Most marriages end too soon. But there comes a time when a beleaguered union, having tried and failed at all the right life-saving options, runs its course; and it is time to walk away. People with heavy hearts often ask, “How do you know when your marriage is over?”
There is a simple rule of thumb to employ: It is over when you both decide it is over. Marriage is a choice. As long as you both still want your marriage to work, there is hope. The tears and fatigue, clashing and compromising, heartbreak and bitterness may feel overwhelming and you can be desperate for relief. But that feeling doesn’t indicate that your marriage is over. You simply want to end the angst. You want a happier marriage. Here are sentiments commonly expressed that are NOT necessarily signs of an ending marriage:
“I’m too tired to try anymore.” Sometimes, we try too hard or we try hard in the wrong way. When this happens, a time-out can help. I personally do not advocate for long trial separations but a day or two—a week at most—apart can provide necessary space, a quieting, in order for both of you to clear your heads. When you’re too tired, rest. Don’t feel pressured to solve all of your marital problems all at once. You can still be happy in some areas of your lives together even though other areas need work.
“I’m not happy.” Unhappiness is a good indicator that there are improvements to be made, but it doesn’t mean your marriage is over. Usually, when spouses say they are unhappy, they mean that they are unhappy with something about their spouses. They wish to change them in one way or another. Wanting to change someone is a sure way to disappointment and disillusionment.
Why does your happiness hinge upon a change in your spouse? Reflect on what personal improvements you can make to better your relationship. Working on yourself has an interesting way of affecting those around you in a positive manner. Be happy with yourself and it is contagious. It spreads to other areas of your life and those in it.
The wisest gurus know that true love and happiness comes when you can accept others for who they are, without judgment. You can accept that we all have our faults, and that is the way life was meant to be. Wouldn’t you feel good knowing that your spouse loves you just the way you are?
“I don’t know if I love him/her anymore.” When spouses are having marital troubles, a barrage of emotions pours forth and it becomes hard to see and feel the love they once shared. Usually, the love gets buried beneath anger, hurt and resentment. And, at times, health and emotional challenges impair our ability to feel love and affection.
People mistakenly believe that love is a fragile feeling when, in fact, love is more powerful and lasting than they know. Even divorcing couples who believe they hate each other are surprised to find that the ending of their marriage is far more painful than they expected. And when the ex remarries, they feel a second wave of loss and sadness even when they believe that their divorce was a good thing. Why? Because they still retained, unknowingly, a connection of love for each other to some degree.
When couples go through counseling, they are walked through steps of peeling back the layers of unproductive emotions to get to the love they once shared. Once found, love can work miracles. It’s funny what we put up with when we’re in love.
Signs your marriage is over
On the other hand, here are clues that your marriage may be over.
1. Your negative feelings for each other have dissolved into contempt. Being angry with or even disliking something about each other can be overcome. However, contempt implies a strong aversion, a lasting disdain, which is deep-rooted.
2. The thought of being with him sickens you and you avoid him at all costs. Maybe it isn’t contempt, but an unsettling feeling in your gut that being together is wrong for you. Call it intuition, the Holy Spirit, your conscience or your guiding angels but you usually are well served by heeding the still, small voice within. There is a sense of spiritual knowing that serves your highest interests.
3. You would be glad to know that he has found someone new to love. Jealousy indicates a feeling of caring. When you want to sever all ties and move on, you want him to be with someone else.
4. You can’t forgive or forget past mistakes. Holding onto grudges or bringing up painful past hurts re-wounds you both again and again. Your marriage can’t heal if you’re constantly clawing at the scars. Forgiving and forgetting is possible, but you have to want to.
5. You’ve tried counseling with several therapists to no avail. Counselors vary in skill level, so you shouldn’t give up on counseling just because one particular therapist didn’t produce results.
6. You don’t care about what happens to him anymore. Apathy is a sure sign of cutting emotional ties. Hating someone keeps you emotionally tied but apathy has no connection at all.
7. Both of you refuse to accept responsibility for the state of your marriage and neither wants to put any effort into making things work any longer. In other words, you choose to end the marriage.
Marriage—and the ending of a marriage—is a choice. You can even save your marriage alone. See the link below for an article of a book review on that very topic. If you’re wondering whether it is time to walk away, visit us in the bellaonline.com marriage forum to talk about it. We’re here to help.