With the divorce rate rising on a yearly basis, with more than than half of all marriages ending in divorce, I am often asked about warning signs of divorce that signal a relationship may be heading for failure. Based on the past two decades of work as a family law attorney, and my prior work as a therapist, I believe there are five key signs that a relationship may be headed toward a divorce.
Not Making Your Partner a Priority
You can’t give the best of your day to work, or to your friends, or to your hobbies, and then come home and offer only what you have left to your partner. You need to schedule time to make sure you give your partner some of your A-game. You need to give preference to things that you and your partner enjoy doing alone together, and then make sure you set aside the time to do those things — no matter what. Schedule date nights and weekly intervals when it’s just the two of you. In our busy, post-modern lives, we rely heavily on our calendars for most of our business scheduling. Why not make that calendar work for personal appointments too? Set up reminders to make your partner a priority.
Giving Your Partner The “Eye-Roll” Response
Eye rolling to something your partner suggests or says is one of the worst ways to support him or her and can be a warning sign of divorce. The eye-roll essentially says “I can’t even respond, because what you just said is so ridiculous.”
This condescending gesture tells your partner that what they think or say means nothing to you. There’s no room in relationships for this type of disrespect. If your partner is saying or doing things that embarrass you, then maybe it is time to find a new partner. But, if you want to stay in your current relationship you need to address whatever your partner is doing in a direct and respectful manner. The eye-roll response doesn’t help anybody (and isn’t very attractive either).
Shutting Down Emotionally
I know, men, it is hard not to simply shut down when things get a little rough; your tendency is to avoid. But shutting down is shutting out your partner. By not responding, not making eye contact, or not even engaging, you are telling your partner that they are not worth your time or effort. Over time, repeated shut-downs will completely decimate any trust she has in you to be there for her. Instead, try to at least tell your partner that you are feeling like you are shutting down, and set up a time later that day to talk about things. Prior to that talk, think about why you are shutting down, what you are afraid or embarrassed of, and how to get yourself to a reasonable and calm mindset where you can openly talk about the issue.
Not Being Affectionate
Even if you’ve been together for some time, and even if it was a long day at work, and even if the baby screamed all night last night, it still isn’t an excuse for not being affectionate. Relationships are based, at their core, on shared affection.
Ostensibly, you showed a good measure of affection when you first got together, right? You need to continue showing affection every single day. The need for affection never goes away for any of us; it just gets pushed out of a person’s immediate consciousness by more pressing needs or by taking your partner for granted. Don’t let that happen. Even if you need to schedule affection, or set reminders for yourself to show affection, or pre-purchase sweet cards to keep in your desk drawer with expected dates of use marked on them, make sure you do something regularly to demonstrate your affection.
Of course, people will tell you that if you need to set reminders or schedule affection, then it isn’t true or even romantic. But, positive habitual and repetitive behavior (like surprising him with a new kind of wine, or her with flowers for no special reason can, over time, become the ordinary; natural).
If you set a certain protocol for yourself, you’ll soon find you don’t need those reminders anymore. Affection and gestures thereof will become the norm. Don’t let a lack of affection be the cause of your divorce.
Lying About Anything
Trying to remain in a relationship with a liar only leads to continued frustration, shame, and lost hope. Lying, even about seemingly insignificant things (like why you’re late in getting home for dinner), leads to loss of trust and is a clear warning sign of divorce. Without trust between two people, a once intimate relationship becomes doomed. If you are lying about little things, you should probably address, head on, whatever it is you are trying to hide so you won’t need to lie about it anymore. However, if you are lying about big things (attraction, sex, cheating, money), then you are in the wrong relationship, and your lying is only serving to delay the obvious result, divorce!
Avoid the Warning Signs of Divorce, Enjoy Doing Everything with One Another
Fortunately, if couples just plain like being together, they will be mindful of the above listed pitfalls and avoid them. A person should want to be with his or her significant other because they not only enjoy being with him or her, but because they feel respected and honored. Yes, there are people who get into relationships for security, for emotional reasons, or for financial reasons, but those marriages are also at risk in the face of the above five indicators. One of the most important aspects that holds a marriage together is that they truly enjoy doing nearly everything, and even nothing together. But, they also need a joint value system — one they both will honor. If not, it is going to be tough to stay together for any length of time.