How to Know if Divorce is the Best Decision

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?

should I get a divorce“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?

How to Know if Divorce is the Best Decision

“Should I Get a Divorce?” image via unsplash evan kirby

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?

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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.

How to Know if Divorce is the Best Decision

How to Know if Divorce is the Best Decision

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.

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.

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17 thoughts on “How to Know if Divorce is the Best Decision

  • Dana

    Three months ago my husband of 27 years left me for one of our family friends. He was having an affair with her for almost a year, and is in love with her. He plans to spend the rest of his life with her. He moved in with her shortly after he told me. We started the divorce process and I know it’s the best decision. But husband somehow thought I’d be okay with this and we’d all still be friends. I don’t know how he could be so delusional, but he’s surprised that I don’t want to associate with them. I’m getting exercise, have reached out to friends, am on an antidepressant, am seeing a counselor and have begun journaling. What else can I do to take care of myself and move on?

  • Sue

    I’ve been married for 32 years. My husband has always lied to me, there has been some physical abuse, but more mental abuse than anything else. I just said to him that I finally figured out why I was so depressed. He just looked at me, so I continued with saying that I’d knew he didn’t want to be here and that he didn’t love me. He just looked at me, left the room and went to bed.

    I have no family except for grown children. My story is a long one so I won’t force you to listen, I just don’t know what to do. He won’t go to any kind of counseling. He says that I’m the one that has all of the problems and issues, why should he go. He has lied to everyone that I know saying that I’m crazy. Imstarting to believe him. Please help me.

  • Ann Parish

    I’ll be married for 12yrs next month spouse only been able to hold a job for two yrs at the most
    Not providing or being a good husband trying to leave without him knowing any places in Houston Tx. Any feed back help

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear JAS,

    I don’t know if your relationship with your husband will continue to improve, or if he’ll fall back into old patterns. I don’t think anyone can predict what the future holds for your marriage – not even your husband or you. Sometimes we think we have something managed and under control, and it pops up to bite us. Other times we worry and fret for nothing.

    What do you think about acting as if your husband will continue to be the husband you always wanted? Instead of wondering what the future holds, maybe you could just live it and see. Maybe you could put off the “is divorce the best option?” question until you actually have a problem to deal with. Until then, maybe you and your husband could just live and see what unfolds.

    How does that idea feel to you?

    • Jodie

      Thanks Laurie, I think I’m just angry and full of resentment for the last 20 years, I need to own that and work through it. I would love to feel like I’m in love, to want to kiss and hold him- but I don’t. I don’t know if I’ve ever loved him or if I did it was so long ago I can’t remember. Im not sure if I’ve ever loved anyone except my children. I feel empty and that I’ve been playing a part in a play and don’t know who I am anymore. I’m going to work on who I am and take it from there. I do need to just accept the present and try to enjoy my husband being nice, for however long it lasts. Thanks for replying Laurie

  • JAS

    I’ve been married for 20 years, we have two teenage children and I don’t love my husband anymore. He was never there for me or our children- I’ve spent most of the last two decades being miserable, moaning about him never having the courage to leave. He’s controlling, aggressive, lazy and selfish- or should I say was.I don’t know when I stopped loving him but it’s been a long time, i can remember being angry and let down by him from before we married, I married him because I didn’t think I deserved any better. But i had enough last year and got the courage to tell him I was leaving- since then he has been 80% better, less angry and controlling nicer, more loving to me. I thought he’d slip back but he’s been like this for four months. The problem is I feel it’s too late, I resent him for so much over the years, I don’t want to kiss him, cuddle him or tell him I love him- he tells me all the time and I answer- yes I love you too but I don’t. But now he has become the husband I wanted but I can’t forgive him for the past- and I don’t want to waste another 20 years with someone I don’t love or like but he is really trying. I tried many times to leave but he would beg for me to have him back then two weeks later he’d start slipping back. I’m miserable but scared and don’t know what to do anymore. I’m scared of being on my own but scared to stay with him. Can I fall back in love with him? Or should I stay as he treats me well now? My son has got himself into lots of trouble for the last 8 years- drugs, theft and now mental health issues and leaving would affect him but I’m scared of never finding someone I truly love. I know I have to be the one to fix this but I don’t know anymore, I’ve been dealing with this for 20 years. Thanks for listening.

