Potential Causes For Divorce: How To Know When To Move On

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated July 26, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Free, private support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Marriage is a complex agreement between two people that can come with unique struggles. Many marriages experience conflict sometimes, but opportunities can arise to help individuals repair the damage and move forward. However, in some cases, there may be signs that continuing the relationship wouldn't be possible or healthy. 

If you believe you've put every effort into keeping your marriage together and it's not getting better, it might benefit you to investigate whether you want to end the relationship. It may also be helpful to note that each marriage is unique, and several factors can contribute to how spouses interact. Those complexities can be considered when weighing whether to work through the challenges or move on.  

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The Aftermath Of A Divorce Can Be Complicated—You're Not Alone

Factors That May Indicate The Benefit Of Moving On 

Several factors can go into the decision to end a marriage. For many people, marriage is a significant and serious union. Choosing to end the relationship can be a complex and long-term process. However, if you're experiencing the following, you might find that ending the marriage is the healthiest option. 

The Relationship Has Become Abusive

Many people have heard of physical abuse and may not know that their relationship is abusive due to the lack of social education on other types of abuse, such as verbal, emotional, sexual, financial, and psychological forms. 

Physical abuse can leave visible signs of violent behavior, which might be easier for others to recognize. However, all abuse is dangerous, harmful, and unhealthy within any relationship. If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, take immediate action. If you are experiencing physical abuse, remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible, and reach out for assistance from the hotline below. 

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

Infidelity Has Occurred 

Unfaithfulness in a marriage can be challenging to overcome. When one spouse cheats, the trust in a marriage may be lost. Even if the unfaithful individual says they will stop cheating and work to regain their partner's trust, it could be difficult for their partner to trust that they're telling the truth. 

Some couples try to salvage a marriage after a partner is unfaithful. However, it may take substantial work for both spouses to rebuild trust in these cases. Rebuilding trust may involve a willingness of both parties to make complex behavioral changes. Without these changes, the marriage could continue in an unhealthy pattern. If a marriage is not improving after infidelity, your marriage might benefit from couples therapy or a serious discussion about breaking up.

You Constantly Argue 

It can be normal for couples to have disagreements from time to time. However, if you argue daily or multiple times a day, it might indicate incompatibility. Compromise can be a healthy part of relationships where two parties struggle to agree. Both partners may benefit from making a healthy sacrifice at times or knowing when to let a topic go. It might indicate difficulty with emotional expression or vulnerability if you struggle to let go or return to your love for each other during arguments. 

If you argue about topics on which you cannot compromise, such as mismatching views about having children or whether the relationship should be monogamous, you and your partner might not be able to come to an agreement. 

For example, if you are strictly confident you do not want children and your partner wants a large family, you might both choose to split to ensure each person can find a life partner with who, they can share their future desires. Although this decision can be difficult, frequent arguments can cause stress and cause you to stay in an unhappy marriage longer than you hoped. Such entrenched disagreements on highly important topics to one, or both, of you do not have to result in frequent arguments to deserve serious consideration about the wisdom in remaining together.

You Lack Respect For Each Other 

Marriages can thrive on love, but both partners may struggle to connect intimately if respect is not present. If you and your spouse don't respect each other, you could struggle to move forward, constantly question each other, or have arguments about control. You may also find that the bulk of your communications become based on criticism. These behaviors may cause both people to put up walls and feel disrespected. 

If your spouse perceives that you don't respect them, it may hurt their self-esteem or cause them to want to seek respect elsewhere. For example, they might spend more time at work instead of trying to spend time with you. In some cases, spouses might look for another person to fill their needs. While a lack of respect for a spouse isn't an appropriate excuse for cheating, it may be a motive. Discussing respect in therapy may be beneficial for couples experiencing this challenge.

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Parents Or In-Laws Interfere With Your Marriage 

You may love your parents significantly. However, if they rank higher on your list than your spouse, it might cause conflict in a marriage. 

There are several reasons why parents may interfere in their child's marriage. If your spouse relies heavily on their parents' advice and won't decide without involving them, it could be a sign that they don't respect your values and opinions. It may also be difficult for you to come together as a couple and develop your own family if your spouse struggles to set boundaries with their parents.

If you try to talk to your partner about the situation and they're unresponsive, you may be left with a difficult decision. In some cases, family therapy with all parties present could benefit the relationship. In others, the couple might decide that their values do not align. 

How To Proceed If You Don't Want The Relationship To End 

Recognizing the signs that a relationship might benefit from ending may not mean you have to divorce. Many spouses choose to try the following techniques to rekindle their connection or repair damage in the relationship. However, the exception to this rule is abuse. If you are experiencing abuse, call the hotline above or contact a mental health professional from a safe location.   

Work On Forgiveness

Forgiveness may be beneficial if you plan to stay with your partner. There might be times when you each negatively impact the other. If you or your partner is in the wrong, apologizing can be beneficial. If your marriage is struggling and you want it to work out, take responsibility for what you've done to contribute to strife within the marriage. 

It could also help you to learn how to forgive your spouse when they unintentionally cause hurt or make a mistake. If you forgive your spouse, let them know. It may help them hear that you're trying to understand their motives and move forward without them prompting you. 

Note that forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean restoration or forgetfulness. For example, if you or your spouse has broken trust in your relationship, you may forgive each other but still have work to do to repair what occurred. 

Focus On Reconnecting

Sometimes couples sense that they have grown apart but still love each other. This perception might be a sign that reconnecting with each other through new and exciting activities could be an ingredient to rekindling your love. Spend time together and work on improving your communication. If you've tried this step multiple times without results, you might also consider talking to a marriage and family therapist. 

The Aftermath Of A Divorce Can Be Complicated—You're Not Alone

Connect With A Marriage Counselor 

Many couples seek couples therapy as a step in repairing their marriage. A therapist may help you and your partner discover the root of conflict in your marriage and work together to overcome the obstacles. If it's a source of difficulty, marriage counseling may also help you reconnect with each other intimately. 

Deciding your marriage is over can help you figure out a plan before jumping into action, as divorce can be complex. In these situations, talking to a therapist could support you and your partner in planning for divorce, developing ideas to respect each other, and discussing potentially emotional topics like custody of children or pets. Many couples also choose to hire a therapist to speak with their children during their separation, as children may be especially sensitive to divorce.

Consider Alternative Forms Of Treatment 

Although some couples benefit from face-to-face marriage counseling, some might not have the time or energy to do so. In addition, if you and your partner are separated or not on favorable terms, you might not want to spend time in the same room as them. In this case, online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples could be advantageous.  

Many couples choose online therapy during challenging times like divorce because of its convenience, affordability, and effectiveness. With online therapy, you can speak to a therapist anywhere with an internet connection at a time that works for you. If you and your partner cannot attend therapy side by side, you can connect to your couples therapy session from separate rooms, homes, or locations worldwide.  


You're not alone if you're considering divorce. This decision is often not taken lightly and might take several conversations to understand fully. If you're struggling to make a decision or want to continue to work through challenges with your partner, therapy is a compassionate resource available to you, and talking to a therapist might help you both communicate more effectively to come to a resolution.

Marriage can come with complex challenges

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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