When you get married, it’s with the intention of staying together forever. In those first months or years, you are likely working together to build a life and, possibly a family. And for many that pathway continues on until-death-do-you-part. But unfortunately, for some, the path doesn’t take them in the direction they’d hoped for and it can seem like there’s no choice but for the relationship to end.
But how do you know if the relationship is really over or if you are just going through a rough patch? All relationships go through struggles, and many couples are able to weather the natural storms and emerge on the other side happy – sometimes even happier – than before. Knowing how many storms you should endure, however, or which one is the final straw, can be really difficult.
There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. It’s simply impossible for two people to live in utopia for years on end. One of the biggest problems couples face is knowing when their problems have gotten to the point that requires help.
In my experience, couples wait far too long and let things get far too bad before deciding that counseling is in order. The pent-up frustration, accumulated hurt and pain, and a tangle of problems can become overwhelming and, for some, too much to handle. Too much that they feel like the only solution is to divorce. However, divorce is not the only choice.
Below are examples of the biggest reasons couples cite when they want to divorce. And although these particular issues can be extremely difficult to overcome, they don’t have to only mean the end.
1You don’t care anymore
All couples argue occasionally, worry about each other, and most have a desire for maintaining a close and happy connection. When you have gotten to the point in your relationship that you simply don’t care about any of those things anymore, it’s a bad sign.
Reversing apathy requires resurrecting feelings that – if you’re at this point – have been ignored for a long time and potentially extinguished. They were there once, however. Before you give up completely, you owe it to your kids, yourself and your partner to make an effort to recall those feelings and bring them back. It can take time and work, but it is possible.
2You have made the effort – over and over again
If you have been trying to fix the problems in your relationship, good for you. A few problems don’t mean the end. If you have sought outside help from a marriage counselor – even better. If you have done these things repeatedly and the same issues, problems, frustrations continue to arise, many couples assume those things will never be fixed and decide it’s time to move on.
What many couples don’t realize is that fixing an ailing marriage and the problems you’re experiencing isn’t easy, especially if they have been going on for a long time. And it doesn’t often happen in one shot. It can take a long time and repeated attempts before things are sorted out. The work is worth it though, and couples who get through difficulties are usually happier than they were before and glad they stuck with it.
3The respect is gone
Respect is a cornerstone of any relationship, not just romantic ones. When you no longer respect your partner, maintaining a healthy relationship is nearly impossible. If you feel that one of you has lost respect for the other, it’s time for some changes – in both of you.
Most often what people realize is that it’s not the person that they’ve lost respect for, but an aspect of that person or their actions. This can be overcome, but it can be hard to see that in the moment.
A relationship shouldn’t drain you. Yes, occasionally that may be the case, but if the mere prospect of spending time together and dealing with the issues that continue to plague you is enough to send you into hiding, it’s a problem. A healthy relationship has balance.
Each partner needs to be able to find comfort, happiness, security, and gain energy from the relationship on a regular basis. If that’s no longer happening then the relationship is no longer healthy and something must change. At this point, communication has likely broken down and become ineffective so the assistance of a counselor may be needed.
5Any form of abuse
Abuse comes in many forms – emotional, verbal, financial, mental and, of course, physical. Abuse in any form is unacceptable and needs to be stopped. If there is an immediate and productive way to change the behaviors of the abuser for good and maintain the marriage, that’s great – and surprising. There’s not a lot of wiggle room on this one, an abusive relationship requires immediate change.
See Also: How to Overcome Emotional Abuse
It’s never an easy decision to get a divorce, and it shouldn’t be a decision made in haste or without exploring all alternatives first. Unfortunately, for some, it may be the only healthy option, but I find that rarely to be the case. In most situations, hard work and effort pay off and couples can find their way back to enjoying each other. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t happen overnight though. It takes time.
If you find yourself thinking it may be time to end your marriage, think long and hard and make sure that the signs you are seeing are truly the final ones. And that you have honestly tried your hardest and done everything possible to make the marriage work before you end it.
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6Author: Dr. Kurt Smith
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.