feelings seem like they’ll never go away. It seems like life as you know it will end.” He adds that one of the prevalent features of life with an angry or controlling husband or boyfriend is that he frequently tells you what you should think and tries to get you to doubt or devalue your own perceptions and beliefs.
One of the reasons it’s so difficult to know if you should get a divorce is because your life will be forever changed – and so will the lives of your family. One season of your life is coming to a close. Even if you stay married and rebuild your relationship, you’ll be embarking on a new stage of your marriage.
Asking “Should I get a divorce?” is the first step to a whole new season of your life – for better or worse. Below are 10 reasons divorce is the best decision, plus encouragement to move forward in strength, faith, hope, and strength.
Change is hard, especially when it means your whole life will be upheaved! Deciding to get divorced is a huge decision. It’s emotionally destructive for both you and your husband – not to mention your children, family members, and even your friends and coworkers. Divorce is incredibly expensive financially; in fact, I’ve heard that it’s the number one cause of poverty among single divorced mothers.
However, the cost of a divorce shouldn’t be the deciding factor. More important is your current marriage situation (how bad is it?) and the long-term consequences of staying in this relationship (are you losing yourself, your spirit, your heart and soul?).
In How to Make a Difficult Decision in Your Life, I describe one strategy for deciding what to do: decide who you want to be and start choosing actions that help you get there.
Should You Get a Divorce? 10 Reasons to Say Yes
“We had an ‘open marriage’ and lost that incredibly special foundation of trust and intimacy with each other,” Amy Kristine on Divorced Men And Women Reveal What Was Missing From Their Marriages (the link to the original article on the Huffington Post is below). “We became more like roommates than intimate partners.”
No matter how you feel about your husband, you’re wondering if ending your marriage is the right thing to do. No one can tell you if you should get a divorce, but these reasons for leaving an unhealthy, unhappy marriage may help you decide.
1. Your husband is violent or threatening towards you or your family
There is never an excuse or reason for physical, sexual, emotional, or mental abuse in a marriage. Regardless of what you’ve said to “cause” his reaction or done to “make him” be cruel towards you or your children, it is not your fault. I worked at a shelter for women fleeing domestic violence, and I know how difficult it is to leave an abusive marriage. But if you’re still asking “Should I get a divorce?” even as you’re healing from your physical or emotional wounds, then I’m here to tell you that YES. You should get a divorce.
Read What to Expect at a Woman’s Shelter or Safe House, especially if you don’t have family or friends who can help you leave.
2. You don’t recognize yourself anymore
Have you become a stranger to yourself?
If you’ve completely lost touch with who you are (or were, or wanted to be), then your marriage has eroded your sense of self. Losing yourself isn’t about feeling confused or unfocused, or needing a few hours alone to reconnect with yourself. Losing yourself is not even knowing who you are anymore. If you’ve lost yourself, you don’t know what you believe in, what you really think, or who you really are.
“Begin making choices based on what makes you feel freer and happier,” says Martha Beck, “rather than how you think an ideal life should look. Feel your way towards happiness.”
3. Your love for your husband has died
“It was though there was a door to love between us,” writes a wife in Should I Stay or Should I Go? “He kept slamming it closed when he’d act that way, and I kept opening it. I kept talking, working, pleading, asking, crying, trying. I kept opening that door to love. One day I reached out, and there was no handle on the door. It was just gone.”
Walking away is the most loving thing you can do in a relationship that can’t be saved. Saying, “yes, I should get a divorce” is a sign that you still have the ability to love yourself, save yourself, and become healthy, happy, and whole again. Staying in a loveless marriage isn’t helpful to your husband, your children, or anyone connected with you.
4. You’re waiting to stop loving him
Have you already accepted that your husband isn’t the right partner for you? Maybe you know for sure that he won’t change because you’ve been married for 25 years. You know he doesn’t love you, and you may even suspect he never did love you.
And yet, you still love him. This is natural! It’s completely normal to love your husband even if he hasn’t been loving towards you. You married him for a reason, you’re sharing your life and money and children and possessions with him…of course you love him. But, the feeling of love isn’t a reason to stay in a unhealthy one-sided relationship. It may feel confusing and strange to decide you should divorce a man you love…but sometimes we need to let go of someone we love in order to save ourselves.
5. You have no energy to keep fighting to save your marriage
“We don’t take your commitment lightly,” writes Bancroft in Should I Stay or Should I Go? “We understand that you’ve committed yourself deeply to this relationship. We also know that women in destructive relationships work so hard and endure so much that they finally reach the place of not wanting to do it anymore.”
It’s okay to honor your exhaustion and your feelings of helplessness. Good relationships take hard work and commitment, and the rewards is more connection and love. Destructive relationships steal your heart, soul, energy, and life – and marriage is not supposed to be like that. Honor yourself by allowing yourself to say yes when you ask yourself, Should I get a divorce?
6. Your husband breaks promises he made in counseling
If you and your husband went to marriage therapy or couples counseling, you may have been given “tasks” to help rebuild your relationship. Maybe you both committed to a specific type of change, or to try a new ways of relating to each other. Maybe your husband even made the changes he promised, and you started to believe you shouldn’t even think about getting a divorce.
