5 Signs Your Marriage May Be Heading for Divorce

offended couple wondering if their marriage is heading for divorce

While no one sign can 100% predict that your marriage is over, there are some signs that if you see them your marriage may be heading for divorce.

As a family law attorney and mediator, I see many different reasons that people end up in my office for a divorce but some of the most common are below. Being aware of the signs is the first step towards fixing your marriage so it’s important to be aware what is going on, and if you do see them, then looking into some individual and/or couples counseling can be a great step to not ending up in my office for a divorce.

1. One of Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in Relationships

Drs. John and Julie Gottman have a metaphor they use to describe communication styles that according to their research can predict the end of a relationship so any of these in your marriage may mean that you’re heading for divorce. They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Criticism towards your partners isn’t about a critique or voicing a complaint, it’s an attack on your partner at the core of their character and when it becomes pervasive it makes the victim feel assaulted, rejected, and hurt and can eventually lead to contempt.

Contempt goes beyond criticism where you are assuming a position of moral superiority over your partner and when we communicate in this state, we are truly mean, treating others with disrespect, ridicule, calling them names, aiming to make them feel despised and worthless. Contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce if it’s not eliminated.

Defensiveness is typically a response to criticism where if we feel unjustly accused, we fish for excuses and try to blame anyone besides ourselves, most often we blame our partner. And our excuses usually make our partner feel that we don’t take their concerns seriously and don’t take responsibility for our mistakes.

Stonewalling is usually a response to contempt and occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction, shuts down and stops responding. Rather than confronting the issues when your partner is stonewalling, they may tune you out, turn away, act busy or engage in distracting behaviors. When it becomes an out for you or your partner, then it can become a bad habit and is hard to stop doing.  There are, however, antidotes to all of them that I’ll discuss more in a future blog.

2. Constant Conflict and/or Fighting

Now, the first thing I think is important to know is that just because you and your spouse are fighting doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to be heading for divorce. However, it certainly can be an indicator that something is going on. It’s also important to consider what you’re fighting about and how you fight.

If you’re having frequent arguments especially about the same issues repeatedly and can’t seem to ever reach a resolution it might indicate deeper issues that will need to be dealt with before anything can really change.

3. Financial Strain or Disagreements

One of the most common reasons that people argue and ultimately divorce is because of financial strain or disagreements. Now this doesn’t mean not having money because people with money are just as likely to argue about finances, but it certainly can put a lot of undue stress on a relationship if you and your spouse are always fighting about how you’re going to pay your bills. But no matter how much money you do or do not have, financial disagreements can be pervasive. I have seen couples with millions of dollars argue about money in the same way that couples with hundreds of dollars do.  

One way to make sure that you don’t end up in this position is talking about your finances early and often. Now full disclosure that my husband is a Certified Financial Planner, but I’m a big advocate of financial planning and communication – and you don’t have to have money to work with a financial planner.

If your financial situation is causing conflict, then working with someone to understand what you’re fighting about and how to manage it better can help immensely.

4. Different Values or Visions

Growing apart from your spouse can happen when you realize that you have fundamentally different values, aspirations, or visions for what the future looks like. This isn’t really any one person’s fault because we change over time, and what you both might have agreed on when you first met 5, 10 or 20 years ago may have changed.

The hope is that we grow with our partners over time but sometimes we grow apart and when you have different values or visions for the future it can be difficult to reconcile those.

5. Seeking Support Outside Your Marriage

While having a strong support system outside of your spouse is important, if you are constantly turning to friends, family, or others for support instead of your partner this may signal a breakdown in your relationship.

Your partner should be there to support you, and while there are certainly going to be times where your partner isn’t the first person you go to if you are always turning out then that may signal that you don’t trust your partner or value their input and support. Also, sometimes seeking emotional support from someone else can be akin to cheating on your partner if you’re looking for something that you feel is missing in your marriage.

If you feel that your marriage may be heading for divorce, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will. It does mean that it’s time to seriously consider the issues going on, and counseling and/or mediation can be an important next step.

Contact West Coast Family Mediation to see if marital mediation can help.

By: Amanda Singer, Esq., MDR, CDFA®

Amanda Singer with west coast family mediation center

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