How Do You Know when to Leave a Marriage - 23 Signs that It May Be Time to Call It Quits.

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Marriage is meant to be a lifetime partnership between you and a person who you decided was going to be able to give you the support as a partner that you would require to get through life. You were excited about this and looked forward to a life of bliss and happily ever after.

But then reality set in and now you are not too sure that you want to be stuck with this person anymore in an unhappy marriage. You however try to stay because you feel as though you have invested too much into it to simply walk away especially when there are kids involved.

You make up your mind to fight for your marriage and so things might have got better for a time (or not at all) but none of that matters any longer because at this point, things have gotten so bad that you are looking for the reassurance that you are are not wrong to believe that your marriage is over and it is now time for you to leave.

While every case is different there are some general signs that will tell you how you should know when to leave a marriage and some of those will be talked about in this article.

It is important for you to note that you do not have to stay in your marriage if it no longer serves your needs and if this article shows that to be the case, you should seriously consider leaving because you risk facing some serious health, physical and emotional challenges if you stay.

23 Signs that your marriage is nearing its end

1. There is abuse involved.

The reason this is listed first is because it is the most glaringly obvious sign for when to leave the marriage. If your spouse abuses you physically or emotionally , you should not take this lightly because abuse of any kind has the potential to lead to serious injuries that could stay with a person for a long time.

You should even consider reporting it to the authorities to ensure that others do not go through what you are going through and so that they can help you get away from the marriage in case it is proving difficult to do so.

2. Lack of commitment and selfishness

An important part of conflict resolution in a marriage and moving it forward to greater heights is that spouses think about what would be best for the marriage first instead of what would be best for them. They then need to dedicate their time and effort to achieving these goals together.

A lack of commitment from one spouse has been cited as one of the main reasons for divorces as shown by statistics from family law firm, Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, which underlines the importance of partners working for the good of the marriage.

Why are Americans Divorcing_

If spouses are not putting the needs of the marriage first and foremost, they are likely to make decisions that would make the marriage suffer and force a spouse to leave.

3. No more sex and physical affection

Sex and physicial affection are some of the main things that separate other types of relationships from marriages and romantic relationships. Sex enables spouses to explore each other intimately and so can add a measure of excitement to what would be an otherwise boring marriage.

If you therefore find that the rate at which you have sex with your partner has reduced, or that other signs of physical affection such as hugs and kisses are no longer commonplace, this could be a sign of deeper issues in the marriage such as a loss of attraction by your spouse.

This is a red flag because – who wants to be with someone that does not find them attractive?

4. Your goals are no longer aligned

A marriage is a partnership which means that both partners have to have goals and ambitions that are aligned. That way they can support each other as they both work towards achieving their goals.

If this changes along the line then growth in the marriage is going to be challenging which is a problem because a stagnant marriage leads to unfulfillment.

Simply put, your goals need to be aligned or you won’t be. If your goals aren’t aligned then the partnership cannot work and it may be time to call it quits.

5. Lack of respect for each other

Respect in human society is paramount for people to be able to coexist. This is even more so in a marriage because spouses need to respect each other to ensure the success of the marriage.

Respect is what suggests to partners that they should take their spouse’s feelings into account and that they should work for the benefit of the relationship. If this is lost, you would quite likely become doubtful of your spouse and find yourself asking the question, ‘how do you know when to leave a marriage?’

Check out these two articles on ways a wife can be disrespectful and signs that your husband does not respect you.

6. You believe in different things

A house that is divided against itself cannot stand. Marriage is a house that accommodates two individuals which means that the ideals they believe in and their personalities need to either match or at the very least be capable of accommodating the views of the other spouse.

One very big ideal that both spouses need to subscribe to is the issue of having children. It is very rare that one spouse would want children and the other would not and yet the couple would still stay together.

Other major ideals that need to match are related to religion, views on gender and race and to some extent, political views.

If your views do not match in these areas or in other areas you feel strongly about, it could lead to conflict in the marriage that will only be fixed by a dissolution.

7. You are uncomfortable being yourself

Your spouse is meant to be someone that you can go the long run with. A person that you can ideally see yourself going old and grey with and this cannot happen if you walk on eggshells around them.

Your personality is something that they not only need to like but be attracted to as well because it is who you are. If you find that this has changed in the marriage and your spouse is always trying to get you to change fundamental aspects of your being, this can cause sadness in marriage which means that you may have to move on so that you can be yourself in peace.

8. Everything becomes an argument

A major sign that your marriage is failing is that you cannot seem to talk about issues in your marriage with your spouse without it becoming an argument where both spouses are just trying to win or have the last word.

If you’ve been wondering how you know when to leave a marriage then this is one of the most obvious signs because a marriage where people cannot solve their differences will eventually fall apart.

