How Do You Know When To Leave a Marriage?

how do you know when to leave a marriage

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since I was sitting in my therapist’s office with tears streaming down my face, realizing my marriage had to be over. How do you know when to leave a marriage?


It’s different for everyone, but for me, it was a feeling of certainty that just rushed over me. My ex and I had gone back and forth so many times, trying to make it work because we had young kids and because staying together was the “right thing” to do. But things had started to happen in the last couple years that seemed like the forces of fate were pulling us apart and staying just wasn’t working no matter how hard we both tried and wanted it to work.


The reality that I was leaving the marriage had just hit me in the face and not only was it scary as hell, but it was really, truly sad.


Colleen Breems, Divorce Attorney, Beermann, LLP


So recently, a new member of the DGS Facebook group page asked this question:


How do you know when to leave a marriage?


Several members of the group responded to the question. Here are their responses to “How do you know when to leave a marriage”:


1. When you stop asking that question
2. When you have to ask this question, you already know. Turn the volume way down on what your head is telling you and pay attention to what your inner voice is saying. I bet You know already.


Joanne Litman - Eagle Strategies LLC - Financial Solutions for Women


3. When all the reasons NOT to Sound like minor inconveniences. (Work til I am 80? Sure!)
4. I realized I didn’t deserve to be treated and spoken to the way my Ex Husband had been.
5. When you look at your spouse and feel indifferent and look at them like “ew.”
6. When he tells you that he wants to see other woman and would that be ok with you. You’re my husband dude.
7. When u wake up in the ICU because your spouse tried to kill you.
8. When you know that living on the streets would be better than staying.
9. When you’re helping your daughter look for guys on jDate and you see that your husband is on the dating site.
10. How do you know when to leave a marriage? For me it was like a switch went off in my head and I knew it was time
11. One day you’ll realize you just can’t do it anymore and want happiness for yourself. Listen to your heart.
12. When the scale tips. The pain of staying is greater than the pain of leaving.
13. If you have to even ask…. you are more than ready.
14. For me it was when I had absolutely no emotions left – love, anger, hatred, nothing at all. A totally numb feeling.
15. When you have nothing left to give.


Bridging the Gap Between Conflict and Resolution


16. When you’re not afraid to leave or in my case knew if I didn’t get out I’d cease to exist.
17. You need to feel that you tried your best to make things work but couldn’t. This way down the road, you won’t blame yourself for something you shoulda, coulda, woulda done differently. You’ll know when your done. with no regrets.



I love all these answers so much, and it’s important to realize that every situation is unique, and you can’t compare yourself to anyone else’s situation.


A lot of people responded to “how do you know when to leave a marriage?” with, “You’ll know,” and while I think that is true, I think for a long time, everyone has doubts—wondering if you are doing the right thing. Think of the doubts as if they are on a spectrum of people who have 100% absolutely no doubt to those who have doubts often, to occasionally to those who have doubts about leaving the marriage all the time.


Michele Heffron, Divorce Coach, Life Strategist


I think having doubts and second guessing yourself is normal, given how scary the unknown of divorce can be and the stress of the actual divorce process. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing the right thing by getting divorced.


Here’s an exercise you can do if you are wondering if you should really be getting divorced: Take out a piece of paper (or open a word document) and write down all the reasons why you think getting divorced is the right thing. Write down every single thing, every story, every concern, every red flag, everything that has happened in the past leading you to this point.


Then, save it and read it whenever you have doubts. You can also continue to add things to your journal as they come up. Journaling in this manner might convince you that you shouldn’t be getting divorced, but I think those odds are slim. I think journaling, which helps people feel validated and justified and heard, will build up your confidence and assure you that you are on the right path because in your heart you will know.


Leaving a marriage is a big big big big deal, a true life altering decision, and that’s a lot of pressure on a person. But if you keep breathing, keep parenting, and do what truly feels right, you’ll be just fine.

Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I Could Have Told My Newly Separated Self”

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    Divorced Girl Smiling welcome video
    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    2 Responses to “How Do You Know When To Leave a Marriage?”

    1. Diane F.

      When he leaves to run errands or go to work and you find yourself wishing he doesn’t come back.

    2. Penny smith

      Hi I want to leave my husband but we have 4 kids 12 and 10 and 8 and 1 and I know he will not leave the house and he will not let me take the kids if I leave the house so I would like to know is if I did leave would it make me a bad mom


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