Is your spouse distant? Depressed? Are you worried your husband or wife is having an affair?
It is important to know the clues and be on the lookout for signs that your husband or wife wants to leave you.
When one spouse files for divorce, the other can feel blindsided —until weeks and months later, they look back and see all the red flags they were missing, or ignoring, or repeatedly turned down for sex. For years.
In my case, my ex-threatened to leave for months. I was pregnant, and couldn’t believe it — until he left his wedding ring on a shelf where he knew I’d see it. No subtlety there!
“There are often many indications of a pending divorce, but people don’t want to see them or acknowledge that their marriage may be in danger,”Gretchen Cliburn, a financial planner and certified divorce financial analyst in Springfield, Mo., in Wall Street Journal.
This article outlines:
- Telltale signs your husband or wife is planning to leave you and wants a divorce
- What to do when your wife or husband says they are done and want a divorce
- What to do when you are ready for a divorce
Online couples and individual counseling with BetterHelp starts at $65/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available. Rated A+ from the Better Business Bureau. Choose from thousands of certified and licensed therapists, and get a 10% off BetterHelp couples therapy, immediately >>
Perhaps you are considering divorce, but are unsure. What to consider before pursuing divorce or separation.
Telltale signs your husband or wife is planning to leave you
1. They stop arguing with you.
If you’ve been bickering (or screaming) for years about certain issues, and they suddenly stop, they may very well have thrown in the towel.
Try BetterHelp for online counseling with a 10% discount >>
2. He or she spends more time with their own friends or family members than before — and less with you.
You may have been your husband or wife’s primary comfort and friend, but now you have been replaced with other people (or a lover, for that matter).
What to do now: See above. Shore up your support system.
3. Your husband becomes evasive or stops caring about future plans, whether planning vacations, holidays, home repairs — all now irrelevant because they are out of there.
What to do now: Find a divorce lawyer. Many attorneys offer free phone consultations. Find someone who promotes collaborative divorce or mediation, when appropriate.
4. They suddenly focus on their appearance.
This might include plastic surgery, major weight-loss, new wardrobe all may be signs of a new lease on life — without you.
What to do now: They are spending frivolously on their future. You need to secure yourself financially. Sock away all the cash you can in an online savings account in your name only. Make sure you have life insurance policies for both of you, as well as estate plans.
Bestow, which offers coverage from one of the largest life insurance companies in the country, has an A+ BBB rating, offers term life insurance starting at $10/month for up to $1.5 million, and guaranteed no medical or lab exam.
5. They act secretive about their phone messages, texts, mail, and emails.
There may be an affair at play, or they may be waiting for a call from their lawyer, accountant, real estate agent, or spending time researching alimony law.
What to do now: Did you know divorce and separation are some of the top times in life when your identity and credit will be stolen? Keep up with your credit.
6. They are suddenly interested in the family finances, after leaving the money management to the other spouse.
From the Wall Street Journal:
“Michael Stutman, past president of the New York state chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, says one red flag could come from the spouse who shows new interest in credit-card offers. The spouse could be trying to build up credit in his or her name or be concerned about maintaining access to liquidity during the divorce, he says.”
What to do now: Research all your accounts, collect documents for bank, savings, investments, real estate, debt, loans. Open accounts in your own name to build and maintain credit.
7. Rejiggering of assets or credit
Say, taking out large sums from a home equity line, unusually high spending on a joint credit card (or worse, one in the other spouse’s name), or withdrawal from investment accounts. The opening of new accounts or credit cards in their name only is another sign. Or, unusually large cash withdrawals from accounts is another red flag, as is if a spouse stops contributing to investment accounts (because those funds may be stashed away as an exit strategy instead).
What to do now: Shit is now serious. Retain an attorney and move to freeze accounts. Half of this money is likely yours. Keep lots of records.
8. Intercept of financial or legal documents.
For example, if tax or investment documents were always mailed to both of you, and suddenly they stopped, your spouse may have signed up to receive them electronically — or snagged them from the USPS, or change account passwords without telling you.
What to do now: Educate yourself about investing and saving if you feel behind. Read: How to start investing for women
9. Lots of talk about how poorly their business is doing.
He or she might be planting notions that he has fewer assets and income than in actuality.
