4 Signs Of A Hopelessly Broken Marriage

By Jessica Anderson

Updated June 25, 2020

Not Ready To Give Up On Your Marriage?
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A broken marriage is not always a tragedy. Sometimes, two people who were right for each other at one stage in their lives have grown apart, and the best thing for both of them is to end an arrangement that's no longer working.In other words, fixing a broken marriage is not always in the cards, and that is perfectly okay.

On the other hand, a separation or divorce is a significant life change. Separation or divorce will rarely be comfortable or pain-free, and should not be embarked on casually. What many younger married couples fail to realize in time, is that healthy marriages usually do not suddenly become broken marriages because of some mysterious outside force, but through consistent neglect. leading to the gradual accumulation of marriage problems.

The signs of this can be seen long before they reach the critical point of indicating a broken marriage, often becoming evident to people outside the relationship before the couple can see it themselves. If you can discern any of the following in your own marriage, it may be time to evaluate the state of your marriage, prepare to put in some work (even though it may not yet feel urgent), and attempt to save your marriage.

Constant Negotiation

Knowing how to compromise is a necessary technique in every romantic relationship. However, each person in a relationship should be looking out for their spouse as well as themselves. However, in a broken marriage, this will be much more difficult.

You may make many small compromises each day, such as "I'll make dinner if you wash the dishes," but when it comes to making a meaningful sacrifice for your partner's happiness, such as spending family challenges and large financial decisions, successful couples compromise out of love for their spouse, whereas individuals in a broken marriage do so for their own personal gain.

Arguing Instead of Discussing

Discussions are a crucial component of marriage work, but when these conversations turn into fights, they are often better off if they are stopped completely. Real conversation implies talking about relevant issues, instead of criticizing each other. It enlists active listening instead of just waiting for your turn to talk.

Having the occasional argument is by no means a sign of a relationship in trouble, but how you conduct yourselves during moments of stress can be crucial. Not everyone is skilled at listening well and controlling what they say when emotions are running high. Luckily, couples therapy, and specifically conflict handling, can be of great help for mitigating intense emotions, and can even strengthen the marriage foundation.

The Left Hand Doesn't Know What the Right Is Doing

There is such a thing as requiring too much communication, such as asking to be called every hour throughout the day. However, every couple should be comfortable enough to share the significant events and concerns in their lives, including those stemming from work, health, and finances. Not being open about these topics prevents your partner from supporting you as much as they might want to, and can bring about a variety of issues that could lead to or be viewed as a symptom of a broken marriage.

Fixing the Broken Marriage Doesn't Seem Worth the Effort

The emotional tone of most failed marriages isn't passionate outrage, but rather exhausted indifference. It's actually rare for a relationship to fall apart under sudden strain. Unhappy marriages are more likely to slowly dwindle over several months or years.

It is possible to repair a marriage that has already suffered severe damage, but this requires work and commitment from both sides. Once one or both partners feel that it just isn't worth the trouble, the marriage may feel like it is over, even if it doesn't result in a formal divorce or separation.

It is almost inevitable that a marriage will face at least one crisis that will cause the couple to contemplate divorce. During this crisis, you and your partner will be challenged to understand, acknowledge, and forgive the transgressions and faults of one another. If in-depth counseling or religious mediation has not brought you back together, you might feel that you can no longer stay together happily as a couple. This may be especially true if you have tried different methods to improve your relationship and been unsuccessful, and feel peace from the idea of living apart.

Obstacles That Cannot Be Overcome And Will Lead To Divorce:

