How to Tell When It's Time to Move On
and Leave Your Marriage
By Susie and Otto Collins
You might have been raised with the belief that
divorce is a “bad thing” or even a “failure.”
Maybe you simply don't “believe” in ending a
marriage because, after all, you made a wedding vow.
It could also be that after an affair, a betrayal of
another sort or different difficulties arose in your
marriage, you promised your mate that you would stay
together and “work it out.”
The trouble is, you've been trying and your mate has
possibly also been trying but you still aren't
happy. The two of you remain disconnected and
distant from one another.
How can you tell when it's time to move on?
might be wondering if you've just not used the
“right” technique to save your marriage or if it is
You might also be wondering if you really want to
save your relationship at all.
Kendra doesn't like to admit it, but she sometimes
wonders if she wants to stay married to Roger.
There was a time when Kendra couldn't imagine her
adult life without her husband Roger by her side,
she was so in love with him.
But now, after trying to heal and recover after
Roger's affair, Kendra doesn't see how she can go
back to feeling in love with him-- in fact, she's
not entirely sure she wants him by her side.
Roger has certainly tried to rebuild trust with
Kendra. She knows this and a part of her wants to
work through this difficult time in their marriage.
Kendra frequently goes through an internal battle
trying to decide whether this relationship is worth
trying to resuscitate or whether it would be better
to let it go and start over alone.
What's your non-negotiable?
When you're grappling with the question of whether
to stay in or leave your marriage, it can be helpful
to answer some core questions for yourself.
What is non-negotiable for you? In other words, what
is your bottom line?
It can be a clarifying exercise to think about what
behaviors, situations or conditions are completely
unacceptable to you.
This might include infidelity (a subsequent time or
for the first time), abuse (of any kind), a
particular persistent feeling within yourself, or
There is no official list of absolute non-negotiables.
It is up to you decide. You can choose to share this
list with your spouse or not.
If you do choose to share your list with your mate,
you can even ask what his or her non-negotiables
Knowing what your bottom line is gives you a
boundary that, if it is breached, signals that it's
probably time to leave the relationship.
Kendra has always prided herself on living life to
fullest. She deems a sense of feeling alive and
engaged with the world of prime importance.
It is a non-negotiable for her to feel disengaged
and dull in her life and her marriage.
She also decides that subsequent infidelity is a
negotiable. Kendra and Roger have already agreed to
this, but she re-affirms it to herself.
What do you want?
When you're in the midst of difficulties in your
marriage, knowing what you want can be a tricky
question to ask.
Just as you might choose to write down your list of
non-negotiables, take some time to write down what
you prefer as well.
Don't think about this question too much.
Instead, write the question, “What do I want?” at
the top of a blank piece of paper and just write.
Be sure to include desires that pertain to your
current relationship and the relationship you'd like
When you know what you want, you can better
re-orient yourself toward that rather than pointing
mostly toward what you do not want.
Kendra, for example, has focused much of her
attention lately on being sure that Roger is not
having another affair (or secretly continuing his
Infidelity is often on her mind. When she writes on
her paper that she wants a relationship built on
absolute trust, love, passion and connection, she
shifts more toward what she wants.
This can be a powerful practice.
As you get clearer about what's non-negotiable to
you and also what you want, you still might feel
confused about whether to stay in the marriage or to
We recommend that you keep tuning in to what's true
for you and to what you want.
When it is time to take a step either closer to your
spouse or in the direction of divorce, if you are
listening to your gut, there will be a sense of
clarity and you will know.