15 signs your husband or wife is ready to leave you

husband wife wants divorce

While there are times when both partners in a marriage are aware that a divorce is in the offing, other times one spouse might not be sure or even realize that the other is contemplating a departure.

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., told The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal quoted me on this topic recently. Here is my own list of what to look out for:

Telltale signs your husband or wife is planning to leave you and wants a divorce

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.

What to do now: Get therapy. Related: Best online therapy apps for moms

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. Become evasive or stop caring about future plans, whether planning vacations, holidays, home repairs — all now irrelevant because they are out of there.

What to do now: Call a lawyer. Many attorneys offer free phone consultations. Find someone who promotes collaborative divorce or mediation, when appropriate.

4. The sudden focus on their appearance such as 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. CIT Bank is now offering an online FREE savings account with a remarkable 1.75% APR.

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 by using CreditSesame.com! Read: How to protect your credit score and identity during divorce

6. A sudden interest in the family finances, after leaving the money management to the other spouse. from the Wall Street Journal article: “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 in 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, which 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 not working, find a job, you can start by searching FlexJobs.com. 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

10. You might find strange documents about apartment or relocation offers around your home.

What to do now: Read: Should you keep your house in divorce?

11. Refusal of a stay-at-home parent to get a job, or a lesser-earning spouse to take a higher-paying position — 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.

What to do now: [Video] 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 get lots of visitation time with the children, they show uncharacteristic interest in sports, religious, school and other activities, as well as ensure the kids spend lots of time with their side of the family.

What to do now: Read: 29 ways to co-parent like a pro

14. The 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 you know he wants to leave

One of the most important tools you have at your disposal when going through a divorce is your support network. Perhaps this is a fantastic group of friends and family, a support group, therapist or another resource, you need people who get and love you — and are positive and productive. My closed Facebook group Millionaire Single Moms understands what you are going through and will be a great sounding board and source of advice. Divorce is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful life events, but remember that it is passing, and life will get better (and then likely get worse at some point, but that is for another blog post!).

From After divorce, you get a one-year pass to be a hot mess :

You get a year. A free pass for 12 months to be a freaky weirdo. Drink too much after the kids go to bed. Smoke a few cigarettes at break time with your colleagues. Let the house go, let the dishes pile up in the sink. Hell, might as well preemptively cancel the gym memberships, because you’re not going. Be stinky and oily, and let your pubes hang out of your swimsuit on a public beach in the Midwest. Sleep with a bunch of completely inappropriate people and wear things that no one at your age with your body should ever even think about wearing in public. Stay up all night stalking your college boyfriend on Facebook.

You’re good. No judgment here!


Related topics about divorce

The only divorce checklist you’ll need

Credit tips if your divorcing or thinking about separating

31 reasons single motherhood is AWESOME

What every mom should ask for in divorce negotiations

Should you keep the house in divorce?

Is a cash-out mortgage refinance right for you?

Get a FREE Kickass Single Mom Manifesto from my #1 Bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom.

How about you? What signs did you show that you were ready to leave you? What did your ex do to signal he was ready for divorce? Share in the comments …


emma johnson family
Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list. Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. Anna on February 27, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Before I asked for a divorce, I stopped talking altogether unless I had to. I didn’t argue, stayed out of his way, intimacy went out the window 2yrs before.

    • Emma on February 27, 2017 at 9:25 am

      I understand that – common.

    • Ash on September 3, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      Ultimately it does come down to solid communication when a marriage is in trouble. However it’s a catch 22 because communication often goes out of the window! (Just as you proved in your post)

      I don’t want to be judgemental because everybody’s situation is different BUT… I feel like people give up on their marriage far too easily these days. It takes effort from both sides but the rewards are so worth it. It’s really worth checking out Brad Browning’s stuff. He has some really clever techniques to rekindle and strengthen your marriage. You can find it at: http://www.mendmarriageguide.com

      No marriage is perfect and there will always be tough times down the road. If you can come out the other side, your relationship will only get stronger!

