5 Signs Your Marriage Is Headed Toward Divorce and Tools to Deal With It

Address these issues sooner rather than later to keep your marriage healthy

Updated 01/18/19

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It’s not always easy to admit that your marriage is struggling. There’s so much pressure for marriages to be perfect, to be your own little happily ever after. But marriages take work—and that’s OK. In fact, having the courage and the honesty to admit when things aren’t clicking isn’t a sign of weakness in your relationship, it’s a sign of strength. Because every single marriage has its problems and its stresses. And it’s only by tackling those issues that you can actually improve your relationship and make sure that it will last for the long haul.

So it’s crucial to be honest about the state of your relationship and know the signs that something is wrong. Every relationship will have its occasional moments of stress or frustration, but there are some signs that there are bigger problems at play—and maybe even that your marriage is in danger. Here are the signs that your marriage is heading for divorce and how to deal with them; if you’re no longer communicating you need to address it sooner rather than later.

1. There’s a Sense of Contempt

Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute knows about marriages—and divorce. He’s spent decades observing married couples in order to understand where things go wrong. And he's found there’s one thing that tops the list as a predictor of divorce: contempt, and it can manifest in different ways. But that angry, sarcastic, twisted feeling that you get when you just can’t even with someone is a sign that your marriage is in trouble. He also identified criticism as another major sign of divorce, so if you're constantly nitpicking each other then you need to address it immediately.

How to Deal With It: If you find yourself feeling contemptuous—or you feel like your partner is—then it’s time to take a big breath and a time out. Take a moment and try to work out why you’re both struggling, and then talk to your partner. Explain that you’ve noticed things have been off, brainstorm where this stress is coming from—whether it comes from each other or an external stressor—and how you can tackle it. Finally, make some time to just be with each other and rediscover why you love this person. A night away, a vacation, or even a date night—just take some time to come back together.

2. You’re Fighting About Money

Money is the number one source of stress in marriages. And sometimes it can feel impossible not to fight about it, especially if the issue is that there just isn’t enough of it. Whether you’re angry with each other’s spending habits, you feel stressed by the lack of finances, or an unexpected bill sends you sideways, fighting about money is hard—but it can also reveal deeper relationship incompatibilities.

How to Deal With It: First, you need to calm down. Talk about why you’re fighting about money. Is it about the money itself, or does one of you feel overlooked or not listened to? Then, deal with the financial issue. Sit down and look at your budget—or make one, if you don’t already have one—and try to make a plan. Whether it’s consolidating your debts, saving more, or just feeling more organized, there are plenty of free financial tools available to help you feel more in control.

3. You’re Fighting About Chores

Fighting about chores is totally normal, and don't worry, a lot of people fight about chores without heading for divorce! But sometimes, snide remarks about folding laundry can actually be representative of bigger relationship issues, so you need to be on the lookout.

How to Deal With It: If you have the money, then you might want to throw some at the problem. Research has shown that paying someone to do your chores can actually improve your relationship. Of course, not everyone can afford to do that. In that case, one of the best things you can do is to make a chore schedule or an agreement on how to split the chores equally, but you also need to get the root of the issue. If one of you is feeling put upon, neglected, or resentful, that means the chores are a representation of bigger relationship problems. This might require seeing a therapist, or you may be able to work it out between the two of you so you both feel happier and more respected going forward.

4. You’ve Stopped Communicating

Dr. Gottman pointed to stonewalling—shutting your partner out—as another sign of impending divorce. There’s no denying that communication is key, so if you feel it's slipping, then you want to address it immediately.

How to Deal With It: Call a truce. Rather than tiptoeing around the problem, address it directly by saying to your partner, “I feel really distant and like we’ve stopped letting each other in. I want to move past this, what can we do?” Again, depending on how deep the issue goes, you might want to talk to a professional or you may just need to reset between the two of you.

5. You’re Unhappy

It’s a really obvious sign, but one that’s so often overlooked. If you’re chronically unhappy, it’s easy to blame your job or money or family stress. And maybe it is those problems that are making you unhappy. But it could also be that you’re using those issues as an excuse to not look at your struggling marriage.

How to Deal With It: You need to tell your partner you’re unhappy, and tell them you need their help to change that. Then brainstorm on solutions: Maybe if you had more time for your hobbies , or maybe you’re craving quality time with your partner. You shouldn’t be living in a constant state of unhappiness—and your marriage probably won't survive it—so make sure that you’re taking the time to work on your happiness, as well as your partner’s.

Every relationship is different and will have its own ups and downs, but there are some major marriage red flags that are important to be aware of. If you feel that something’s really wrong, don't panic—take a moment and breathe, talk to your partner, and plan a way forward together. You’ve recognized the issue, and that’s half the battle.

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