What to do now: Focus on your own earning.
If you are under-employed, start searching for a new job or side gig. Read: Top companies for work-at-home jobs for single moms
Assume you are entitled to alimony as a stay-at-home mom — or terrified you have to pay it? Educate yourself about alimony law, and also understand the negatives of relying on alimony income from an ex.
Also, as women become more successful, more and more moms are paying child support and alimony.
10. You might find strange documents about apartments, or relocation offers around your home.
They are looking for a new place to live.
What to do now: Read How is property divided in a divorce and who gets the house?
11. Refusal of a stay-at-home parent to get a job, or a lesser-earning spouse to take a higher-paying position
She may be ensuring higher child support or spousal maintenance.
What to do now: Call that lawyer.
12. On the flip side, a spouse may turn down a promotion or overtime to lessen their financial responsibility post-breakup.
The less income they report now, the less they have to pay in child support or alimony.
What to do now: Read How to negotiate a pay raise or promotion
13. Sudden interest in the kids
If they are thinking of leaving, and want to make sure they secure their share of custody time with the children, they show uncharacteristic interest in sports, religious, school and other activities, as well as ensure the children spend lots of time with their side of the family.
What to do now: Read: 29 ways to co-parent like a pro, and embrace a 50-50 custody arrangement. You’ll thank me later, no matter how scary or sad that may seem now.
14. An aggressive insistence to relocate to be near their extended family.
What to do now: Attorney, now.
15. Sex stops, or sex starts to suck.
If you’re still having sex, but the other partner stops caring about your pleasure, or intimate connection, they are checked out emotionally, and a divorce may be next. (Though I did report on weird cases where that chemistry outlives the marriage. Rare, weird but possible!)
What to do now: Pray. Focus on your own wellbeing.
What to do when your wife or husband says they are done and want a divorce
If your husband or wife clearly says they want a divorce, you have two options:
- Try to change their mind, or
- Accept that the marriage is over, and make plans to move forward with a divorce, and the rest of your life.
These are scary times. Do not pretend they will change their mind or get over it. it is time to take action.
Many unhappy couples seek out therapy, both individually and together, to work through their troubles. Even if you have both accepted that the relationship is over, a skilled therapist can be useful in defusing the anger, and helping you move forward in an amicable way, so that negotiations around the children and money are less explosive, and you can focus on how to manage co-parenting, as well as best practices for helping your kids move through this difficult period.
“My wife wants a divorce.”
If your wife wants a divorce, keep in mind that the old model in which women keep kids the majority of time, and dads see kids on weekends and pay child support (and possibly alimony) still stands. Call an attorney now. Take this seriously.
Case study of what not to do: I recent heard from a dad who started to go through a garden-variety separation when his wife relocated with their baby from their home in Seattle to live near her family in Alabama. The dad was desperate to reason with her and keep the marriage together, and instead of filing for divorce and custody in Washington, he followed her to Alabama to attempt to reason with her. By doing so, the jurisdiction for the case moved to Alabama where his chances of getting a fair time-sharing arrangement were far less than Seattle.
What to do when a husband wants a divorce — and you don’t
If you don’t already have a therapist you like, asking friends for a local referral is helpful. Your religious leader, or even a trusted mutual friend can help, too.
How do I change my husband’s mind about divorce?
First, you probably can’t change your husband (or wife’s) mind once they decide to move on.
However, online couples therapy offers the unique ability to communicate in a three-way call, video or text or email exchange with a certified and licensed therapist — without being in the same room as your soon-to-be ex. BetterHelp’s database of thousands of therapists serve individuals, couples and teens. Better Business Bureau A+ rating. Check out BetterHelp now >>
Regardless of whether you choose to fight to keep the marriage together, agree to separate and divorce, or are scared out of your mind about the future … call a lawyer. Call a few family lawyers near you. Most attorneys will take your call for free, and answer your questions without charge. This is not only a good way to get a sense of who you may hire to help with a divorce, but also whether you need a lawyer at all. But most importantly, a lawyer will answer your questions and help you understand what your life post-divorce will look like, taking much of the fear and uncertainty out of what is one of the most stressful situations you will face in your life.
