And wrenching as it may be, sometimes D-I-V-O-R-C-E, as Tammy Wynette would sing, is a viable option.
“Older adults today are much less likely to be willing to remain in what we call ‘empty shell marriages,’” Susan L. Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, told AARP.
Brown’s research indicated that as of 2019, there are 10 divorced people for every 1,000 married people 50 and older.
“Marriage now is more about self-fulfillment and personal happiness than it was decades ago,” Brown noted, “and we have very high expectations as to what constitutes marital success.”
When you’re facing down the choice, it may simplify the issue to look at some reasons calling it quits might be your best option. The list comes from therapists and other relationship experts and includes a few hard-and-fast rules, along with some very strong indicators your marriage is done — or should be.
Here are five reasons you should probably seek a divorce — or continue if you’ve already filed papers:
1. You’re experiencing domestic violence
Any form of physical or emotional abuse is an obvious sign you should consider divorce, Jen Libby told Woman’s Day. Libby is a psychotherapist who helps families cope with divorce.
“When your health and safety are compromised by staying in the marriage” there should be no question about whether you should leave,” certified marriage and family therapist Talia Litman said.
2. They won’t end the affair
An ongoing affair strongly indicates the need for the other spouse to engage a mediator or divorce attorney, Caroline Madden, a Burbank marriage therapist, wrote on Medium.
“This is the biggest warning sign of all. A husband who can’t (or won’t) give up his affair partner is not committed to you and only you. Yes, ‘Affair Fog’ is real. But if losing you ... doesn’t snap him out of it, then time to move on.”
3. Your husband or wife cheated and keeps the former lover as a “friend”
“If he says he wants to ‘just stay friends’ with her, tell him to get out,” said Madden, author of “Fool Me Once: Should I Take Back My Cheating Husband?”
Madden said that the continued presence of the affair partner in any role is toxic and that two people who were recently intimate would have trouble when they “try to scale back the attraction suddenly to an acceptable level.”
It’s just as damaging whether the cheating partner can recognize the potential damage or is in denial, Madden said.
“If he needs to be in contact with her for his job, you may need to work something out where he manages to never be alone with her or work late with her,” she said. “If possible, it’s best if he finds a new job. He might be able to be in contact with her, for work reasons only, while he’s looking for a new position or job.”
4. You’re no longer willing to make an effort
It takes two to tango and the same number of people to patch up a problematic marriage.
”If you have too much pent-up resentment to care about moving past these problems, it’s time to pack it in,” Maria Sullivan, relationship expert and vice president of Dating.com told Woman’s Day
And the advice holds true even if you feel certain you didn’t create or contribute to the situation.
“Sometimes we may tend to think that most of the fault in our marriages is with our partner,” L.A.-based couples’ therapist Dr. Gary Brown told Women’s Day. “It is generally a 50/50 proposition. It helps when marital partners take 100% responsibility for their 50% of the issues in the marriage.”
5. Your marriage is stopping you from reaching goals or being yourself
“When people ask me, ‘When is it time to divorce?’ I tell them if the person they are becoming is someone they don’t like, they need to get out of the marriage, " Meyer said.
For example, if your marriage requires you to “put aside goals you have set for yourself (or it) isolates you from friends and family, limits what you are allowed to do for entertainment (or requires you to) change your belief system,” those are all valid reasons to think about calling it quits, she said.
“If your marriage is keeping you from being someone you like, if it is keeping you from getting all you want out of life, if you are doing all the work while your spouse ignores the problems in the marriage and the toll it is taking on you why would you want to stay?” Meyer said.
Once you have determined one or more of these factors are in play, it’s actually beneficial to get the divorce over with.
“Coming to terms that the marriage is over and working together (with your spouse) towards a resolution that is fair for everyone will almost always make the process go quicker especially when kids are involved,” matrimonial and family law attorney Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder told Woman’s Day.
On the other hand...
Lots of strong marriages have their rough patches. As long as there’s not violence involved, there may be good reasons to stick things out. The best reason, of course, is the possibility of getting back to the sort of love and trust that made you get married in the first place.
Here are four signs you might want to keep working on your marriage, even if it feels useless right now.
1. Infidelity was only a sign of trouble
It’s surprising, but cheating doesn’t have to cancel marriage. Even if you feel betrayed and mad, you can fix a marriage that involved cheating if you’re both willing.
Infidelity isn’t the end of the marriage or the relationship,” relationship expert April Masini told Woman’s Day.
“The most important thing to remember is that most infidelities are a symptom of a problem in the relationship. They don’t mean something is wrong with the person who cheated or the person who was cheated on. When couples can see infidelity as a relationship problem, they are more likely to be able to work on the relationship and go the distance.”
2. You still feel emotionally safe with your spouse
You may be able to salvage your relationship if you are still able to confide in your spouse, Joe Beam of Marriage Helper told Women’s Day.
“We all crave acceptance for who we really are,” he said.”Not pretending to be what the other person wants us to be is crucial. If both people continue to offer the other safety to be transparent without judgment or rejection, their relationship is highly susceptible to being saved.”
3. Most shared memories make you smile
If all you can focus on are the bad times, you’re probably on the way to a permanent break.
But if you still have a decent repertoire of happy memories and can recall how loved you felt in the past, you may be able to mend your rift, Rachel Russo, a New York City-based dating and relationship expert, told Women’s Day.
“When things are tough, people tend to look back on all of the good times with their partner and feel hopeful that they can get back to that happy place again. Get inspired to work hard on the relationship to bring all of those good feelings back and make new memories.”
4. The divorce proceedings feel wrong
If one of you filed for divorce, it can initiate a horrible experience.
But it can also be the wake-up call the relationship needed, matrimonial and family law attorney Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder told Women’s Day.
“Sometimes it takes a divorce filing for people to understand this is not what they really want and that they want to work on the marriage and salvage it,” she said.
“I have had cases go through an entire litigation and when we are at the final court appearance to put the divorce through, they decide to reconcile. Sometimes it takes a huge step towards a change to realize that the loss of the marriage is not what people want after all.”
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