How Do You Know When It’s The Right Time To Divorce?

Marriages don’t usually just take a nosedive into the ground. It’s not like you hear a general alarm that a warp-core breatch is in progress and can’t be stopped, everything is about to explode and all you can do is get off the ship as fast as possible. When things are rough, there’s a roller-coaster of good days and bad days. Yesterday might have been good, but today is bad. You don’t know if tomorrow is going to be good or bad. It’s all so exhausting. Hence me getting the question quite often…

“How do you know when it’s the right time to divorce?”

The answer to that is quite simple. You’ll just know. Which of course sounds like a completely cop out answer at best, and airy-fairy nonsense suitable for a Lifetime channel movie at worst. It is however the truth.

There will come a point where you have what can only be described as something akin to a deconversion experience. You felt X, now you feel Y. They will do something, very likely something fairly minor and trivial, but you will experience an emotional change like you just went down the first drop on a roller-coaster.The final straw. This is your Body Agenda deciding enough is enough and rejecting them as a partner. Your dopamine and oxytocin/vasopressin production related to your spouse will switch off and you won’t love them anymore.

Your thoughts will run along the lines of, “Now I realize the last six months have been a pointless waste of effort. I should have filed for divorce six months ago.”

Now you may stay in the relationship, for whatever reasons you have to do so, but they will be practical reasons unrelated to wanting to be with your spouse. Once you’ve crossed this threshold, it’s really over. You aren’t going to want to have sex with them again, save for base ejaculation needs.

It is remarkably rare that those feelings would ever start up again. So plan accordingly. Likewise if your spouse has completely switched off on you, it’s unlikely that they return either.

But until you or they reach that threshold, things are bad, but they are merely bad. By which I mean, there’s still hope. Even on a bad bad day, there can still be hope. Keep trying until the end.

By which I mean you should be taking action.



  1. horseman says:

    seems like the situation flipper was in the other night.
    another sign is you are runnimg the map and the SO actually notices and starts losing weight or dressing better or whatever and you notice AND DONT CARE. its really interesting when it happens.
    specially when they finally offer the holy grail…sex…and you honestly think neh signfield is on.
    at that point its done. many of us stay for kids etc. but it is done and irretrievable.
    interestiny after that things get a lot calmer.
    both swns there is only ONE fight left and no one wants to bring it on.

  2. One of the things that I was going to write a long blog post on – and declined – was “how you treat someone on the way out.”

    (1) Your partner’s declining interest is your fault, in most cases. It’s not hers.

    (2) The self indulgent bullshit I hear from men piss me off. They feel like they are getting screwed on Child Support. Nopes. A man provides (see video if the embed takes). That’s a job of a man. To provide. To make a living and a life and to bear the burden without self aggrandizement or bragging.

    (3) I’ve oscillated on this issue a fair amount. The actual divorce. Kids are in fact a factor. It’s not “stay miserable for the kids,” it’s “focus on the kids because it’s right.” Don’t pat yourself on the back for baseline authoriry. Create tranquility, not friction.

    (4) It helped when I behaved as if my spouse was on rails, driven by a conductor. She can’t help herself. Nothing to get emotoinal about.

    (5) Respect. Giving it and expecting it changed the course of our marriage. YMMV.

  3. Richard Cook says:

    cj sounds like she is so full of shit she carries the charmin with her. have of hot steaming cup of stfu.

  4. Today was the last straw.

    Two years ago, she was blaming me for a problem she created that I couldn’t fix. Stirring up the kids to blame me, too. I asked myself, “Do I really need this sh!t?”

    One year ago, I give her the “I’m your husband, but I have become indifferent to your self-created unhappiness” speech. No change in her trajectory.

    Shortly thereafter, discover this blog and begin applying the MMSL piecemeal. After a few weeks, she notices. But no change in trajectory.

    Eight months ago, a major blow-up. For the first time, I spell out my dissatisfaction with her behavior. Chapter and verse. Like a gust of wind causing the football to wobble in flight, the trajectory alters briefly. Then her Hamster applies course correction. Resume trajectory.

    Last month I rent an apartment and tell her I am moving out.

    Shock. Anger. Tears. Apologies. “Give me one more chance!”

    Marriage counseling. Abundant physical affection. And probing the boundaries.

    Today we are talking and she asks me a question that clearly indicates she heard a private phone conversation I had with my oldest friend. She pulls out a digital recorder and explains that she planted it in my car because she, “had to know what I was saying about us.”