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  1. Physical Abuse: If one partner acknowledges that they are physically or mentally abusive and refuses to change or get help, then there is no hope for saving your marriage. The abused partner has no choice but to seek separation and/or divorce in order to protect themselves and the children (if there are any) from the abuser. Abuse never gets better if the abuser refuses to get help. It will only escalate to violence that could end in someone losing their life. Psychologists warn that the most dangerous time for an abused partner in their relationship is the time when they actually move out and live elsewhere. Moving out has to be planned meticulously. Make sure you have enough money to live on, and you know where you will go. Tell a trusted friend or someone in your family what you are doing, and where they can reach you. For your own safety, try not to just disappear.
  2. Financial Control: If one of the partners refuses to allow their partner more financial control even after counseling, then the relationship or marriage should be discontinued. The financially controlling partner usually views himself/herself as the one who is correct, and they likely do not take their partner's needs and wants into consideration. To them, it does not matter if their partner also works and contributes to the family financially. They may insist on one bank account that they alone control. They control all the finances, possibly even put the other partner on an "allowance," solely determine what should or should not be purchased, and control and monitor all spending. If this is the "norm" in a relationship, it's not likely to go away without support. If you plan to leave, you'll need to have your own finances, so consider making some financial changes, such as taking paper checks instead of having the directly deposited into your joint account, before you leave.
  3. Infidelity: If one or both of the partners in a marriage resorts to having an affair, the marriage can often be salvaged with counseling and forgiveness. However, multiple affairs even after counseling and empty promises regarding future behavior can cause trust to be genuinely broken. This is especially true if one partner has admitted to the transgression, and will not do anything to change his or her behavior. Perhaps the cheater in the relationship has decided that they would be happier with someone else, and the partner left behind must cut the ties and move on regardless of how unhappy a situation it is. It is unhealthier to stay in a marriage with infidelity, jealousy, and anger, than it is to simply leave and start anew. This stress brought on by staying could even lead to physical illness, so it is important to put yourself first when your spouse is unwilling to change.
  4. Lying: Some people are so used to lying, that it becomes second nature to them. If counseling and therapy do not changed the liar's behavior, it may be time to consider separation or divorce. Within a marriage, lying may start out as a series of little, inconsequential lies that you can ignore and make excuses for. As time goes on, however, you may see an escalation in this truth avoidance. Is the spouse truthful about where he or she is after work? Is there money often missing from the joint account? Has evidence of inexplicable behavior been found? Are there unexplained absences? Do their explanations ring true, or are they full of holes? What do they say when you say you have proof they are lying? Is it always someone else's fault? Sometimes a liar will act as if they are offended that they have been caught in a lie, and try to turn the tables by making accusations against you (which can lead to an unsafe situation, and is one of the most poignant indicators of a broken marriage). The argument may become a case of who is the most powerful, and who has the loudest voice. Confronting a liar even has the possibility of escalating to physical violence. The accuser has to be very careful and aware of the liar's way of defending their actions. If there is a threat of violence, it is best to back off and take steps to protect yourself (and the children if there are any), or take steps to remove yourself altogether from the home. Counseling for both partners is necessary to repair the eroded trust. But if one partner refuses to acknowledge the lies or refuses to change, divorce is likely the healthiest choice.

Not Ready To Give Up On Your Marriage?
A Licensed Marriage Counselor Can Help - Chat With A Professional Now.

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If you're in an unhealthy relationship, and you and your partner are willing put in the work to save your marriage, reach out to a licensed counselor today. In a 2007 study, researcher and psychologist Neil S. Jacobson found that even when one, or both, people in a marriage felt that their relationship is hopeless, therapy with a licensed counselor made a positive difference. Having someone guide you through difficult conversations, and share relationship building techniques with you, can help turn marriages around for the better.

If you and your spouse have busy schedules, or the tasks of adding a commute and finding childcare sound like too much to add to your plate, consider an online option. ReGain has licensed counselors available to talk with you online, so you are able to stay in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Below are some reviews of ReGain counselors for you to review, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Camille is absolutely amazing!!!! We are so grateful for her expertise and wonderful advice. She literally saved our marriage and we will always be grateful for her."

"Christina was very helpful when I told her I left my spouse. I wasn't sure what I wanted, a divorce or reconciliation. She helped me start processing where I was, to where do I see myself, to what do I want, to how do I see myself getting obtaining these goals. She did not influence any of my decisions, but guided me with thought provoking questions. Throughout our short sessions, she continued to reassure me that she or someone else, would always be there for me. Thank you Christina for your professionalism, your guidance and your compassion to help others. I look forward to continuing my therapy sessions with you, as my goals are not yet met."