  • Alexedward

    The main difference between separation and divorce is that divorce ends the marriage. Spouses return to an unmarried status and are thus are allowed to remarry. Separation lets couples keep their married status while acknowledging that they are no longer living together.

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear Over,

    In one of the “save your marriage” books I recently read, the authors said that emotional exhaustion is one of the main ways a person decides that divorce is the best decision. She is simply too tired to keep fighting, to keep trying, to keep working on the marriage and hoping things will change.

    It sounds like you’re at that stage; you’re just tired of the whole exhausting trial of being married.

    One question that occurred to me while reading your story was this: How are your kids being affected by you and your husband?

    For me, that would be the deciding factor.

    What do you think?

  • Over

    My husband and I have been married for almost 10 yrs and have 3 beautiful children together. To get straight to it I have now asked him for a divorce for the second time. The last time was just over a yr aho and we decided to try to work it out for the kids and do couples therapy. I have stood by my husband through more than most women would have. Between drugs, constant fighting, gambling, and potential prison time over several yrs I can say that I’ve been a decent wife through it all and stood by my husband. But I have gotten to a point where I’m exhausted. I’m what’s considered a married single mom sense I’m at home with kids and my husband is on the road 90% of the time for work. My husband has accused me of giving up on everything I do but I am just emotionally checked out. I don’t know what to do anymore. I do love him but I feel like I’ve gotten lost along this crazy road of life. All I do is take care of my wonderful babies that I lover with all my heart and take care of the home and bills. I don’t know if I can keep trying to b strong and keep trying. It shouldnt b this hard to b happy and I’m at a loss.

  • Laurie Post author

    When I said “stop analyzing and Scripture”, I meant in context of trying to decide if you should divorce your husband. I didn’t mean in general, or always! I just meant that the exact answer to your question may not be actually in God’s word.

    I totally agree with the apostle Paul, who describes all Scripture as ‘God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is not just inspired in the way that artists, poets, composers and musical performers can be said to be inspired. It actually has God’s breath, his Spirit, in it. The Bible is one of the main ways in which God speaks to us.

    Scripture is necessary for our continuing faith and growth, because ‘every part of Scripture is God-God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us’ (2 Timothy 3:16–17, MSG).

    As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, Scripture is ‘written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, [with] God as [its] author’. – from Nicky Gumbel’s Bible in One Year, October 24 commentary.

    I will keep you in my prayers!

  • Laurie Post author

    I believe the reason God hates divorce is because it is destructive for the whole entire family. Divorce is disunity and disconnection — and our God is one of connection, relationship, unity, and peace! So of course God hates divorce….but that doesn’t mean divorce shouldn’t exist, or be pursued. It just means it’s heartbreaking. Like, for example, putting a beloved pet to sleep because it is too sick or old to continue living. God hates death, but sometimes death is necessary. That’s how I see God and divorce.

    Only you can decide if divorce is the best option for you. I encourage you to set aside 30 minutes every morning, and seek God’s will for your life and marriage. Just open your heart and mind. Take out your private journal, and write your heart out. Write questions, tell God what’s happening, describe how you feel and what you think. Ask Him for help, guidance.

    Get it all out in writing, on paper, in your personal journal. Take time to listen. It sounds like you’re scrambling around so much, you’re frantically searching for permission to pursue divorce. I don’t know if Scripture has that answer for you….but I do believe God does.

    Take a deep breath, and grow your relationship with Him. Seek the Holy Spirit — look for that peace that surpasses all understanding. Give Him time to talk to you! Maybe your number one question shouldn’t be “is divorce the best option?” Maybe your question should be “God, how do you see me? What do you want for my life? How can I know you better?”

    And, I encourage you to stop thinking and analyzing Scripture. It sounds to me like you know in your heart what you want to do, but you don’t feel free to pursue it. You want a clear answer from God, and you want it from the Bible. I don’t know if you’ll get that…but I know you WILL get peace from Him if you pursue His Holy Spirit.

    I will keep you in my prayers!! May you feel the flow of His goodness, love, acceptance, and peace in your life.