    For the first time in my life, I get tunnel-vision. Blackness fills the periphery of my sight. I see her face, without remorse or embarrassment, like I’m looking thru a pin hole. I fight to calm myself. I pocket the recorder and tell her I will turn it over to my attorney. She is currently on probation for shoplifting and recording a conversation to which you are not a party is a felony in this state.

    As I walk to my car, the reality of my words penetrates her shell of self-righteousness. She chases and tries to tackle me, grabbing for the recorder, eventually tearing the pocket off my pants. She runs away with the recorder, madly pushing the “Erase” button.

    She is nucking futs.

    I didn’t quit the marriage today. Rather, today I admitted defeat. MAP can’t fix crazy.

  5. horseman says:

    I agree to a large extent. in our case we jusr were wrong for each other for a lot of reasons.
    it was over a long time ago but we both feel our job as parents is number one. we are civil even pleasant to each other and do our best foor the kids but as far as our relationship its done.
    being selfish is wrong and many use the excuse of disinterest to be a jerk jn both siides.
    if you know its over but need to stay for various reasons then respect and grace is what both partners deserve.
    it takes a strong person to put the needs of others ahead of their own. i respect my SO and would not want to hurt them its just not a romance relationship.
    leaving with grace is the best legacy one can do.

  6. Anonymous age 70 says:

    >>The self indulgent bullshit I hear from men piss me off. They feel like they are getting screwed on Child Support.

    That is fair enough, because this comment likewise pisses me off. Men out there have orders for c/s greater than their gross income. Not to mention men being thrown in jail when they lose their jobs. So, they are just supposed to smile and say, “Hey, it’s my job, because I am a manly man?”

  7. I actually did have a rather explosive end to my marriage … after being on the kiddie roller coaster for 10 years and the big one for one. But instead of leveling out after the last big 360 degree loop and drop, the drop kept going, and going …

    I knew the end was in sight when his rationalization hamster said he was cheating on me because I didn’t “adore” him. He wasn’t running the MAP, he wasn’t paying attention to me or to sexing up our marriage, he just checked out — and blamed me for making the relationship sexless.

  8. The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

    If you can look over at your spouse sleeping and ask yourself how you would feel if he/she was banging someone else, and answer your question with, “I really wouldn’t care,” then you are ready for divorce.

    And with regards to CJ’s post freaking out about loveless marriages that end, it is not always the guy’s fault. Quite a few women marry men they are not in love with, but they sure are in love with the idea of having kids with someone else footing the bill. Sex is for procreation, not recreation!, and they quite frankly are really pushing their luck in drip-feeding love & affection and being mean & bossy. A con is a con, despite however many years she is able to string him along. Eventually he’s going to find someone better.

    And this is 2012, not 1962. Children are not free, so you’re really gambling if you assume that you are magically immune to death, divorce & desertion and are not fiscally responsible for them. That female family court judge won’t buy your excuses for one second, so just get a job, because she’s going to order you to get one anyway.

  9. horseman says:

    run do not walk to the closest attorney. nuts is right. its beyond done.
    have you been spying on my marriage. she is SAHM with kids 16+. her mom never worked. she thimls she doesnt have to eiter although we are circling the drain. no threats pleas etc will get her past the unconditional love. rationalization hampster plus family reinforcement. i however am no ward cleaver. plentu of others out there. once kids in uni then gone.
    any SAHM without an after kids plan is riding the ragged edge. if he doesnt need you for kids any more he aure as hell better need you for something.

  10. “The answer to that is quite simple. You’ll just know.”

    Not quite that simple. Lots of times one party doesn’t “know” till they
    are handed the divorce papers.

    And as for CJ…….if they gave her a good enema they could bury her in a matchbox.

  11. Funny that Dan, Jay, Z etc think I’m female.

    The best part of life is that men call the shots. If a marriage fails, the man can damn near always change it and save it.

    It’s not a negotiation/beg, it’s simply informing the female how things will be.

  12. Random Angeleno says:

    @cj: informing the female doesn’t always work. men cannot “damn near always change it and save it” just like that. Many marriages are unsaveable. And it isn’t always the man’s fault that is so.

    I put up with a lot of crap conduct from the wife, then there was the straw that got me thinking seriously about divorce, then the following month another straw that pushed, nay, goaded me into taking action. Then there was yet another straw: I went into “that’s it, I won’t reconsider” mode and clammed up until I was good and ready to go. When I finally dropped the hammer on her, she didn’t have a clue how deeply she had alienated me even after I reminded her that I had delivered several warnings to her over the previous year. It’s been several years, she now knows she has to treat me with respect if she wants to have a conversation with me, otherwise I will hang up on her. I suppose it’s possible I could have saved the marriage had I known about how to act like a proper captain and been able to run the MAP on her. Of course I’ll never know as I’m not the least bit inclined to give her another chance. But if I knew then what I know now, I never would have married her in the first place.

