Is your spouse distant? Depressed? Worried they are having an affair? Couples counseling may be the answer. But maybe your husband is ready to leave you.
Online couples and individual counseling with BetterHelp starts at $40/week for unlimited phone, text, email or video sessions. Choose from thousands of certified and licensed therapists, and get a free one-week therapy trial, immediately >>
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 husband says he’s done
- What to do when you know he wants to leave
- How do I know I'm ready for divorce?
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.
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.
Rocket Lawyers's online directory of attorneys by zip code is a good place to start.
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 checking account and also an online savings account in your name only. Make sure you have life insurance policies for both of you, as well as estate plans.
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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 Credit Sesame!
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.
What to do now: Read Should you keep your house in the divorce?
11. Refusal of a stay-at-home parent to get a job, or a lesser-earning spouse to take a higher-paying position
They 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.
What to do now: 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. 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 husband says he’s done
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.
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.
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.
What to do when a husband wants a divorce — and you don't
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 a non-contested 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. I like CompleteCase, because they provide all of the papers you need for your state, and the $299 flat fee includes unlimited document creation, and filing instructions for your state. Best of both worlds, and for a very good price. Check out CompleteCase now >>
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.
What to do and say when a wife 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 my popular post, 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!
How do I know I'm ready 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 mind — and even if you could get him to stay, that rarely works out long-term.
- Marriage breakdown that he refuses to address or work on. It's over!
Other reasons are more subjective and personal. Here are some typical reasons you may be ready for divorce:
- You are ready for divorce if you no longer respect him as a person, and have not for a while.
- 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.
- 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'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.
Should I leave my husband / wife?
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.
- 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.
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.
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 $40/week for unlimited counseling, with a free 7-day trial. BetterHelp also offers couples counseling.
Learn more about BetterHelp online therapy from my review.
Prepare for divorce
Whether you are initiating the breakup, have been served divorce papers, worried your husband or wife is ready to file for divorce, or have mutually agreed to a separation, it is important to prepare yourself mentally and financially.
While the world tells you that single motherhood is the worst thing that can happen to women, many of us find it liberating and empowering — whether for a short time or the rest of our lives. Read more about my experience, as well as dozens of other single moms in 31 reasons single motherhood is AWESOME.
Part of this experience is the ability to date in new and exciting ways — and have sex with any other consenting adult!
Moms also report the freedom that comes with purging and selling old items (his ugly-ass furniture, sell the engagement ring for $$,) decorating and owning a home all of your own, and keeping your house as tidy or messy as you like.
Also, start preparing yourself for what it will look like to co-parent with your soon-to-be-ex. Starting off the divorce process with integrity, a sense of fairness and peace establishes a precedent for positive, healthy co-parenting for the rest of your life — which is good for all parties involved.
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 is an award-winning business journalist, noted blogger, and bestselling author. 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.