But that’s not your best bet: “Staying in a seriously unhappy marriage can have long-term effects on our mental and emotional health,” says Carrie Cole, a couples therapist and Master Certified Gottman Therapist by the Gottman Institute. Research shows that people in bad marriages usually have low self-esteem, struggle with anxiety and depression, and have a higher rate of illness than those who don’t. People feel sad and grieve when they decide to let go — but people who divorce do recover emotionally, and Cole says most find new relationships. In fact, “one statistic reported that 85 percent of those who divorce remarry within five years,” she says.
If any these signs hit home for you, it’s time to take a hard look at whether this is a marriage you want to stay in.
1. You Aren’t Having Sex Anymore
One warning sign would be that your relationship is totally sexless, says sex and relationship therapist Megan Fleming, Ph.D. — or if you’re having sex less than 10 times a year. After all, she says, it’s intimacy that separates a romantic relationship from all other sorts of relationships you might have. “When that’s going out the window, it’s a really big red flag.” Jane Greer, relationship therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, says that a lack of visible physical affection — like kissing or hugging — is also indicative of a real problem.
2. You Have Nothing to Say to Each Other
When something comes up in life, whether that’s a work event or any accomplishment and your partner isn’t the first person you’re sharing it with — or one of the firsts, Fleming says that it may be that “you prefer to get your needs mets outside the relationship.” To that end, Greer points out that not having any meaningful conversations aside from “rudimentary conversations about chores and things that need to get done” is a warning sign that your relationship is not in a good place.
3. You’re With Each Other…But Not Really With Each Other
“You can be in the same room, one of you on the computer, one of you [watching TV],” Fleming says, but “if you find that you’re never actively engaging together — you’re together, alone, doing your own thing — that’s an indication there’s disconnection, or a lack of connection.”
4. You’re Actively Ignoring Your Gut
Our instincts can often tell us first when a relationship just isn’t working — but we don’t always trust that voice, says couples therapist Susan Pease Gadoua, co-author of The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels. “We often ignore our gut instincts because that voice is very quiet and calm, unlike the internal voice in our heads that thrives on high drama.” We’re trained to trust logic in many areas of life, so when a niggling feeling (“Am I really still in love with this person?”) presents itself, it’s hard to pay attention to it because there aren’t any hard facts or rational reasoning. Drill down on that initial instinct and ask yourself more specific questions. If you find your responses are things like, “I don’t feel safe to express myself, I don’t feel respected and haven’t felt happy in a long time,” that’s a sign that things have gone awry — and you shouldn’t ignore it. “The truth doesn’t go away simply because we don’t want it to be there; that voice stays in the background and weighs on you,” says Gadoua. “Getting quiet within is key to being able to hear instincts. And like a muscle, the more you trust your gut, the easier it becomes to decipher that voice — which comes from your heart — from the voice in your head.”
5. You’re Preoccupied With Other People’s Needs and Problems
Many women stay in relationships longer than they should because they tend to put the needs of others before their own. And since women often naturally take on the role of caretakers, they can lose parts of their own identity — and a sense of their own needs — in the process. “In order to face her relationship unhappiness, a woman needs to stop distracting herself by putting other people’s needs ahead of her own,” says Gadoua. “Doing this can be a way of avoiding her own painful truth.” So if you find yourself getting unnecessarily involved in a fight between your mother and sister, or you’re always rushing around trying to make other people’s lives easier, it might be time to take a hard look at your own relationship.