    In Christ,

  • LH

    Laurie, I have gone to so many ministers and I am a Bible believing Christian. The Bible is clear that unless there is adultery, divorce is not an option. The main scripture other than “God hates divorce” is from 1 Peter Chapter 2….he writes…”18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

    22 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[e]
    23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[f] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” So, you say, but this is about slaves, and yes, he is addressing slaves/or employees….slaves cannot escape their masters. Then, he writes in 1 Peter 3 “3 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” I loved your response and dream of the day I can escape this life, but cannot find any scripture for ME to get me out. I know for a FACT there has been no adultery committed and I understand why God allows divorce because of the violation of the covenant between man and wife when he enters another….I don’t know, I just wish so bad I had a way out. Also, thank you for your compassion.

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear LH,

    Thank you for being here; I am sorry God hasn’t healed your marriage or helped your husband overcome his anger problem and bullying tendencies! It sounds like you already know if divorce is the best decision, but something is holding you back.

    I don’t have any answers for you, but here are some questions that help me make difficult decisions in my life. You may find it helpful to write your answers down in your private journal, and to wrestle with your own thoughts and emotions until you find peace. It’s entirely possible that God isn’t healing your husband because of reasons we’ll never know…and the crux of faith is surrender to His will.

    Maybe God’s will for you and your husband is divorce. I don’t know…but here are a few questions for you to ponder:

    How is your marriage affecting your behavior, thoughts and emotions?

    How does staying with your husband keep you safe?

    How does your marriage protect you from being vulnerable or hurt?

    What would it take to make this your marriage painful enough that you would seek divorce?

    What are you not willing to do?

    If you ask Jesus about this, what do you think He would say?

    Who is someone you know that is healthy in this area that can help you?

    Which path (staying in this marriage, or deciding that divorce is the best decision) leads to more life, possibilities, and purpose?

    Go where the life is. Find ways to clear noise and clutter of unhealthy attachments, bad relationships, unhappy people. Listen to the still small voice of God – of divine wisdom and power! Be quiet so you can hear.

    Here’s another article that may interest you:

    5 Stages of Leaving an Abusive Relationship

    Take care of yourself. Listen for that still small voice – for you are smarter, stronger, and braver than you know. May you find peace, love, joy, compassion, and goodness. May you create a life you love, filled with hope and faith. May you Blossom!!

    In prayer,

  • LH

    by the way, I have brought my circumstances to God for YEARS and begged for Him to help… husband is a huge bully and always throws everything back on me. I have read the Power of the Praying Wife, watched “War Room” fasted, prayed, begged others to pray for me….he is still a bully and treats me like dirt from the bottom of his shoe. I am grateful I never had children, and the door never opened for us to adopt so others can’t be affected by the way he treats me, but my dog senses it and cowers every time he comes in the room. When he starts screaming at me, she runs downstairs to get away and won’t come out until he leaves. Does that tell you anything? I have had people say, “it takes 2”, well, I get the brunt of it….

  • LH

    2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 10 fr sure, and 1 if you count mental and emotional as ‘abuse”. He has never hit me but has screamed at me 1000s of times and then denies it and bullies me to no end and we have not had sex in YEARS

  • Laurie

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for your comment! I agree – love is a choice, and not loving each other is not a criteria for divorce. It’s not the only way to know if divorce is the best decision.

    When I said “have faith”, I meant have faith that if you seek wisdom and guidance, you will make the decision that is best for you. Deciding if divorce is the best option is extremely complicated, and not as easy as just referring to the Bible and the Holy Spirit. There are so many painful and extenuating circumstances that lead to divorce, and I don’t believe that a husband or wife should stay in an unhappy or abusive marriage just because someone tells them “God hates divorce.”

    Yes, God does hate disunity and disconnection and conflict. He doesn’t want families split apart, or couples divorcing just because they don’t “feel the love.”

    Every circumstance is different, and every person must bring their situation to God. There is no one black or white answer – and that’s why I encourage believers to have faith when they’re trying to discern if divorce is the best decision for them.

  • Laura

    You end by saying “have faith”. There is zero faith that God can do the impossible while basing your decision on the above. Love is a choice. Yes, it does take two, but not loving each other is not criteria for divorce when you know God. Shouldn’t the Bible, and the Spirit within be what leads one’s decision to divorce?