9. You feel isolated

You are a married person. This means that you should not feel alone or isolated like single people tend to be because you have an entire human being who you are supposed to be able to turn to for support when dealing with life’s many challenges.

If you are going through stress in a marriage and feel as though you are unable to turn to your spouse for help, all we can say is that you should take a long hard look at your marriage and decide if this is something you want to go through for the rest of your life.

10. Failure to compromise and empathize

The thing about arguments is that every marriage is bound to have them and one spouse cannot always “win”. Spouses need to capitulate sometimes for the greater good especially when they are the ones at fault.

Empathy helps with this because it makes spouses more considerate of the other’s feelings so if you find that there is no longer a willingness to compromise when having a spat, rather each party is intent on trying to have their way over the other, this does not bode well for the future of the marriage.

11. Assume the worst of each other and trust is gone

When the trust is gone, both spouses assume the worst of each other and this can seriously threaten the future of the marriage. If for instance, a spouse stepping out of the house to go buy groceries can be misconstrued by the other spouse as an attempt for the former to go cheat on them, then we most definitely have a problem.

Secrets would also be kept from the other spouse and these have the potential to keep chipping away at the foundation of the marriage.

Trust and love come together and if spouses cannot trust each other, this is a sign of a loveless marriage so if you notice that there is no longer trust between the two of you, you should consider leaving.

12. Prefer to confide in others

Your spouse is your partner in crime. Indeed when an actual crime is committed, standard procedure is to question the spouse of the perpetrator for their possible involvement in the crime because it is assumed that the spouse was either in on it or was confided in.

The point is, your spouse is meant to be your best friend which means that you are to confide in them about whatever you are going through. If you find that either of you are unable to do so, it could point to deeper issues such as a lack of trust that needs to be resolved.

13. Consistent infidelity

A spouse that is continually cheating is essentially saying that they are unhappily married and so they are seeking external pleasures in order to balance out the unhappiness they feel at home.

If you or your spouse cannot help but cheat over and over again, it is time to call it quits because not only are they saying that you are not enough for them, they are disrespecting you as well.

Check out this article on signs that your husband might be cheating.

14. Your gut tells you to leave

Gut feelings can give us some very good advice because it is essentially the body reacting to something that you did not think about.

If your gut is telling you that it is time to leave the marriage, it does not mean that you should automatically leave the marriage, it means that you should begin to look for other signs as to why your body thinks your marriage is not working.

15. You look for distractions

A key part of being married is that you spend time with each other. A sign of a dysfunctional marriage is one where both partners are constantly looking for distractions such as work, activities with friends or even taking care of the kids to avoid having to talk to or be with their spouses.

If this is the case, you need to confront it to ensure that it isn’t that both of you do not want to spend time with each other but that you are genuinely busy. If however you find that you two are indeed just trying to avoid each other, it may be time to pack your bags and leave.

16. You are happy to get some space

Do you find yourself feeling relief when your spouse takes a trip or is not home for extended periods of time? That is a sign of unhappiness in a marriage.

A happy marriage is one where spouses look forward to spending time with each other and not away from each other. That is single people behavior and if that is what you are going through in your marriage, it might be time to become single.

17. Fear of leaving doesn’t make you stop thinking about it

When people are afraid of something, they do not want to think about it much. Divorce is a scary thing for most people and rightfully so because it involves splitting up from someone so important to you.

If you feel afraid of going through this yet you cannot stop thinking about it and looking forward to a future where you are divorced, this is a gut feeling that it is time to get out of your marriage because it shows that you are miserable in your marriage.

18. Future plans don’t include spouse

What are your future plans? The goals you want to accomplish in 5, 10 or 15 years? Do these involve your current spouse? Can you see them playing a role in your life as you try to achieve these goals?

These are very important questions that will help you determine if you need to leave your marriage as they show you whether you see a future in your marriage. If you do not, it is best to rip the bandaid off and leave sooner rather than later so that you do not waste both of your time.

19. Financial irresponsibility

A financially irresponsible partner is a good enough reason to leave a marriage without any shame. If your spouse cannot seem to handle finances, it can put the marriage under strain and lead to stress and depression.

If you find that this is the case, you should remember that you should not have to be depressed over marriage and are under no obligation to stay and drown with your spouse. You should leave if there is a chance that you will be spared the impending financial doom.

To improve financial responsibility in marriage, read financial things to do when married.

20. Substance abuse problems

Substance abuse can lead to a lot of problems in a marriage and you do not have to live with this if you don’t want to.

If you feel you cannot manage this problem and have tried to help your spouse get some help and things are still not working out, few people will blame you for leaving.

21. Spouse is already preparing to leave

Just as you are deciding whether it is time to leave your marriage, your spouse might be doing the same. If you find that they are already preparing for a divorce by moving assets around for instance, this is a sign for you to leave as well because it shows that they have resigned to the marriage ending and so you should probably do the same.

