Most of the time when a marriage is collapsing you can see it coming a mile away. Family members, friends – sometimes even bystanders on the street – can tell something is amiss.
And yet, divorce attorneys and therapists say that often one spouse seems completely blindsided – and flattened – when the end actually comes.
But marriages rarely go from “till death do us part” to “I can’t be in the same room with you” overnight, says Manhattan-based divorce attorney Jacqueline Newman, author of Soon to Be Ex: A Guide to Your Perfect Divorce & Relaunch (www.jacquelinenewman.com).
“There are always red flags,” Newman says. “People just miss them when it’s their own relationship.”
According to the legal site Avvo.com, there are two divorces every minute in the United States. Which means, in the time it will take you to read to this paragraph, at least one couple will call it quits. If you have a nagging feeling you might be next, Newman advises watching for these common signs that heartache could be heading your way.
- Your partner’s communication style has done a 180. It’s one thing to have a day now and then when your spouse simply doesn’t feel like talking, Newman says. It’s different when he shuts you out completely. “This kind of distance doesn’t make the heart grow fonder,” she says. “It’s a way to care less about the relationship so he can more easily pull the plug.”
- Conversations about money begin to morph. If your spouse is changing up her financial behavior – urging you to pay down certain bills while she forgets to mention the checking account she just opened – it could be she’s preparing for life on her own. “Likewise, if your husband is whining about a reduction in his pay or a missed bonus,” Newman says, “it could be a setup to reduce expectations when he tells you he wants a divorce.”
- Your spouse’s bad mood stretches on … and on. If your once happy wife is annoyed about life – and nothing you do seems to ease her edginess – it could be she wants out but can’t find a way to tell you, Newman says. “She may be checking out of your relationship but feels guilty or unsure about truly cutting the cord.”
- Your spouse is interested in everything … but you. It’s healthy to go your own way in a relationship, to find new hobbies or to spend a quiet evening in opposite ends of the house reading or watching TV, Newman says. “What isn’t normal is when your partner is always hanging out with friends, traveling solo without making an effort to include you,” she says. “That’s a pretty good sign that she’s moving on.”
- You feel as if you’re on an episode of “Cheaters.” If your hubby won’t let you see his cell phone, is suddenly required to work overtime three nights a week or is more concerned about his appearance than he used to be, there may be another woman involved. “If you ask if something’s up, he’ll tell you you’re nuts,” Newman says. “But he might be the one who’s crazy … about someone else.”
You don’t want to be overly suspicious, but you should trust your instincts, Newman says.
“It’s common to experience a sense of denial that this is happening to you,” she says. “But when you’re facing this situation, it’s important to stay wise, alert and rational.”
About Jacqueline Newman
Jacqueline Newman, author of Soon to Be Ex: A Guide to Your Perfect Divorce & Relaunch (www.Jacquelinenewman.com), is the managing partner of Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, LLP, a New York divorce law firm. She has appeared as an expert commentator on television and radio shows and has been quoted in numerous publications, including Crain’s New York Business, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, Time.com, USA Today, Yahoo Parenting, Woman’s Day, Glamour Magazine, the New York Post, Reuters.com, CNBC.com and The Huffington Post.