Should I get a divorce? Signs you should consider divorce or a legal separation

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Covid and economic related stresses contributed to higher 2020 divorce rates, with U.S. numbers jumping 34% and newlywed separations doubling to 10%, according to a Daily Mail report. The 2021 divorce rates are expected to be even higher.

Thinking of divorce? How to make that very tough decision.

Signs you are ready for divorce

Here are signs that you or your spouse are ready for divorce:

  • You stop arguing
  • You prefer to spend more time with your friends or family than your husband or wife 
  • You stop making future plans — whether with your spouse, or in your own mind you stop envisioning a future 
  • You have reason to be secretive about your phone 
  • You start worrying about money in the event you find yourself single 

Valid reasons for divorce

There are a few times when you must get divorced:

  • Divorce is necessary if your spouse is abusive to you, your children, pets or anyone else. This includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and financial abuse.
  • You have to get divorced if your spouse wants to get divorced. You very likely can’t change his or her mind — and even if you could get him to stay, that rarely works out long-term.
  • Marriage breakdown that he or she refuses to address or work on. It’s over!

Learn more about legal separation vs divorce—which is right for you?

Other reasons are more subjective and personal. Here are some typical reasons you may be ready for divorce:

7 most common reasons to get divorced

Money

Money is often cited by experts as the. No. reason couples break up. Differences can include:

  • Different spending, saving and investing habits, which reflect different values and priorities
  • Financial infidelity, in which one spouse secretly spends, gambles or accrues debt
  • Feeling that one partner is not earning his or her share.

Lack of respect

You are ready for divorce if you no longer respect him as a person, and have not for a while.

No sex, or bad sex

You are likely ready for divorce if there is no more sex or sexual attraction, and you are not OK with that. Couples navigate this issue in all kinds of ways, including acceptance and agreed-upon open relationships. You may find peace in one of these solutions, or you may be ready for divorce.

Should wives stay thin for their husbands?

You grew apart

You may be ready for divorce if you changed and he didn’t, or vice versa, or — most likely — you both changed in different directions, and no longer fit.

You’ve fallen out of love. Physical chemistry dried up, you don’t feel any romantic affection towards this person. Those feelings may return — or they may not. Those feelings may be very important to you, or not. Libidos change as we age and relationships mature. These are very personal decisions.

You’re ready for divorce because you just want to be divorced. Maybe your husband is a really nice guy and you feel guilty about it. Maybe he is a decent person but really, really annoying. Perhaps you are in love with someone else and want to pursue that relationship — or be alone or date or otherwise be free. Maybe he is harmless but still an asshole. No matter what: You’re over it, and that is OK.

One study of divorcing parents found that the most common reasons for divorce from a list of choices were growing apart (55%), not being able to talk together (53%), and how one’s spouse handled money (40%).

Cheating

A statewide survey in Oklahoma found that the most commonly checked reasons for divorce were lack of commitment (85%), too much conflict or arguing (61%), and/or infidelity or extramarital affairs (58%).

Alcoholism or other addictions

Addictive behaviors are common and vary widely in their extremes. Some people who drink too much or become addicted to prescription drugs, porn, gambling, video games or other habits can overcome them easily, while others may struggle to stay clean with support, and yet others may face a lifetime of relapses.

Many people with addictions can and do maintain relationships, but others see their marriages end because of the addiction.

University of Michigan researchers found that nearly half of the more than 17,000 study participants with a history of alcoholism divorced at some point in their lives, while only 30% of the participants who were not affected by serious alcohol problems got a divorce.

Irreconcilable differences

Before no-fault divorce became the norm, irreconcilable differences was just one of many reasons a spouse could use to argue rights to be granted a divorce. Today, spouses do not have to prove reason for divorce, though irreconcilable differences is still used in some states’ divorce decrees.

In short, the definition of irreconcilable differences is that the spouses just can’t get along enough to make the marriage work.

The husband(s) and wife/wives are incompatible because of interests, character, lifestyle, personalities or beliefs.

Should I leave my husband / wife? Should I get a divorce?