22. Therapy isn’t working

Therapy has helped a lot of marriages fix their issues and is usually the last defence against the dissolution of marriage. What happens then, when the therapy fails?

If this turns out to be the case then it is a sign that you should leave the marriage because therapy uses professionals and if they can’t help you fix your marriage, the chances of it being fixed are quite slim. You should seriously consider cutting your losses and moving on.

23. No more effort towards fixing things

A lot of marriage counselors believe that after abuse, the lack of an effort to try to fix issues in a marriage is the most important sign that it is time to leave a marriage.

One example of this is when spouses don’t even argue any longer and just let things be. They don’t care about the other spouse hearing what they have to say because they no longer care about their opinions.

If one or both spouses engage in similar actions to this, it is a sign that they do not care about what happens to the marriage any longer and at this point, one just needs to dust their feet and leave the marriage.

Check out a related article on signs your wife hates you.

The way forward

1. Think about it thoroughly

A divorce is a pretty serious step to take and so it should not be taken lightly. You need to sit down and properly think about whether this is the path you would like to take. Bear in mind that a lot of people have thought about divorcing before but after thinking it through, they decided to work on things and have reported being happier as a result.

If you’ve thought about it thoroughly and would still like to proceed then the next step would be to educate yourself on a divorce. If you decided to give it another chance then it is time to talk to your spouse.

2. Educate yourself on divorce

Divorces can be very complicated and have been known to get pretty ugly if not handled well. You should therefore try to find out more about divorces and what their effects are – especially if you have children – as well as the laws governing them in your area so that you will be prepared when the time comes.

You can browse the internet or read up on books and other written materials. You could even talk to a divorce coach to get more insight.

3. Talk to spouse about misgivings

If you decide to give the marriage another go then you should talk to your partner. Express your concerns with them and tell them that you both need to work on the marriage. Your partner’s reaction will give you clarity on whether you need to fight for your marriage or to leave it be by them either supporting your suggestion to work on things or suggesting that you both go your separate ways.

4. Work on issues with spouse

If you both decided to work on the marriage then you can do so without the help of a professional. You can both express your feelings to each other about where you think the marriage is going wrong and then make a conscious effort to work on those areas.

This method is effective because it can shed light on why you are both in an unhappy marriage which is why it is important that you both approach this knowing that you would have to compromise in certain areas because any other attitude would derail these efforts.

Here are some tips on how to forgive a spouse for past mistakes as well as what to do when your spouse does not respect you. 

5. Therapy

If you find that you and your spouse are unable to fix things on your own or if you prefer professional help then go for it.

Bear in mind that there are different types of therapy you could engage in such as emotional therapy where you both talk about your feelings and then the therapist suggests ways to fix things or you could go for physical therapy where you both work on the marriage by literally working out together.

Also bear in mind that you may have to go to different therapists to get help because it is not a guarantee that the guidance given by one counselor will be helpful to you. Counselors have different approaches and you may have to shop around to find the right one for you. If however, you try up to 4 – 5 therapists and nothing has changed, it may be time to call it quits.

6. Talk to a divorce lawyer

This is both part of educating yourself on divorces and the step to take if you have definitely decided to leave the marriage.

This is an absolutely important step to take if you decide to leave because a divorce lawyer would explain how the divorce might go and what you need to do to be prepared for it when the time comes.

Frequently asked questions

1. What are the signs of a marriage ending?

Some signs that a marriage is ending include:

  • Spouse is abusive
  • Spouses are not comfortable being themselves around each other
  • Spouses disrespect each other
  • Spouses argue about everything
  • Spouses assume the worst of each other and have no trust
  • Spouses avoid spending time with each other and look for distractions
  • Spouses feel isolated in the marriage

2. When should you walk away from your marriage?

You should walk away from your marriage when:

  • Your spouse is abusive towards you
  • Your spouse is always arguing with you
  • There is no more respect in your marriage
  • You or your spouse are continually unfaithful
  • There is no more sex or physical affection between you and your spouse
  • You look forward to being away from your spouse

3. What are 5 signs of an unhealthy relationship?

  • There is abuse in the relationship
  • Partners are always arguing about everything
  • Partners are disrespectful to each other
  • One or both partners are cheating on each other
  • Partners do not trust each other anymore


Making the decision to leave your marriage can be very scary. The only way to allay this fear is to properly think about it to ensure that it is what you want. Make the decision that would benefit you the most both now and in the future in terms of your peace of mind and emotional wellbeing.

If you do decide to leave, prepare yourself well in advance for the divorce and all that comes with it so that you can go through the process as unscathed as possible. And remember, if you decided that the best thing to do was to leave then don’t let the opinions of others bother you because try as they might, they will never know how it felt to be in your shoes.

And remember, if you decided that the best thing to do was to leave then don’t let the opinions of others bother you because try as they might, they will never know how it felt to be in your shoes.





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