5 Signs It’s Time to File for Divorce

How to Tell if Your Marriage Is Over

While filing for divorce can be hard on anyone, making the initial decision to end your marriage is often just as difficult. Just like any aspect of life, our relationships ebb and flow over time, making it tricky to know when enough is enough. Whether you’ve waited years for your relationship to improve or simply can’t shake the nagging thought that your marriage might be over, there are healthy ways to determine if divorce is the right decision.

In this post, we’ll explore common signs that divorce may be the healthiest option for you in the long run.

The “Four Horsemen” of Divorce

Research by the Gottman Institute established four of the strongest predictors of divorce, known as the "the four horsemen." For couples who experience one or more of these communication styles in marriage, divorce may be a likely outcome. The four horsemen of divorce include:

  1. Criticism: This occurs when one spouse attacks the other’s core values or character. Keep in mind that criticism is different than a specific critique or complaint. While the latter two involve specific issues, criticism aims to dismantle your partner’s whole sense of self, leading to feelings of rejection and hurt.
  2. Contempt: Contempt occurs when one spouse treats the other with disrespect and ridicule, such as mocking, being sarcastic, name-calling, or body language like eye-rolling and scoffing. While criticism attacks a spouse’s character, contempt assumes moral superiority in the relationship, leading to conflict.
  3. Defensiveness: This trait is typically exhibited in response to criticism. It occurs when one partner feels unjustly accused, prompting spouses to “play the victim” and evade responsibility for mistakes.
  4. Stonewalling: In marriage, stonewalling is a common response to contempt. It occurs when one spouse withdraws from the conversation and stops responding, shutting down all channels of communication and preventing resolution.

5 Signs It’s Time to File for a Divorce

While the four horsemen of divorce can be a telltale sign that your marriage is on the rocks, this doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is unsalvageable. Often, it comes down to the couple’s unique circumstances and each partner’s willingness to work things out. Despite the divorce stigma, it’s important to validate your emotions, not vilify them.

It’s normal to feel shame or guilt for considering divorce, especially given the immense societal and religious messaging around marriage. However, for many couples, opting for divorce isn’t just the right decision—it’s also the healthiest one. How can you tell if divorce is right for you? Below are 5 telltale signs it’s time to file for divorce:

1. You feel like you have to hide your authentic self.

Nothing is more isolating than spending time with people who don’t share your life values. While there’s no such thing as a “perfect” match, no one should have to spend the rest of your life hiding their authentic selves. In marriage, we’re meant to experience joy and fulfillment. While we aren’t meant to rely on our partner to meet our every need, we also shouldn’t have to compromise our deepest values that make us who we are. If you feel your mood shift or your walls come up every time your partner enters the room, it’s time to consider a divorce.

2. You find yourself daydreaming about life after marriage.

If you find yourself wondering about life after marriage, this is a clear sign that divorce might be the healthiest option. While leaving a spouse is never painless, it’s important to check in with your other emotions.

Do you have wistful thoughts of having your own place? Does the thought of dating again excite you? Do you daydream about coming home to an empty house and enjoying a quiet evening to yourself?

If you find yourself drawn to the idea of single life, there’s no need to feel guilty. It’s perfectly normal and reasonable for different things to be true at once, such as fearing the unknown while also being hopeful, optimistic, and excited about the future.

3. There’s a lack of effort in the marriage.

If you or your spouse are no longer making an effort in your marriage, this is a telltale sign that divorce might be the best path forward. There’s a big difference between merely coexisting in the same home and enjoying a dynamic, fulfilling partnership. Keep in mind that fighting also constitutes effort in the relationship, as engaging in arguments and conflict requires some degree of care for the marriage.

4. Forgiveness isn’t an option.

Every couple is different. While some spouses are able to work through significant hurdles in their marriage, such as dishonesty and violations of trust, this isn’t the case for everyone. If this applies to you, there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

Even if you’ve tried your hardest to forgive your partner after infidelity or other emotional injury, it’s okay to admit that forgiveness isn’t a possibility. A healthy relationship requires trust from all parties, and if this isn’t doable in your relationship—regardless of the reason—divorce might be the healthiest option to protect your happiness and well-being.

5. You have an exit strategy.

Maybe you have an overnight bag packed just in case. Maybe you’ve reached out to friends or relatives to arrange temporary living solutions when your marriage gets ugly. Maybe you’ve established an exit strategy with your therapist. Whatever the situation, if you have an exit strategy for your marriage, this is a telltale sign it’s time to leave.

You’ve probably heard Einstein’s famous quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” When it comes to biting the bullet or staying on the merry-go-round, it's best to give yourself permission to take the next exit. This can empower you to take back agency in your life and move toward a happier, healthier future.

Protecting Your Interests in a Florida Divorce

At Orshan, Spann & Fernandez-Mesa, our award-winning lawyers have decades of experience handling a variety of family law disputes. From child custody to high net-worth divorces, you can trust our Miami-Dade attorneys to protect your rights and represent your best interests in Florida. With our exclusive focus on family law matters, you can rest assured that your case is in excellent, capable hands.

Preparing for family court? Don’t forgo your right to high-end representation. Contact us online to secure the comprehensive advocacy you deserve.