The 13 Warning Signs of Divorce Women Ignore While Married
Sometimes they’re subtle, and sometimes they seem to smack us over the head with a mallet, but the warning signs of divorce may miss us simply because we’d prefer not to see them.
There’s a host of reasons for turning that blind eye, from wanting to give a spouse the benefit of the doubt, being financially interwoven or dependent on them, not wanting to disrupt the kids’ reality or watch the dream dissolve. Life is complicated: maybe we’re in the middle of working toward a degree, have a family member outside the nuclear one who we care for, or one of the children is having trouble in some regard.
Often, though, it’s a matter of not trusting our own instincts. Unless we’re looking for a way out to begin with, no one wants to see signs of impending divorce, whether we’re still committed to the marriage, trying to make it work, or just don’t want to take that leap. Rather than acknowledge our intuition, we hesitate over it, not wanting to make mountains of molehills, be neurotic, be the jealous wife or upset the equilibrium. But something is rotten in the state of our marriage and we can smell it, feel it. We just can’t put a finger on it.
Listening to our gut instinct and then actually doing what it’s telling us to do takes practice, and we tend not to want to take practice shots at something this big. If we’re turning a flashlight on the warning signs of divorce in the room, most of us would like to be able to ask someone, “Did you see that?”
Recognizing that anecdotes shared can lead to a consensus we may not want but do need, here are the 13 warning signs of divorce that we seem to have in common:
1. On the Phone: He’s on his phone more than he’s in the room. On those nights when we’re hanging out in the living room, sharing space and companionable down time, we look up more and more often to see him scrolling through his phone and even answering texts. If asked who he’s communicating with, it’s a friend, or it’s work but it isn’t us. This kind of covert communication is often a sign of cheating in a husband or a wife.
2. Screen Time Caginess: There’s an immediate reflex to shut down a screen when we come into a room or a protectiveness about devices, indicating that whatever it is, he doesn’t want us to see it. He’s not sharing what he’s watching and our questions seem to annoy him.
3. Body Language Becomes Barren: He may be quiet but his shoulders and facial expressions are loud. He’s shifting away from us when we enter the room. Even without the phone as a distraction, there’s a deflecting posture change – a dropping of the eyes, a look of discomfort or indifference, a blocking move with the shoulder angled toward us rather than the welcoming smile and face-forward stance he used to have. We may mistake this sign for tiredness or stress at first, but then it becomes the hallmark positioning.
4. Sexual Desert: Once upon a time, our sexual overtures were frequent and even if there were just a few moments for making out in the laundry room between parenting and professional demands, we made time for them and loved it. Now, the familiar gestures seem to inspire indifference more than interest.
5. Libido Overdrive: A sudden increase in sex might come across as a renewed passion, and hopefully it is. But in some cases, it may be the result of guilt or an attempt to camouflage an extramarital relationship on the side.
6. Keeping Up Appearances Turns Proactive: We all pull back from maintaining our best looks once we’ve gotten comfortable with someone over time, particularly if we’re parenting together. When there’s a sudden surge in grooming, particularly intimate grooming or building back muscle or shape that hasn’t been there in years, or what seems to be an out-of-character change in style and new outfits, this can be an early warning sign of looming divorce and that someone else’s opinion may be driving the new behaviors. This makes me think of a friend who told me she knew something was up in her marriage when her husband started wearing cologne.
7. Friend Zones: We begin to find ways to avoid being around each other, staying in different parts of the house and preferring it. This sign points to an emotional detour and the distance eventually becomes the norm.
8. Solo Sleeping Arrangements: Sleeping in separate bedrooms also becomes a norm and the marriage begins to feel less and less like a union and more like living with a roommate than a husband.
If you wonder what action steps you might be taking if divorce is on the horizon, read our important “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking about Divorce.”
9. Primary Partner: Something else in the dynamic is the real primary partner. Ever been around someone who won’t stop working? At first it seems like dedication, a man with a plan, a responsible guy who will contribute well financially. All of that may be true, but it can also be true with someone who does stop working occasionally and enjoys being present with his lady. If he’s chronically far more invested in his career than he is present and engaged in the relationship, if that’s all he’s ever interested in discussing, it’s unlikely that that will change. The signs indicate someone who has trouble transferring passion for work to passion at home.
10. Addiction: Workaholism is just one form of attachment that will take the place of a spouse. Any habitual, chronic behavior that takes constant focus and attention and removes us from being present for our spouse will eventually erode the union, whether it’s an attitude, socio-economic status, identity, substance, shopping, food, the phone, gambling, exercise, or video games.
Looking for more information to help you decide? Read, “Should You Divorce 3 Ways to Know When Divorce is the Only Option.”
11. Reading Into It: If we are researching divorce articles, let’s face it — we know something has bothered us enough to investigate. As early warning signs go, this one can be fairly self-evident.
12. Communication Break-Down: When the majority of what we have to say to each other becomes contentious or non-existent, there’s a problem. Once the marriage reaches the place where the dialogue is dominated by criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness, which relationship experts at the Gottman Institute refer to as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” for marriage, it has reached a toxicity level that will be difficult to refashion into something that feels like warmth and safety. If that’s how most of our interactions go, it’s time to take serious steps like therapy or consulting with a divorce coach.
13. The Magic 5:1 Ratio: Another Gottman Institute measuring stick for marriage is the ratio of loving interactions to the combative ones. In most cases, a marriage that involves constant arguments will eventually crumble under the verbal battering.
If it’s going to last, there should generally be five positive interactions to one negative. And the more a couple turns toward each other throughout the course of a day, which literally means an emotional and physiological sense of safety with each other that makes us scan each other’s faces and responses when we’re faced with something – whether it’s a cocktail party conversation we’re both involved in or a decision about where to move – the more likely it is the marriage is solid, happy and built to last.
Sometimes a marriage is worth hanging onto with both hands. Sometimes leaving it is the best way for us to evolve. The tribe of women who’ve also looked for which signs of divorce to follow can offer a great deal of wisdom, but ultimately, the sign to look for is one that says “happy.”
Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and print journalist living in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Connect with Jennifer at email@example.com
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*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”