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. But if that is the case, 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
- 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.
- 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).
- Become evasive or stop caring about future plans, whether planning vacations, holidays, home repairs — all now irrelevant because they are out of there.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- You might find strange documents about apartment or relocation offers around your home.
- 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.
- On the flip side, a spouse may turn down a promotion or overtime to lessen their financial responsibility post-breakup.
- 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.
- The aggressive insistence to relocate to be near their extended family.
- 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 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!).
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!
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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 …