  13. To CJ……you have offered up no evidence to contradict the assumption that
    you are female…and you certainly talk like you have two XX chromosomes.

  14. Horseman,

    Started with an attorney before I moved out. Told him to go slow while I tried to “work it out”.

    Emailed him after the incident, told him to make all due haste.

    Thanks, Bill

  15. Panther34 says:

    Agreed that not all marriages can be saved. I worked the MAP seriously for months, only to continually hear ILYBINILWY. Too many years of Nice Guy Syndrome-induced neglect and there may be no coming back from it. As hard as I fought, though, now that I’m out and have some distance and perspective, it would take a major change of heart in my wife to bring me back in, and that ain’t happening.

    So now I can report that running the MAP, going to counseling, and generally working on Stuff may not save your marriage but certainly prepares you well to be a desired commodity in the SMP after leaving.

    CJ’s orig post indicated he was a guy. Good grief.

  16. If a marriage fails, the man can damn near always change it and save it.

    Please…there is nothing anyone can do to save a marriage if the other person wants out. A marriage can only work if BOTH people are committed to making it work. That statement just perpetuates the obnoxious idea that if a man leaves his wife he’s a jerk, but if a woman leaves her husband he must have been a jerk.

    Anyway, I thought the book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay did a good job of addressing the stay vs. go decision. The author presents a series of questions and makes suggestions based on her experience with her clients on whether or not you’d be happier in the relationship or moving on depending on how you answered.

    Some people have criticized it as being biased towards breaking up relationships, but in my case I came to conclusion that I would have been happier trying to save the relationship. But when I answered from my wife’s perspective, I came the realization that she had already ended the relationship but either hadn’t realized it herself or was waiting for something else to happen before filing for divorce.

    A little background info might help explain that. The short version is that my wife told me that she wanted a separation, was in a committed relationship with another guy, wasn’t ready to divorce me, and held out the possibility that we’d get back together again at some unknown point in the future. I think we were both meeting different needs so she didn’t want to get rid of either of us, but I could be wrong.

    The question in the book that stood out to me was “Have you committed to a course of action that definitely excludes your spouse?”

    For example, if you’re just having an affair and trying to keep it secret, the answer might be “no,” but if you in a relationship with someone else and making no effort to keep it secret, then the answer is more likely “yes.” In my wife’s case, the answer was “yes,” but for whatever reason she wasn’t ready to pull the plug on the marriage, so it was up to me to file even though I really didn’t want to do it.

    Now that I think about it, my situation sounds similar to the guy in Athol’s “What to do when you’re torn between wife and girlfriend” post…

  17. That “straw that broke the camels back” for me was when she threw boiling water in my face.

  18. @CJ:

    Just because there are irresponsible men who use the outdated state of child support laws as an excuse to feel victimized for being in a situation that they put themselves in through their own irresponsibility, does not mean that the child support laws are not outdated.

    This varies depending on what the laws are like and the way judges tend to interpret them where you are, of course, but in many places, child support laws are still written in a way that assumes that it’s the norm for the man to be sole financial provider for the household. Not only is that no longer the norm in most places, it’s flat impossible for couples at most income levels to have one partner’s income cover the lion’s share of expenses for the both partners and children. Blame it on feminism or the recession or whatever you want, that’s simply the economic reality now and it doesn’t look to change any time soon.

    A man SHOULD be a provider in the sense that he should contribute his fair share, but there’s nothing written into our DNA that demands he be the SOLE provider regardless of the external circumstances that determine to what extent that’s possible for him. Unfortunately the legal machinery in most places hasn’t quite caught up to that economic fact.

  19. I agree that it is when indifference sets in. When you just don’t care anymore it is time. I have seen the thousand yard stare in marriages before. My friend’s wife said “my give-a-damn is almost gone”. Nice way to put it.

  20. @Horseman: SAHMs are definitely going to cling to the hubby long after the love is gone for the simple reason that they are financially fucked. No job skills, no education, no work history makes them pretty much unhireable. They are terrified of divorce, and on top of that, they would be a new threat to all the married moms, because a single or divorced mom is OF COURSE going to be furiously husband hunting! She is not to be trusted around their (supposedly) devoted & faithful husbands, and will now be the target of their gossip instead of a groupie participant of it.

    I think it is definitely worse for the women who were virgins beforehand and who went straight from living with mommy & daddy to living with their husbands. She is nothing but an insecure, inexperienced teenager. Faithful to the death, sure, but basically a desperate mess.

