When a marriage ends, there isn't usually one thing that does it. Usually it's a long time in coming. Years and years of problems finally come to a head, and the couple ultimately decides to call it quits.
But what are the signs you have reached that point of no return?
"People are often under the misconception that if their relationship is really 'right,' it should not feel difficult or challenging," says Elizabeth Sullivan, a marriage and family therapist based in San Francisco. "This is not true. Difficult feelings or a period of stuckness do not mean your marriage is over."
Anyone who has been married for any amount of time knows that. There are good days and bad days. Eventually there are good years and bad years.
But when can we be sure that our relationship is really and truly beyond saving? How do we know when to cut our losses and call our lawyers? Here are 5 signs a marriage is really over:
1.) Negativity overwhelms in the marriage: We have all had those moments when we wonder whether we're having more good times or bad in our marriages. But if you're wondering, it's probably not an issue. When it's bad, it's obvious.
"There need to be five positive interactions for each negative interaction to re-balance a relationship," says Carrie Krawiec, a marriage and family therapist from Michigan. Ask yourself what your ratio is. If it's not 5:1, it might be time to start talking about a split.
2.) There is infidelity with no remorse: Cheating can be overcome. YES IT CAN. But it takes work and apologies and love and compassion. If the cheater isn't sorry, the marriage isn't worth saving. Accept it and move on.
"If there is unwillingness by one or both parties to take responsibility, seek forgiveness, or change maladaptive behaviors, it's a tell-tale sign a marriage is over," says Krawiec.
3.) You no longer touch each other ... ever: This is not necessarily about sex (although that's important, too). This is about those other moments. The hugs. The hand-holding. The cuddles after the kids are in bed. When those end, it's a bad sign. A very bad sign.
"Touch is extremely intimate and necessary," says Laura Campbell, a relationship expert and divorce strategist who helps people end their marriages in a more productive way. "This is a way for us to communicate sensually and connect in a deep and profound way. ... We sometimes forget to just touch without any other expected outcome."
4.) You feel no desire to share your life and truth with your spouse: One of the best parts of being married is being with someone who always has your back. When that's lost, everything else is too. If you have a major story to tell and the first person you want to share it with ISN'T your spouse, it's a big red flag.
"Sharing with each other, particularly allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with each other, is a way to deepen and strengthen our relationships," says Campbell.
It's also a reason some people cheat.
"I often hear from individuals having affairs how nice it is to have someone to talk to who is interested in hearing more about who they are and what they want," she says.
5.) There is addiction: Being with a drug addict or alcoholic is a nightmare. Ask anyone who has been there. I have. I can remember watching each glass of beer and adding them up. Every night. Five, six, seven, eight. He slipped further and further from the man I knew. We broke up (thank God) well before children were involved or we were married, but it was hell. Destructive behavior like that is a HUGE sign that the end is nigh.
"When alcohol or drugs become the 'relationship,' and it is more of a priority to be doing that than to be spending time with the spouse, it's over," says Lisa Behar, a marriage and family therapist in California. "Many see the relationship with the drug of choice as a real relationship, and at times the spouse can literally feel cheated on."
This is one time where most experts agree you should run as fast as you can.
Of course, all this comes with one major caveat: "No couples with children should get divorced without at least one year of couples therapy," says Dr. Carole Lieberman, the best-selling author of Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live With Them, and When to Leave Them.
She's right. Give it your best shot. But if it's over, know when to let it go and work with someone who can do right by your family.
Have you ever had the feeling your marriage was over? What were the signs and were you able to work through it?