Divorce creeps up on you. Your relationship declines and frustration, resentment and detachment build.
So regardless of what’s going wrong, it’s important to be able to recognise the signs of an impending divorce. Then you can start to take action.
One of the first predictors is sarcasm, criticism and rudeness. OK, maybe you’re both naturally sarcastic. But once sarcasm becomes real rudeness, then there’s deep unhappiness in the relationship.
Gradually, rudeness leads to shouting, defensiveness and withdrawal. Now you’re close to the point of no return. You can’t make decisions together any more. Or work as a team.
You feel like you’re always giving in. Somehow your goals and interests no longer match.
You feel lonely, and have started wishing you were with someone else.
Discuss your life together with your partner and see if there’s still common ground. Because if there isn’t, divorce is likely.
Perhaps you’re getting a lot of negativity from your partner? Or one of you thinks that the other’s beneath them? You’re playing tit-for-tat and keeping score, so that your focus is on mind games and winning? Instead of love, communication and forgiveness.
You’ve lost interest each other’s feelings. Words like ‘whatever’ and ‘fine’ pepper your arguments. You hardly ever have sex any more. One of you’s spending most of their time outside the marriage.
At work, in other relationships, and interests that no longer involve you both. The process of detachment’s started.
Is there anything you can do at this stage? Yes there is! Really try to improve things with your partner, even though you’re thinking of leaving.
Because being prepared to leave means you can tackle your problems head on. Take a totally honest look at yourself and your spouse. Remember the good times. How have things changed?
Can they be put right? Can you still enjoy each other’s company at least some of the time? Or is it all endless bickering and strained silences?
Work on creating some good times again, because simply enjoying doing a few things together can bring you back right from the brink of divorce. Is there lots of stress in your lives? Then you’re probably being especially hard on each other, without realising what you’re doing.
That creates defensiveness, and maintains the vicious circle. Working together on reducing stress could transform your marriage.
Chances are you and your spouse no longer feel important to each other. Make each other a priority again. And be wary of advice your friends and family give you - they’re often heavily biased.
Instead, find a good counsellor, who’ll help you to hear each other again, identify the underlying problems, and forgive each other for past mistakes.
And if you really can’t find a way to save your marriage, be prepared to feel lonely, to have difficulty concentrating, to endlessly obsess about your ex, to find yourself crying, feeling down and worthless. Because leaving even the worst relationship can be surprisingly hard.