    • Mason Jassem on September 22, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      thank you Dr peter

  2. Jim on August 1, 2017 at 9:46 am

    You talk about stopping the husband bashing, when in reality your whole premise is to give wives a way out of marriage. You have mentioned signs of husband or wife getting ready to leave as a smokescreen to hide your true persprctive. Trying to sound as though you are playing a level field when in fact you know as a female, wives will swallow everything you have to say hook line and sinker because of the way you wrote your article. Being a female, yourself you cannot help but feel more empathy for wives who are in this situation, but are too weak-minded to leave whereas the man on the other hand is deemed stronger in any relationship, so your thoughts are primarily geared toward the female. When you read this and you are digesting what I have said, be honest about your true intentions as a woman who obviously has been through some type of relationship trauma yourself.

    • Emma on August 1, 2017 at 9:49 am

      Actually, my boyfriend who is divorced, contributed heavily to this. Sorry you are so bitter! Best wishes!

      • Waylon on February 21, 2018 at 9:58 am

        Every article you write is filled with the bitterness in your life that condescends against women and men who don’t fit your corporate-money centered lifestyle or do not share your life history. Your prose is filled with projections from the emptiness in your soul, the things that you alone feel are the cause of your unhappiness. EVERY article you have written in the past 4 months references MONEY as the savior for women. My God what a smashing world you must desire to live in that MONEY is your end goal in life. Here is a hint that might shatter your Marxist-Feminist view but a majority of men do not seek out MONEY as an end goal in life, the same male windmills you tilt your lance at in these pages (strawmen you alone have created). We know this to be true because successful people don’t write blogs blaming others for their failings or use cheap put downs about their competitors in life.

      • Kelly on September 3, 2018 at 12:56 am

        The article has no credits to the heavy contributions of the mentioned boyfriend. “Let your pubes hang out and stalk college boyfriends”?

        I will assume that was a joke just like this article and the people who produced and published this garbage.

    • Eric on August 21, 2017 at 3:56 am

      I believe it can go ether way. In truth I believe in society today woman are advancing more in What a man is supposed to do and i believe generations are flooding father figures divorce is easy marriage is hard and work nether side anymore can put God first. That is the sign of devorce

  3. Terri on September 19, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    My husband,is just acting weird,not talking to me much,says he doesn’t want to be around anyone,,sex,is not like it use to be,n when we do have it,it is usually once a week,,he doesn’t plan trips anymore,or anything,he never says I love u never has,,,n he is grumpy all the time,n blames me for anything that goes wrong,n talks awfully mean to me,we been married 39 yrs,n I love him regardless of the fact that he is grumpy, ,,but I am just to the point of I am tired of trying to love someone who just doesn’t seem to give a crap about me, ,you can’t make someone love you, ,,Anyone can email me with any help,,cata@blomand.net

    • Desmarie on April 28, 2018 at 12:02 am

      I can relate to this kind of behavior.

  4. Wayne Mark on December 24, 2017 at 6:43 am

    hi here

  5. waylon on February 21, 2018 at 9:23 am

    13. They read wealthysinglemommy.com and have shunned being around your children in exchange for working later hours trying to get a promotion for her own personal gain because MONEY is the ultimate goal in life.

    • Tracy Gibb on April 29, 2018 at 12:38 pm

      Are you blaming someone else for the demise of your marriage? My suggestion is to stop blaming Emma for your failures and start looking at yourself. Maybe the reason your wife has to work so hard is because her husband is incapable of taking responsibility for himself and his own life. Why don’t you start being a real man and fix your life instead of blaming others? I bet your wife would love to have a man she can depend on instead of a weakling with a victim mentality. No one wants to be married to a crybaby who harasses women online. I am so sick of seeing your endless whining on this blog, I can only imagine how your poor wife feels. It’s exhausting just reading it so I can’t imagine living with it.

      Newsflash! YOU and only YOU are responsible for what happens in your life. If you don’t like it then look at yourself and make some changes. If you won’t change then you don’t want to be married that badly. Don’t respond with whiny excuses because I don’t want to hear them.

      • Heather on July 21, 2018 at 10:36 am

        Amen! Most men who comment on this articles are their own problems. They truly are weak, content to be underachievers, and resentful towards the woman in their life who has been most honest with them.

    • Heather on July 21, 2018 at 10:42 am

      I’m sure there’s more to THAT story Waylon. Some people don’t WANT to scrape by in life on the bottom ladder rung. Do you have any drive or ambition to get ahead in life? If you answered no, then it’s time to take an honest look into the mirror. Money isn’t the MOST important thing. But it’s pretty high up there.

