When is My Marriage Over? And When is it Not?

Many people give up too soon on their marriages, believing them to be over when they are not. There are only 2 situations that signal your marriage is over.

marriage feels over because of emotional distance
Emotional distance, lack of intimacy, and even affairs don’t signal the end of a marriage.

Most of the people I help to reconcile have spouses who at first said, “It’s over.” What this really means is, “the way I think and feel right now is that I do not want to continue my relationship with you.”  But feelings and thinking can both change. If you are willing to use a rebuilding approach rather than a convincing approach, you can help your spouse to want to be with you again.  

Two reasons people needlessly give up on reconciling

Convincing brings resistance, like you would have with an unwanted sales call. Keep trying that, and you will end up convincing yourself to give up. And, if you just taking his or words of “being done” at face value, you will give up.  Learning how to rebuild for each kind of situation is your first step–not convincing, arguing, pleading, or promising to change.  There are only two situations when you can really consider your relationship to be over.

The two situations that are clear indications that your marriage is over

When you and your spouse have no more contact with each other.  If you don’t live together and your spouse avoids all contact, then it really isn’t possible to rebuild your marriage. Relationships require some contact in order to have the chance to start to re attract (not convince) your spouse.

When your spouse is in a committed relationship with someone else. Although you may think that if your spouse is having an affair, he/she is committed to someone else. That really can’t be determined until your spouse is put in a position to decide between the two of you. Asking about commitment won’t help. You can see commitment for yourself if your spouse is living with a lover, having their baby, or preparing to marry another. It is time to let go in these situations.

Don’t give up just because a divorce lawyer says there is no hope

This is a common problem motivated by lawyers desire for more clients. Common things they say that are NOT TRUE regarding when to give up on your marriage:

  • you fight a lot
  • you are critical of each other
  • you are not happy in your marriage any more
  • your spouse is having an affair
  • you are separated
  • your spouse has a substance abuse problem
  • your spouse has a mental illness
  • you are blamed a lot
  • you disagree on how to parent
  • you no longer have sex with each other
  • your spouse wants a divorce
  • you have become “incompatible”

If people followed this advice, then everyone would need a divorce lawyer at some point in their marriage! The truth is that with the proper use of boundaries and restoration of emotional connection, your marriage can be good again.

It’s not time to give up just because your spouse wants to divorce

Many people assume their relationship is over at this point.  But, there have been many, many, couples that have rebuilt after this point, while some others have gone on to divorce.  It does not matter whether your spouse says this in the heat of an argument, or carefully and deliberately when things are calm.  Of course, either one will eventually lead to a divorce if you don’t handle it right.

If your spouse has threatened divorce, always take it seriously. It is a clear warning sign that your marriage will eventually end if changes are not made. Even if your spouse doesn’t say anything about divorce, if you find yourself thinking about it, there is a good chance that your spouse feels that way too. Act on that feeling–to make things better–before you get surprised by your spouse leaving you.

Responding to a spouse intent on a divorce

How you respond to this will make all the difference for staying married.  Usually, the person who says this has thought about this a long time and feels certain about his or her decision.  Attempting to change your spouse’s mind through reasoning, crying, or begging is just going to lose you respect.  But, if you are willing to not oppose (not the same as agreeing) your spouse while you also work on building connection, the marriage can often be saved.  (For specific examples on what to say, see my book, Connecting Through “Yes!”).

The key thing to remember is that although your partner is sincere when he/she says the it’s over, he/she was also sincere when you first got married.  Sincerity is an honest expression of how we feel right now.  And although we believe that things could not change in the future, in fact they can. The route to getting your spouse to recommit to your relationship is not convincing, but helping him or her to feel attached and attracted to you again.  That will require you to use good connection skills even while cooperating with a divorce, if necessary.

This is not the time to try to get your spouse to go to marriage counseling as that is only helpful when both partners want to improve their relationship.  Working with a relationship coach can help you to be attractive and to use good connection skills to rebuild your relationship–even without your spouse’s cooperation.  I have been doing that with people for more than 20 years now.  My main focus is to help my clients’ spouses to fall in love with them again.

An affair doesn’t mean the end of your marriage either

Affairs are much more common than you think.  People who have affairs are usually not trying to give up their spouse.  They are trying to get something that they feel is missing for them.  If couples are willing to look at the conditions and decisions that led up to the affair, the marriage can be improved, repentance and forgiveness can occur for both husband and wife, and the marriage can become stronger than before.

Reconciling entails confrontation, good boundaries, open communication, and the rebuilding of trust.  The chances of rebuilding your marriage following an affair are much better if you work with a relationship coach.  The main reason for this is that you will need to create a better connection to your spouse than the affair partner has. Trying to acquire those skills on your own can take more time than you have. All of these skills are included in the ending a spouse’s affair coaching package.

You can even turn things around with an abusive spouse

The chance of saving your marriage with an abusive husband or wife is directly related to your willingness to learn to keep yourself safe (physically and emotionally), to learn to set good marriage boundaries, and to no longer be needy. That is, as long as you willingly participate in being a victim, your marriage only has the potential for more damage.

If you learn how to not be a victim any more (zero tolerance for emotional or physical abuse), without seeing your spouse as evil, then your relationship will be tense at first and then get better. If there is a high degree of physical risk, then the relationship is best ended, but only with the help of a professional. Local counselors and shelters will have more of the resources you need.

Verbal and emotional abuse can be dealt with in coaching.  It does not help your spouse in any way to allow him or her to emotionally abuse you. Ending the abuse will actually make your relationship better–for the both of you. My clients learn to be loving and to have good boundaries and that is what you must do to save your relationship. Withdrawing or abusing back would never accomplish that.

Other situations

Unless one of those two conditions are present to signal the point of no return for your relationship, there are ways that we can turn an emotionally distant relationship into a happy marriage again.

There is no reason to toss and turn all night wondering what to do when you can learn specifically what to do with re-connections coaching. Be careful not to use the services of people who want to assess you and your partner for “compatibility.” Compatibility, like love is a product of our choices.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you can’t do anything if your spouse refuses to work on the relationship. What you do affects how your spouse feels about you. That’s how you got to where you are now. And, you can go back in the other direction.

Want to reconcile, but your spouse doesn't? Relationship saving coaching packages for you.