    With regards to your situation, Horseman, she has gotten away with her con because you have let her. Your actions (staying) have proven that you will tolerate whatever she does or says.

    P.S. I hope you’re not putting any money into your retirement account at this point: she’ll get half. A safer way to stash cash is to open a safe deposit box in a different bank and just stuff it. It won’t earn any interest, but she’ll never know about it, so it’s 100% yours.

  21. Or when she is having an emotional affair, and you’re ready to give her away at the wedding, just like your daughters. ( I feel like a single dad with 3 daughters and no wife.)

  22. Jaz,

    I would rather my wife divorce me than stick with me when she doesn’t care about me but has not other options. I feel sorry for the men that hang in there hoping one day things will change for the better. If you don’t want me, dump me please! I deserve better than that and so does she.

  23. horseman says:

    initially i was to blame then found mmsl amd ran the map. slight deviations but nothing. came to ultimatum and she didnt want to change.
    left in the choice of raise my kids in poverty or wait it out. she knows she is on borrowed time.bit isin denile clinging to a cinderella complex. she stopped the shit tests but no romance or hand holding etc. so i want my kids to have a good start so im waiting for two years until the youngest goes to universty.
    p.s. im a nursing manager making 80k a year. already i have to fight off interest from women at work. so im just saving up for allimony and getting ready to go.
    as someone said i have one son and two daughters. and funny thimg is i really dont care any more.

  24. horseman says:

    some of us have no choice. we stay for kids or finances but we are not dillusional
    we know its done we just have to share a house as platonic roommates. in Canada alimony os 2% per year so do the math for 20 years. then child support is 850 per month per child. amd that is the family law guidelines in statute. sooooid have about a dollar fifty left after payments.

  25. I know of marriages that have come back from the dead, where at least one spouse felt nothing at all for the other. It can happen. Takes a miracle, though.

  26. “I would rather my wife divorce me than stick with me when she doesn’t care about me but has not other options.”–Needy

    Well, Needy, that’s the whole problem, isn’t it? He’s too much of a coward to file for divorce, too, so they both just waste their precious lives in a loveless marriage. Frog in the boiling water syndrome.

    However, Athol’s MAP is supposed to build the emotional stength and confidence level to the point where a guy’s balls untuck and start growing. If she were an employee at your company, wouldn’t she eventually be fired for just showing up but playing solitare all day? Wouldn’t your other productive employees sneer and make fun of you for not being a take-charge boss who just ignores the problem because he’s too scared to confront her, give her a warning, and then fix it?

  27. some guy says:

    @Jon: Yes! “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay” is a great book! I used it in my first marriage (divorced), my second marriage (still together, thanks to Athol’s MAP!), and have given it to quite a few friends in similar situations. Also highly recommend anything by Dr John Gottman. His work is actually quite complementary to MAP, perfect for any couple that really is trying but just can’t make any progress due to communication issues.

  28. SentWest says:

    I keep reading the staying together “for the kids” statement over and over, and I’d like to offer an alternative perspective as a child of parent who stayed together “for the kid.” In fact my dad moved out the same week I left for college.

    My folks spent seven miserable years together after they both decided it was over, in the name of doing something for me. There wasn’t any yelling or screaming or cheating or foolishness, but I damn sure knew something was wrong. It was like living in an iceberg, with the two most important people in my life barely able to stand each other. In the years where I was learning what romantic relationships should be like I was only exposed to a robotic facsimile of a marriage. It was like eating dinner with a rotting corpse at the table every night, and everyone insisting it was both alive and having a wonderful time. Eventually I did start to believe that I was crazy and that this was how things were supposed to be.

    So please, when considering staying together “for the children” just take into account that your decaying relationship, even if it’s not openly contentious, is likely not doing them any favors. Seriously, just rip off the band aid and get divorced. It will hurt everyone less in the long run.

  29. @SentWest: Thanks for an eye-opening post. So many adults act like their kids are too stupid to know what’s going on, and also mistakenly think that the kids enjoy living in a home where they have to walk on eggshells or hide in their rooms. One of my friends actually ripped a page out of the Yellow Page’s divorce attorneys section and stuck it on the fridge with a magnet. Get a clue, parents. Don’t hide behind your kids as an excuse for what it really is: cowardice to divorce.

  30. horseman says:

    my kids are quite talks to athol. but alimony would cost them their college payment. its not cowardice its pure finance. we barely scrap by one one salary on one household. a 20 year sahm with no job skills so divorce means two households on my existing salary = drastically reduced standard of living for everyone. if i could afford it i would be gone tomorrow and everyone including kods know it.

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