  6. Laurah on April 20, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    You should try femalehackerz1 AT gmail , she helped me when I was suspicious of my husband’s activities. She’s good and very understanding

    • Horse.lady333@gmail.com on May 21, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      Thank defiantly deserve to know the truth of this relationship my close family had said he was planning to leave
      I’m just ready for it to be over and done with i feel like he is just waiting for a opportunity to gather money for another vehicle and a place to stay his brother doesn’t want him to live with him again

  7. Sean on May 18, 2018 at 8:27 am

    I’ve come to realize that marriage is a bunch of bull. No matter what you feel, when your spouse is done, they are done. I have been hanging on for years hoping my wife would come back and now I am consumed by it every day. No matter how good of shape I get into, how well I play by her rules, or how many damn books I read, it doesn’t matter she is gone. The dream marriage is all that it is. A dream that turns into a nightmare. I have and will always love her but I know now her love is gone. Best advice for anyone is to not get married. Be happy with you and live your life for you. Vows don’t mean anything. They are only for show. I hope if you are struggling like me that you find peace one day. And do not bring god into this because I see now there is not a god. It is all a lie. Don’t rely on that pipe dream. Don’t be a fool like me. Good luck.
    father of 4 with a broken heart

    • Just me on May 21, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      Yes defiantly true on it all
      It will never be enough for the wrong person

  8. Just me on May 21, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Yes defiantly true on it all
    It will never be enough for the wrong person

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  10. phoenix men on May 25, 2018 at 1:03 am

    You may have stayed in an unsatisfactory relationship for a long time because you were afraid of dealing with the changes that splitting up forces upon you.

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  12. Jade on July 24, 2018 at 9:15 am

    This is really a disgusting article. You offer your two cents on the tell tale signs of a partner who is considering leaving their spouse, and then after each “sign” you offer a marketing scheme! For example on number three you mention how if they stop planning for future life events like vacation, holidays, and home repairs, it COULD be a sign that your marriage is on the rocks. However in the “what to do now” section, you give a link to a divorce attorney. How dare you! Misguiding people like that just so you can make a few bucks on affiliate links…

    Just for the record, number three has been an issue my husband and I have had in the past and we TALKED about it. And the reason he stopped planning things with vacations, holidays, and house repair is because he has been so consumed with work and finances. Im a stay at home mom, so he is the primary source of income in the family. Right now we’re in a financial rut, so his main focus is getting out of that. It takes over him. It’s a HUGE responsibility. But wait.. let me take your advice and call a divorce lawyer instead of understanding where my husband is coming from.

    And number 13? Sudden interest in the kids? Give me a break. It could be the fact that your husband found all those Google searches on divorce attorneys and he’s trying to protect his ass for the future..

    I understand that some of these might be signs of a dwindling marriage, but that’s all they are… signs. And you have the audacity to suggest to your audience to see a lawyer and check bank statements if any of these signs are in their lives instead of talking.

    This is quite frankly one of the most stupid articles I’ve ever read. But I want to thank you. I want to thank you because my husband and I are going through our own struggles at the moment, and after reading this article it made me realize that in some point of our lives, we have experienced a few of these problems. We’ve experienced these problems and have TALKED about it. Even though I might not agree with his side of things sometimes, at least I have an understanding of where he’s coming from. And seeing that we always come back together and communicate despite the problems makes me feel stronger about our unity.

    I’m not trying to be a troll. Marriage, love, and commitment is just something that is very important to me, and I’m sure the majority of your audience. Instead of giving them a vision of hope and understanding of their partner, i get an overwhelming feeling of relationship doom in this piece.

    Yes relationships get rocky, yes partners question their spouses from time to time, yes there are heated arguments and harsh words we throw at each other. EVERYONE has rocky moments in a relationship. Part of the reason relationships fail and why these “red flags” start getting worse with time is the lack of communication between partners. And I’m talking about real communication, not arguing, screaming, and pointing fingers at one another. It’s a buildup effect, which you fail to mention in your article. You give a clear exit strategy for a relationship, but no explanations and no resolution to possibly save the marriage. Meanwhile thousands of people come here searching for answers, for hope in the relationship, and then you fill their head with this nonsense instead of giving them strategies to work it out with their partner.

    I’m real sorry about your experience from your ex, but different people have different lives and different situations that result in their problems. Keep that in mind next article you write. Just a suggestion.

  13. sex on July 31, 2018 at 3:12 pm

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