It’s funny because it’s true: If it were easy to hear our inner voice, there wouldn’t be so many of us reminding each other how to do it.
And when that voice is telling us that something is rotten in the state of our marriage, or simply that we just don’t fit inside it anymore and we really do need to grasp the nettle, upend our entire life, and end our relationship, we go looking for warning signs of divorce—anything that tells us that it’s truly necessary.
That’s okay. It’s smart and reasonable to investigate the warning signs of divorce when facing that all-encompassing life change. You wouldn’t build a house without a foundation; informing yourself of what the common signs of divorce are lays the stones of your foundation in place. It helps you feel logical and rational during a moment when you might feel anything but.
From the author Carolyn Myss’ advice to “follow your scariest guidance” to Joseph Campbell’s principle of “following your bliss,” it seems as though there are almost as many recommendations to listen to the quiet voice of our spirits as there are people in the world.
That’s because it bears repeating:
That gut instinct is difficult to hear. The voice of our true self, the bigger version of us, the divine, the call, our souls, a higher power, whatever you call it (and it seems that most of us have at least some sense that “it” is there, within and without), is not only quiet and hesitant at first, but we also tend to keep a lid on it because it scares us.
The noise of daily life can be so raucous and distracting—and of course, to a certain extent, we all like our distractions because they help keep us dog paddling in comfortably small circles and our egos too tickled, or tortured, to move. Like a corral, distractions and demands keep us penned up in predictability and apparent safety, surrounded by the familiar voices of our social norms, our families and our peers, muffling the inner voice until we can shrug it off as if we were just imagining it.
Heeding the inner voice
We can try to keep the inner voice quiet, try to cling to the illusion that it’s the illusion, just our imagination running wild. But we’re not imagining it. The voice of the less constrained self, the most authentic, unbound, bursting-out-of-the-corset part of us is there, whispering, urging, beckoning.
The difficulty isn’t so much in hearing it as heeding it.
But, when we do that and do it consistently—often summoning all of our courage and fighting back our worst self-doubting, self-limiting behaviors, beliefs and relationship patterns to do so—is when it gets loud and clear.
We have so much hope tied up in marriage, so much invested in it and long-term partnerships where property, finances, and children are part of the bond. When marriage is good, it is very, very good. But when it is bad…yep, it’s horrid. Now if it started off horrid, right out of the wedding reception gate, it might be easier to shake it off and move on. Let’s do a Horrid Hypothetical just for fun—something Gothically awful. Like, his other wife from a marriage he’s been hiding and lying to you about all along comes rolling up to the curb, right behind your streamer-bedecked ride to the airport as you surge forth, freshly avowed in your white princess dress while your wedding guests blow kisses and shower you with birdseed, and starts throwing red paint all over you for trying to take her man while a Jerry Springer camera crew films the whole thing.
If it went like that, divorce would be an obvious choice. You’d be out of the marriage faster than the dress, and your entire posse of family and friends would rally around you instantly; you’d have no qualms at all. No signs would be needed. But that’s not the way it goes, and we do need to confirm the warning signs of divorce. It’s more like the frog in the frying pan scenario. Toss a frog in a hot pan and it jumps right out, but put it in a cool pan and gradually increase the heat…
Some common warning signs of divorce
It’s usually not obvious. It’s the gradual going wrong that is more typical of marriages that need to end, and it’s the subtle signs, not the Gothically awful, that tell us it’s time to make that happen. Until the inner voice becomes loud and clear and we do as she says with a lot less hesitation, we should identify the signs of heat (and not the fun kind) rising:
- Communication breakdowns are pervasive, whether that is chronic defensiveness, criticism, or contempt.
- Indifference feels like the rule rather than the exception. You get the feeling that they just don’t care if you’re in the room or not, or vice versa. It takes a crisis to get a mate’s full attention and when it’s over, they drift away again, having checked it off their to-do list.
- And while we’re on the to-do list, another sign of impending divorce is when sex becomes an item on that list, more of a task than something that excites and enriches, expresses a fundamental attraction, that draws you out of yourself and your skin with passion and arousal and creates a lovely, sexy bond between the two of you.
- The distancing expands to include not just a drop-off in the sexual exchanges but a drop in your desire simply to be in their company. You begin to live more like roommates.
- Distancing turns into an outright aversion to being around them.
- Your sense of responsibility to that other person begins to feel like an obligation rather than a joy or a gift of time and energy, done with what used to be compassion or at least graciousness.
- An addiction or habitual, non-constructive behavior takes precedence over your mate.
- You begin to look for—and find—emotional connection with others, which can become emotional affairs.
- Sexual affairs—cheating—become justifiable in your mind and perhaps even occur. (This warning sign is not so subtle).
For the most part, though, the signs are subtle, but even more subtle is that inner voice, the song of our authentic self. That voice is quiet, unassuming—at least until we start tuning out the dissonance so we can hear it.
Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, Ph.D. writes about this voice, the archetype it belongs to, in her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.”
“I call her Wild Woman, for those very words, wild and woman, create llamar o tocar a la puerta, the fairy-tale knock at the door of the deep female psyche…When women hear those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory is of our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, a relationship which may have become ghostly from neglect, buried by over-domestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore. We may have forgotten her names, we may not answer her when she calls ours, but in our bones we know her, we yearn toward her, we know she belongs to us and we belong to her.”
Thankfully, the wild, unbound woman inside us all never stops whispering.
Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys her cat’s input on her rough drafts (talk about snark) and the freedom of being her own partner. Connect with Jennifer here.
SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are discerning, newly divorced and independent, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free, 15-minute, private consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your BRAVE unknown.