If you’re looking for signs a marriage cannot be saved, things are probably rocky (to say the least) in your relationship right now. You got married because you wanted to (I hope) and had every intention of staying with this person for the rest of your life. And no relationship is void of problems or disagreements. But generally, your good days should far outweigh the bad ones, and your relationship should be growing and strengthening over time, not breaking apart.
So if you're wondering how to know when your marriage is beyond repair or if it can be fixed, keep reading. If the signs below don’t sound familiar, then you might be able to work through things and end up stronger than you are now. But if you find you’re nodding your head as you read through this article, it may be time to sit down and have an honest conversation with your spouse about separation.
Big, Glaring Signs a Marriage Cannot Be Saved
If you think that cheating is one of the biggest reasons marriages end, think again. Ending a marriage is one of the hardest things anyone will do in their life, and admitting to yourself that you may not be in love with your spouse anymore is a tough thing to do. Even if you do still love each other, that’s not always enough to make it work.
A study from 2020 that surveyed over 2000 people found the most common reasons given by couples for getting a divorce were:
- Lack of love/intimacy
- Communication issues
- Lack of sympathy/respect/trust
- Growing apart
Here are some of the most obvious signs that your marriage cannot be saved and that it’s likely already over (or has been for a while).
It is an abusive marriage
Abuse is never okay. The problem is, there are many forms that abuse can take, with physical violence being just one of them. Other forms of abuse can be difficult to spot, for example, emotional abuse, financial abuse, and sexual abuse (e.g. pushing someone into doing things in bed that they don’t want to do/feel uncomfortable with).
If there is abuse on any side of the marriage, the relationship needs to end.
The respect is gone
Another one of the signs a marriage cannot be saved is if you have lost respect for each other. This can happen for a number of reasons. Maybe one of you feels they haven’t been treated right, maybe there has been some financial irresponsibility, or certain cruel words or comments have been said in the heat of an argument but cannot be taken back.
There is no physical contact
Physical intimacy plays a huge role in any romantic relationship. It’s how we express care, love, empathy, and understanding to each other. It doesn’t always need to be about sex, it can be holding hands, hugging, or even gently rubbing your partner’s back.
If one or both of you is avoiding physical intimacy, recoiling from simple touching, and you can’t remember the last time you had sex, your marriage is definitely in trouble.
One of you is on Ashley Madison
This is a hookup app where married people usually go to hook up with other married people. If you find your wife on Ashley Madison, you can be naive and think that she’s only on there to spice up your sex life. But simply having an account on there is already a huge sign your marriage can’t be saved. And if you’re on there, same deal.
Someone has cheated
Have you or your partner cheated physically, or had an emotional affair? What about micro-cheating?
While cheating is not always a deal-breaker and can be worked through, it does erode the foundation of trust you built and is incredibly difficult to come back from.
If she is the one who has cheated, do you think you will ever be able to truly forgive and forget? And if you are the unfaithful one, will she be able to forgive and forget and trust you again?
Marriage is not a joke, You both made a vow to love each other and be faithful. Cheating disrespects that commitment you made to each other.
Your children are the only thing keeping you together
Looking for signs a marriage cannot be saved? Look no further than this one. Too many couples tell themselves they are “staying together for their kids” but this disconnection and unhappiness will be felt by your children. It’s much better to call it quits now, move on, find happiness alone, and be there for your kids than it is to try and play happy families when no one is happy.
You’re constantly finding fault and fighting
If there’s a lot of criticism, finding fault, and generally tearing each other down, it’s not a good sign. A 2020 study actually found that negative relationship quality like this after five years can increase the risk of mortality in adults. So not only does it feel bad and hurt you emotionally and mentally, but it can make you physically sick in the long run. Criticism is also one of the red flags that Gottman says indicates the end of a marriage. The other three are stonewalling, defensiveness, and contempt.
All couples have arguments, but you should be able to communicate effectively and work through any disagreements you have, and come out stronger in the process. If you’re constantly fighting, especially over the same things, that’s one of the signs a marriage is over.
Untreated addictions including alcohol, drugs, gambling, and sex will place a huge strain on any marriage. If the person suffering from the addiction is not ready to seek help or is still in denial that they have a problem, this is a warning sign that things will only get worse. When someone is addicted to something, that addiction comes before anyone and anything else, including their spouse or kids, and a marriage cannot survive in these conditions.
You've done everything you can to save your marriage (and it’s not working)
Have you sat down and tried to work things out, made compromises, and even gone to therapy, but nothing is working? It’s like you’re trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. Eventually, this just becomes draining and depressing. You might find you both become shells of who you used to be and lose any passion or joy you once had for life.
One thing is for sure, you cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results.
You are feeling increasingly single
This is one of the clearest signs a marriage cannot be saved. You both lead increasingly separate lives, You eat separately, make plans to see friends alone, and even plan solo trips and vacations. Or perhaps you’re fantasizing more and more about being single again and the freedom and breath of fresh air that comes with it.
Either way, if you’re thinking most days like this, your marriage is in real danger. Marriage is a partnership, and while you should definitely remain independent and have your own life, you should still enjoy spending quality time together and thinking and acting like a team.
The Subtle Signs Your Marriage Is Over
How to know when your marriage is beyond repair when you haven’t seen any of the obvious signs above? Just because it’s not obvious, doesn’t mean your marriage is in the clear and you can breathe a sigh of relief. Here are some of the more subtle signs that your marriage might be over.
They aren’t the person you go to anymore
When two people are married, they are best friends and each other’s rock. They’ll both have great friends outside that partnership, but generally, they will be each other’s go-to, whether it’s for advice, to lean on during times of stress, or when they receive great news.
One of the more subtle signs your marriage is over is if you no longer are each other’s go-to.
You find yourself compromising who you are
Yes, relationships require compromise on both parts, but not to the point where you have to constantly swallow your opinion, change your beliefs, or sacrifice your dreams just to make it work. If it feels like you have to change who you are for your spouse to be happy, or vice versa, then it’s time to be real with yourself. Living a lie is a painful way to live and stressful to keep up.
Inability to apologize or forgive
None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes. Part of being in a relationship with anyone (whether as a friend, colleague, or parent) is being able to own up when we’ve made an error in judgment and apologize. If someone is unable or unwilling to apologize because their ego won’t allow them to (by the way, this is a sign of narcissism), it will become a huge problem in the relationship, drive you apart, and cause any love that was there to dissolve.
Your family keeps interfering in your relationship
The problem might not be with either of you; it might be with your extended families. Certain cultures or personalities can be more interfering when it comes to their kids’ relationships and think that they have a say in what happens, how things are done, etc. This can be especially problematic if your family lives close by, and you see them regularly.
At some point, you have to set clear boundaries for those family members to protect the health of your marriage. Otherwise, the problems will continue, and your marriage could break down.
Your priorities and values have shifted and no longer align
Do you still love each other a lot, but it feels like you’ve grown and changed a lot since you got married? It almost feels like you’re completely different people, it’s because you are! We change and grow every day, so it’s not uncommon to spend five, ten, or fifteen years with someone only to look at them and feel like you don’t even know who they are anymore.
Maybe at the start of your relationship, you were on the same page and aligned when it came to the big things like where you wanted to live, whether you wanted to get married and have kids, etc. But now? Your goals clash, and this is one of the more subtle signs your marriage cannot be saved.