9 Major Red Flags That Signal Divorce, Therapists Say
Think your marriage might be on the rocks? Look out for these signs.
Divorce isn't something that sneaks up on you. In most cases, there are tip-offs that it's coming—and often, they're doled out over the course of years, if not decades. Common culprits of trouble include infidelity, conflict, financial issues, and, sometimes, simply falling out of love. The key to avoiding a split, if you think the relationship is worth saving, is picking up on those issues early and resolving them. That could mean seeing a couples therapist or having honest conversations about how you can each do better. But first, you have to spot the signs. Keep reading to hear from therapists and relationship experts about the red flags that mean divorce might be in your future.
9 Divorce Red Flags
1. Your partner no longer responds to your requests.
In a strong relationship, each partner will be concerned with the other's needs and respond to them. However, if your marriage is veering toward divorce, then these requests might go unnoticed.
"Examples include saying, 'It would mean so much to me if you gave me a back rub,' and your partner never makes time for this activity," says Lauren Napolitano, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in Philadelphia. "Or, 'It hurts my feelings that you don't wear your wedding ring,' and your partner doesn't quickly throw on their wedding ring."
If these simple requests are ignored, it shows your partner is not motivated to make you feel happy or loved, Napolitano explains. The same concept works in reverse: If you're not paying attention or heeding your partner's requests, it could mean your love is waning.
2. Your partner is dismissive of you.
Dismissive words and behaviors are also signs of trouble ahead. "In a healthy marriage, when one spouse is upset about something or has a concern and attempts to discuss it, ideally, this is met with support, an open heart, and an open mind," says Alyse Freda-Colon, LCSW, founder of Coaching With Alyse.
"If you find your spouse saying you're ridiculous or what you're bringing up is stupid or that you should stop feeling the way you feel, or turning it around and blaming you, those are all red flags," she explains. They indicate a lack of respect, which can be difficult to fix.
3. Your partner is codependent.
Spending every moment together can be unhealthy, and over time, a codependent partner can put so much strain on the relationship that it falls apart.
"Couples who maintain a healthy balance between 'togetherness' or the sense of partnership and individuality tend to maintain a healthy relationship or marriage for long periods," says Callisto Adams, dating and relationship expert at HeTexted. "Lack of individuality tends to push the couple into some sort of bubble where they don't see anyone else besides their partner."
Adams notes that a codependent partner may exhibit clinginess, insecurity, or controlling behavior.
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4. You fight about the division of labor.
Those arguments you have about unloading the dishwasher might be more significant than you think.
"The division of labor is one of the most significant sources of resentment and conflict in a relationship," says Lisa Lawless, PhD, CEO of Holistic Wisdom. "If one partner does most household tasks and life planning for the partnership and assumes the role of a parent to the other partner, a great deal of resentment will often build."
It's also important to keep in mind that a partner's mental load can be just as stressful as the actual labor, notes Lawless: "For example, if a couple were to take a trip, it would not just include the job of making the reservations, but the mental load of planning the details around the trip, such as transportation, packing, household arrangements such as stopping mail or having the plants watered."
If your partner has brought up this issue multiple times, resentment could be growing, and a divorce could be brewing.
5. There is contempt between the two of you.
Greyson Smith, MA, LPCC, a therapist at A Shared Heart Counseling, calls expressions of contempt the biggest red flag of a possible divorce.
"When we speak with disrespect towards our partners, engage in name-calling, mock, or use passive-aggressive body language like rolling our eyes, we are sending a signal of disrespect towards our partner," says Smith. "If contempt is present in your relationship, it demonstrates that your partner does not have the capacity to care about your needs, at least right now, and cannot accept that you are a human being experiencing pain."
Oddly enough, contempt is often a power move to get back in control of a declining relationship, Smith explains. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean the contentious partner is willing to turn things around.
"They will likely be resistant to marriage counseling, which makes breaking out of that destructive pattern less likely," adds Smith.
6. Physical affection has disappeared.
"One thing I've learned from clients over the years is if your spouse and you are living more like roommates, that usually spells divorce," shares Derek Jacques, divorce attorney at The Mitten Law Firm.
Jacques explains that while you and your partner may have fun in other ways—say, enjoying a game night with friends or going out to dinner with your kids—it's a red flag when the passion and romance have disappeared.
"While it is true that over time, feelings are transformed and there are actions that are not recurrent as before, [when] there is no demonstration of affection towards your partner it is a sign that things are not well," agrees Aura De Los Santos, clinical psychologist and specialist at NCHC.
7. You feel like strangers under the same roof.
To the point about living like roommates, if you or your partner seems to be "leading a parallel life even living under the same roof," it could be a major red flag, according to De Los Santos.
"They do not have a common project, each one is focused on doing their own things, they do not dedicate time to make the relationship grow, and this, over time, creates not only physical distance but also emotional distance," De Los Santos explains.
"There is nothing wrong with someone taking an interest in a new hobby or venture," notes divorce attorney Jacqueline Newman, managing partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP. "What is not normal is when one partner seemingly has moved on to finding a new singular interest—hanging out with friends you do not know, traveling solo, or otherwise engaging in hobbies that do not involve you—and furthermore, places no focus on even trying to include you."
To break this streak, marriage mediator Nancy Fagan, LMFT, suggest that you and your partner do something together. "It doesn't matter what it is, the point is to merge your time," says Fagan. "This creates an emotional bond, which is critical to having a fulfilling relationship."
8. You don't see eye to eye about money.
Most therapists will tell you that sex and money are the two topics that couples find most difficult to talk about. But when it comes to the latter, if you and your partner don't see eye to eye, it could become a problem that communication can't fix.
"Money, you see, isn't just about bills and bank accounts. It's about power, control, security, and sometimes, it's even about love," points out Laura Wasser, relationship expert and chief of divorce evolution at Divorce.com. "If one person is always holding the financial reins and the other feels like they're just along for the ride, trouble's brewing."
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9. You never fight.
If you think a relationship that's free of conflict is divorce-proof, think again. Couples who never fight may also be on the brink.
"Conflict represents a level of emotional engagement that is necessary for a relationship and shows that a couple is willing to try reaching each other and, even though there might not be a resolution, they are at least working to find connection with each other," explains Smith.
"The couples that do not fight often have become so entrenched in their patterns that they have completely given up, have stopped trying to reach for their spouse, and they probably have a lot of history of their needs not being met that backs up that withdrawal," Smith adds.
In other words, a lack of conflict signals a lack of hope. If you see this pattern in your relationship, chat with an expert ASAP.
And remember that "every relationship has its hiccups," notes Wasser. "It's how you address them that matters. Sometimes all you need is to put on some comfy pants, sit on the couch, and really listen to each other. Not the kind of listening where you're just waiting for your turn to talk, but the kind where you hear the unsaid words too."