How do you know when it’s over?


1. You have exhausted every avenue of rehabilitation for what ails ‘me’, ‘you’ and ‘us’. You have exhausted every avenue for establishing emotional safety in the relationship.

If you have kids, sufficient to look them in the eyes when they have grown to adulthood and confirm, ‘we exhausted every avenue available to us at the time’.

2. You are sure that apparently long standing issues are not relatively temporary problems.

3. You have uncovered the common and repairable emotional traps that often lead to divorce.

Best book on this is ‘How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It’ by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. It is balanced and well informed about the patterns couples overlook that underlie chronic frustration with a relationship.

4. You have found no way to increase your/our personal happiness, despite the state of the relationship.

5. You have changed your way of reacting to upsetting things in the relationship by thinking and acting like a person who stands a chance of being treated well by your partner – even when you feel misunderstood and mistreated!

6. You have fought for your relationship rather than against it.

  • You have fought for honesty and for healing.
  • It’s not the easy path but low conflict marriages are more likely to end in divorce.
  • It’s not conflict that wounds but the tactics used to handle it.
  • Fighting is a form of protest about insecure attachment. It is not a sign of the end.
  • Falling compassion and rising contempt are a sign the end is near. Contempt is disdain for the hurt of others.

7. You are no longer inside a thought bubble in which the plan to leave feels, looks and sounds perfect.

8. Having closed all the exits from intimacy in your relationship for many months, having told your partner you had done so and asked the same of them, and yet found nothing grew inside the relationship.

  • Nothing is rarely ever nothing.
  • Having closed all the ‘just friends’ exits – down to the trailing catch ups over coffee, no text nor email contacts and defriended the emotional affair partner on social networking sites.

9. Not a remnant spark of fondness and admiration left for your partner? Even death doesn’t end a relationship. We may grieve years after leaving an abusive or hurtful relationship.

10. You have considered a controlled separation rather than divorce? This book is a good one on that subject: “Should I Stay Or Go? : How Controlled Separation Can Save Your Marriage” by Lee Raffel.

11. In my experience it is very unusual for one partner to be 100% of the problem. Where there is family violence, however, the percentages are secondary. First thing with violence is to get to safety. However, in most other situations, consider going it alone to couple therapy (search: ‘how to make the most of marriage therapy for one’) – In order for couples therapy alone to work, there are some ground rules. The relationship must be basically sound – no lying, cheating, or abuse. The therapist will focus on the relationship, not the individual. And the partner who doesn’t come to therapy must still want to improve the marriage and should be informed about what goes on’.