As you speak with attorneys, as well as friends who have gone through divorces of their own, consider what type of divorce is right for you. Do you really need to each have your own litigator, and drag the issue out in court? Or would a mediated divorce, in which the two of you agree to work through the divorce details with a mediator?
Or, could you agree to an uncontested divorce, in which you both work out your own agreement and file yourself? Even in the most amicable cases, it is advised to pay an attorney to look over your documents to make sure that you are both protected, and that the papers are filed according to your state’s rules (so they are not rejected and you have to re-do them).
There are several quality online divorce apps. Here is what you need to know about filing divorce online, and our recommendations for the 10 best DIY online divorce programs.
Regardless of your path, start to educate yourself now about the divorce process, how property is divided in divorce, why shared parenting is usually best for kids, and how you can best move forward for a happy, healthy, independent life after.
Thinking about leaving your husband or wife?
Leaving a marriage can be heart-wrenching. This post highlights the pros and cons of divorce, and factors to consider when deciding to leave a marriage: Should I get divorced?
How to prepare: What should I do before filing for divorce?
The basics of preparing for a divorce:
- Shore up your finances: Get your own bank account, credit card, and make sure your car is in your own name. That said, don’t try to do anything sneaky — it will catch up with you.
- Get an idea of what kind of money you will have after divorce, and what you can afford. DO NOT blow any sum of extra cash right now. Save and live frugally.
- Consult with an attorney. Assuming this will be a low-conflict divorce, pay for some solid advice about the basics of an amicable divorce in your area. You can do much of this research yourself: Start with this Guide to the basics of filing for divorce.
- Shore up your emotional resources. Find a therapist for yourself and your kids, and tell your closest family and friends that you could use their love at this time.
How do you secretly prepare for a divorce?
Secretly getting ready to divorce is not always about conniving, cheating jerks. It can also be a matter of safety — or life.
From New York City divorce attorney Morghan Richardson:
How should a woman prepare for a divorce?
“I know an amazing mother of four children. She is on her second marriage and this time, the marriage is extremely successful. She and her caring, supportive husband are both school teachers. They have two-year-old twins and a house with – literally – a white-picket fence around it. It wasn’t always this way.
I’ll call this woman Anne.
Anne’s ex-husband was an obsessive, controlling and verbally abusive police officer. He drank. He cheated. And when Anne protested, he threatened to use his job to take custody of their preschool-aged kids and make her life a living hell. He also threatened to use his position as the sole bread-winner to hire the best lawyer and steam-roll over her in court. Yet, rather than feeling trapped and overwhelmed, Anne seized control of the situation – by taking control of her finances.
But not in the way you might think.
This woman didn’t earn the family’s income or even oversee much of the bill payment. Yet for three years she took charge: Unbeknownst to her husband, Anne set up a savings account and had the bank send the statements to a trusted friend. Then she budgeted everything: She figured out how to trim the cost of the groceries and then pocket the difference she saved – even making excuses for needing extra milk during the week. Tiny changes like switching from brand-name to generic products generated pocket change added up. Anne got creative with white lies about losing one of the kids’ sneakers and needing to replace them, then returning the extra pair for cash. Gifts given to the kids were returned unnoticed or exchanged for less-expensive toys – then she’d save the difference (particularly when the kids were younger and didn’t notice).
During these three years Anne also collected copies of his bank statements, tax returns and credit card bills – proving how much he earned and how much he spent on excessive drinking and other women. She collected cell phone bills and kept records of his drunken and abusive episodes. Finally, when she’d saved about $5,000, she hired a divorce lawyer. Then – documents in hand — she dropped the divorce bomb in her husband’s lap, demanded that he move out and give her the house and the kids. She also told him that unless he got his drinking under control, she would seek supervised visits from the court. She also received his financial support until she could get a job and start earning her own living.
While the husband was trapped by his own bad behavior, Anne’s patience and perseverance set her free to make a better life for herself – and her kids.”
While that is a cautionary tale of the extreme, for most women, especially those who earn less than their husbands or are otherwise financially dependent on them, here is my advice:
- Focus on building your career and financial independence. You may be entitled to child support or alimony, but those can disappear at any time, will create co-parenting conflict, and keep you tied to a man from whom you now must move on from.
- Hold off on dating for a minute. No need to wait a whole year, but do yourself a favor and don’t jump into a relationship yet.