Leaving a marriage is a good decision if your husband breaks the commitments he made during counseling and if he refuses to be answerable for his actions. If deliberately he hurts you, threatens to harm himself or your family, cheats on you and lies to you, then you need to get emotional support from a counselor or a trusted friend. It’s very damaging to start rebuilding trust in your husband, only to revert to the original unhealthy relationship.
7. You’ve tried everything, but still ask “Should I get a divorce?”
For your own peace of mind, you need to try different ways to save your marriage before you decide you should get a divorce. Read Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can – and Should – Be Saved – it’s an excellent, in-depth resource for saving a relationship. You could try couples counseling or marriage therapy, go on marriage or couples retreats, or engage in an online marriage coaching course.
But, you also need to know when to let go.
“You deserve to be cherished, to feel loved and supported in your partnership,” writes Bancroft in Should I Stay or Should I Go? “You give these things and you deserve them back…We don’t want to see you martyr yourself to be there for a man who is not doing a good job of being there for you.”
You want the best for your husband, your children, and your family as a whole. You’ve glimpsed the loving, kind, warm nature of your husband – after all, you married him for a reason! But you also need to know when to stop trying to save your marriage, and when to start saving yourself. If you’re being repeatedly torn down or treated coldly, you have the right to let your marriage go.
8. You want but aren’t getting the intimacy you need
Some marriages are positive and healthy even without physical or emotional intimacy. It depends on the couples’ expectations, lifestyle, agreement, and physical needs. Emotional connection and/or sexuality isn’t a key need for some women and men, so a lack of physical intimacy isn’t a big deal.
However, if you’re not receiving the emotional intimacy or physical affection and contact you need from your husband, then you may need to move on. Many women need emotional intimacy, or they wither on the vine. Women – and men – need to know their spouses are invested emotionally and physically in their marriages, that both partners are trying to give the other what they need.
“When I reflect on what was missing from my marriage (and I am feeling honest), I usually come to the same conclusion: Me,” says Al Corona on Divorced Men And Women Reveal What Was Missing From Their Marriages (the link to the original article on the Huffington Post is below). “I wasn’t invested enough. Sure, I can lay blame and say it was because my partner did not give me what I needed, but truth be told, I could have been better. I could have found a way to keep us on track. I could have done more.”
9. You told your husband you would leave if he…
On 8 Ways to Cope With an Alcoholic Husband, Ramona shared that she told her husband over and over that if he got drunk at noon again, she would leave him. He continued to drink every day at lunchtime; she continued to threaten him with a divorce.
Have you repeatedly drawn boundaries with your husband – and has he repeatedly ignored them? Then yes, without a doubt you should get a divorce! This is one of those times that the answer is clear and obvious. If you and your husband are going around and around in circles, you’re enabling each other. You’re trapped in a codependent marriage. You’re just helping each other dig deeper and deeper into the pit of despair instead of inspiring each other to rise, grow, and Blossom.
10. You know deep down that you should get a divorce
Choose authentically. Listen to the still small voice inside you that knows what you need to do. Ask that still small voice, “Should I get a divorce?” and listen carefully. Pay attention to your body. Draw upon your deeper wisdom. Ask yourself for advice, and be honest with yourself. It will be a relief to learn what’s true for you – even though it may mean some painful days ahead! But this will be authentic pain that will lead to authentic joy.
“Our relationship while married had somehow developed into a non-meaningful one,” says Amy Johnson on Divorced Men And Women Reveal What Was Missing From Their Marriages (the link to the original article on the Huffington Post is below). “I felt like we were robots getting through the day. We looked happy superficially, however just below the surface, we’d grown into two different people, and the connection and partnership we’d formed all those years ago was no longer a sustainable one and we were so unhappy. Now that we are divorced and our relationship is based solely on raising our children, I consider it one of the most meaningful relationships I have.”
Final thoughts – should I get a divorce?
Remember that it doesn’t serve you to stay in a marriage that is unhappy or unhealthy. You aren’t doing your children a favor by refusing to take action in a relationship that you know in your heart isn’t good.
What do you say? While I can’t offer advice – or tell you the answer to your ‘should I get a divorce?’ question – I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.
Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what could be.
The pain of making the right decision will be soothed by the joy of becoming your authentic self. When you make your choice, inner resources will begin to unfurl in you. External resources – people, money, jobs, support networks you didn’t know existed – will start to appear. Your future will start to arrange itself. What lies ahead is far greater than what lies behind…if you have the courage to reach upwards and inwards, and Blossom into the woman God created you to be.
Have faith. Take heart.
Laurie's "She Blossoms" Books
Growing Forward When You Can't Go Back offers hope, encouragement, and strength for women walking through loss. My Blossom Tips are fresh and practical - they stem from my own experiences with a schizophrenic mother, foster homes, a devastating family estrangement, and infertility.
How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets (and Practical Tips!) for Healing Your Heart is filled with comforting and healthy breakup advice. The Blossom Tips will help you loosen unhealthy attachments to the past, seal your heart with peace, and move forward with joy.
When You Miss Him Like Crazy: 25 Lessons to Move You From Broken to Blossoming After a Breakup will help you refocus your life, re-create yourself, and start living fully again! Your spirit will rise and you'll blossom into who you were created to be.
Quotes from Amy Johnson, Al Corona, and Amy Kristine were excerpted from Divorced Men And Women Reveal What Was Missing From Their Marriages, on the Huffington Post.