In addition to the emotional questions listed above, there are many other parts of divorce outside of the relationship itself. As you make your decision, ask these questions:

  • What will your life look like after the divorce? While you may be poorer short-term after a breakup, most people do financially recover, or at least become stable. Many people stay in miserable marriages because they believe that the immediate lower lifestyle is not worth it. But many people report that leaving an unhappy union is worth the financial struggle. How property is divided after divorce
  • Are you prepared to be away from your children for half the time — or more? While equally shared parenting is becoming the norm, it is still common for one parent to be legally allowed to see the kids for a minority of the time.
  • Are you prepared to have the kids all the time? It is not uncommon for one parent who is granted minority time with the kids (the father, usually), to move away or otherwise not see the children. This leaves the time, logistical, financial and emotional responsibility on the remaining parent. Are you ready for that to be you?
  • Are you ready to co-parent with this person? The marriage may end, but you are in it for the rest of your lives if you have children with your husband or wife. This means that you may not be able to move to another location, must continue to compromise on parenting issues and otherwise negotiate with your spouse.

To get a sense of the divorce process, check out this free divorce worksheet.

Regardless of your path, make sure you get the support you need and deserve. You may find that with your current family and friends, a new tribe of strong single women friends, or a trusted therapist.

You, your kids, and your husband are all best served by seeking out an amicable, low-conflict, uncontested divorce if at all possible.

Online therapy is a great option to consider — especially for busy moms. Sites like BetterHelp let you choose from thousands of licensed, certified counselors, who connect to you via phone, video, chat or email, with prices starting at $65/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance is available.

Divorcing a narcissist husband

Rebecca Zung, top-rated divorce attorney and divorced mom herself, has a whole video course on how to divorce a narcissist, which I review in How to Negotiate With a Narcissist. Her tips include:

  1. Have a plan ready to execute before you tell your husband or wife you want a divorce:
    • Prepare a new place to live
    • Have your own cash money saved
  2. Hire a divorce attorney
    • Decide what parenting plan you want
    • Take your time to learn how to negotiate with a narcissist and win — to save yourself countless dollars, untold sums of stress and the potential to lose everything.
  3. Tell them in person that you are divorcing them as you walk out the door, or pack up in the middle of the night or while they are out of town, and have them served with divorce papers the next day. Do not give them a chance to manipulate you.

Divorcing your alcoholic husband

If your husband is an alcoholic or addict and is either actively using, or is in recovery but you worry will relapse, first, accept that it is not your job to save him. You are not responsible for his wellbeing, and in fact, were likely a co-dependent enabler. No more!

Take steps to protect you and your kids financially, physically and emotionally. It is OK and even healthy to be hopeful that you will one day have a amicable co-parenting relationship if and when he is sober, but until then you must work with your attorney to secure the wellbeing of you and the kids.

Divorcing your bipolar husband

Similar to addicts, living with and divorcing a bipolar spouse is very stressful, unpredictable and possibly dangerous for you, your kids, and your spouse. You are not responsible for their behavior and can only protect yourself and your kids.

Divorcing a husband who won’t work

If your husband refuses to work, you may find yourself paying child support or alimony — at least for a short time. Judges are increasingly intolerant of divorced people who try to live off of payments from their exes, and yours may be ordered to work. Because our culture is a sexist one, there is less tolerance for men who do not work and live off of women’s income.

Here is my advice to women who pay alimony or child support.

What are the benefits of divorce?

Divorce of course gives unhappily married people the opportunity to leave a miserable marriage. Divorce also allows people in abusive relationships to leave.

Many people are much happier after divorce.

Benefits include:

  • More control over your home and life. If your spouse’s bad money habits were a source of contention, now you can have control of how much you spend and save. If they were a slob, now you can control how messy or clean your home is.
  • Date without cheating on a spouse. You are single now.
  • Start anew. Many people thrill in starting a new life, on their own terms.

What are the disadvantages of divorce?

Both parties are almost always poorer after divorce. It takes more money to support two homes than one, after all.

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Stereotypes that keep single moms overwhelmed, broke and alone

While the effects of divorce on children is misunderstood, it is hard on children when their parents live in two separate homes — especially when the parenting schedule is lop-sided.

Stress on extended family and friends. People who know and love both of you may feel torn to choose one side, or otherwise suffer a stressed relationship with one or both partners.

You may be lonely after divorce. Though you may have been lonely while married.

Not everyone wants the divorce. You may wish you were still married.

You may miss your kids while they are with their other parent.

Estate, will and guardianship planning for single parents

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Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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