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When to Call it Quits: 6 Red Flags in a Marriage

The decision to get a divorce is never an easy one, but it can be helpful to remember that you are far from the only person that has gone through this situation. According to data from the National Vital Statistics System, nearly 700,000 couples nationwide filed for divorce in 2021 alone—and that excludes data from California, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, and New Mexico, where tens of thousands more couples filed for divorce. 

There are red flags that you need to watch out for that could indicate it is the right time for a divorce. Of course, going through marital problems does not always mean that divorce is the right decision for you and your spouse. Every situation is different. You should not hesitate to seek professional guidance and support. Read on to learn about six of the most common red flags that suggest it may be time to consider ending a marriage. 

6 Red Flags That Spell the End of a Marriage

1. Communication Problems

Positive, open communication helps foster a strong marriage. Most successful relationships are built on a foundational communication strategy that works for them—even if that strategy is not “planned” out, couples need to be able to communicate in a manner they are both comfortable with. 

Communication problems are a major red flag in any marriage. It could suggest the end is coming. It is one of the earliest warning signs of relationship problems. Couples that are not communicating may stop discussing their needs, fears, and dreams, leaving them feeling isolated and unsupported. If communication issues persist and are not addressed, they can create an environment of resentment and mistrust, ultimately causing irreparable damage to the marriage.

2. Lack of Intimacy 

A study cited by the National Library of Medicine cited lack of intimacy as a common causal factor in divorce cases. Intimacy is the emotional and physical closeness between two people. It plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy marriage. Lack of intimacy can, but does not always, mean little to no sexual relations in the marriage. A lack of intimacy can manifest in various ways, including decreased physical touch, emotional detachment, or the outright loss of sexual desire. The decrease in closeness can create feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction, as well as a reduced sense of emotional and physical security. Lack of intimacy is a major red flag for a marriage. It should not be ignored.  

3. Controlling Behavior 

Controlling behavior is a big red flag in a marriage. Spouses should allow each other to flourish. A controlling environment can feel oppressive and stifling for the partner being controlled. The controlling behavior may manifest in different ways, including financial control, emotional manipulation, or excessive jealousy. Further, in the worst cases, the controlling partner may also isolate their spouse from friends and family to maintain power and control. It is a type of behavior that can cross the line and become outright abusive. It is a serious red flag for a marriage.

4. Trust Issues

Lack of trust is a red flag that could indicate the end of a marriage is coming or is even necessary. Trust is the foundation of a successful marriage, and trust issues can severely undermine the stability and happiness of the relationship. Trust issues may arise due to past experiences, insecurities, or actions within the marriage that have broken trust, such as infidelity or dishonesty. When trust is damaged, it can lead to feelings of betrayal, anger, and insecurity, making it difficult for the relationship to recover. Rebuilding trust requires time, effort, and a genuine commitment from both partners. Trust issues that persist and are left unaddressed could lead to irreparable damage to the relationship. 

5. Consistent Arguing or Fighting

No person wants to live in a home environment in which they are constantly arguing or fighting with their spouse. It is not a good situation for either party. It is a red flag that something needs to be done to get the relationship back on track—especially if the frequency and/or intensity of the fighting has increased. While disagreements are a normal part of any relationship, consistent arguing and fighting can be a red flag indicating deeper issues in the marriage. Constant conflict can create a hostile and emotionally draining environment, making it difficult for the couple to find happiness and peace together. These arguments may stem from unresolved issues, differing values, or poor communication skills. If left unchecked, consistent arguing and fighting can erode the love and affection between partners, ultimately leading to the end of the marriage.

6. Domestic Violence

Sadly, domestic violence remains a problem in our society. According to data cited by Safe Horizon, 20% of women and 12% of men report that they have personally experienced severe physical violence at the hands of a spouse or other intimate partner. Alarmingly, the true rate of domestic violence may even be higher. Experts widely believe that spousal abuse is a systemically underreported issue. 

Domestic violence is also a glaring red flag for a marriage. It involves any form of physical, emotional, or psychological abuse within the relationship and poses a significant threat to the victim’s safety and well-being. If domestic violence is present in a marriage, it is crucial to seek help immediately from friends, family, or professional resources to ensure the victim’s safety. Ending the marriage may be the best course of action to protect oneself from further harm.

Every Marriage is Different: Professional Guidance and Support Can Help 

Red flags in a marriage should never be ignored, as they can indicate serious underlying issues. However, a single red flag does not necessarily mean that divorce is imminent. Every marriage is unique, and couples can often work through challenges by addressing the issues head-on. Seeking proactive professional help, such as couples therapy or marriage counseling, can provide guidance and support in navigating these difficulties. A trained professional can help couples identify their specific issues, develop effective communication strategies, and foster a stronger, healthier relationship. Of course, a divorce is absolutely the right option for certain people. If you are preparing to end a marriage, an experienced divorce attorney can help.

Natalie is a writer and researcher who has been supporting the legal industry with her work for years. As the Lead Copyeditor at ONE400, the nation's premier law innovation agency, she's responsible for creating original content and editing articles submitted to the website. She has over five years of professional experience writing and editing across a variety of print and digital platforms. Her work has been featured across a number of legal industry publications and sites.
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