Whether your relationship is worth saving, or you need support in the process of leaving your significant other, there are tools to help you move forward. Having a mental health professional on your side will help you to reach a happier, healthier place in your life, whether that is together with your spouse or on your own. We are here to help you through, and to help you see that everything is going to be okay.

Frequently asked questions  

What is a broken marriage?  

A broken marriage, also known as a failing marriage, is a marriage that appears to be unsustainable, and will require marriage work, likely with the help of a licensed marriage counselor in order to become harmonious again.  

While the above definition is a good rule of thumb, the term is very subjective. At the end of the day, if there is anything that makes the marriage feel broken, then it is very plausibly a broken marriage, and even thinking “how can I save my marriage” is not a good sign.  

Is it worth fixing a broken marriage?  

Not always- to fix a broken marriage is a great deal of work, and in some circumstances, to save a marriage is essentially impossible, with or without the help of a marriage expert. In this instance, trying to save your marriage will cause more harm than good.  

For instance, if me and/or my partner are not invested in saving the marriage, then it is likely not worth the effort it to try to fix it, and any attempt to save my marriage, such as the classic maneuver of having a baby, will likely just make things messier and more complicated. 

How do you fix a broken marriage?  

There is no single answer to this question, as every failing marriage begins to fail for different reasons, and therefor there is no cure-all marriage advice that can be given. However, in most cases, seeing a licensed marriage counselor is a fantastic place to start. 

 If you think that you are in a failing marriage or broken relationship, then it is crucial to be proactive and seek out marriage advice from an expert as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that the marriage will be salvageable.  

What are the signs of a broken marriage?  

Signs your marriage may be broken beyond repair include physical abuse, financial control, infidelity, and excessive lying.  

While these are all fairly sure-fire indicators, there are other less severe factors that can pile up and serve as signs of a broken marriage as well. Such things include resentment, boredom, and constant fighting.  

More specifically, there are some behavioral ticks that can be attributed to someone being in an unhappy relationship. Studies show that a married man who make jokes about leaving his wife is  far more likely to be in a failing marriage than those that would avoid even joking about such things.  

Can a broken marriage be restored?  

In some cases, a broken relationship or marriage can be restored. It is crucial that both partners are willing to receive marriage advice, are not in denial of the fact that they are in a failing marriage, and both have the desire to save the marriage.  

However, it is important to realize that it is not always possible or worth it to fix a broken marriage. If things reach a point where you don’t even want to come home, marriage is likely not worth preserving. 

Can a broken marriage be saved?  

Saving your marriage is possible if both partners are willing to put in the large amount of work that is required to save a marriage.  

If you have reached a point where both partners think that the failing marriage is past the point of no return, then they are likely correct, and it is probably a good idea to discontinue the relationship. Again- it is crucial to grasp at desperate “save my marriage” straws.  

Can you fix a broken relationship?  

It is very possible to fix a broken relationship if it is not broken too badly and both people involved are willing to make the necessary adjustments. 

 It is crucial to remember that a failing marriage or relationship is only destined to end if the circumstances are particularly egregious or the people in the marriage want/ need it to end.  

How do you fix a broken marriage after separation?  

In order to fix a broken marriage after separation, it is crucial to-  

  • Take things slowly
  • Create and respect boundaries 
  • Prioritize the relationships 
  • Be wary of you and your partners emotions
  • Be honest 
  • Plan for the future

While doing these things will certainly help, they are no guarantee that things will work out, as some people are fundamentally incompatible no matter what they do.  

What causes marriage failure?  

A multitude of factors can cause for a marriage to fail. Some things that can lead to the failure of a marriage include- 

  • Working on the wedding more than the marriage
  • Believing it is a spouse's job to make you happy 
  • Investing in your children way more than your spouse. 
  • Abuse of any kind 
  • Untrustworthy behavior of any kind 
  • Boundary issues
  • One dimensional, over simplified thinking. That is, asking “how do I save my marriage” as opposed to “what factors can I change that will make me a better partner”.

How do you know when your marriage is really over?  

A marriage is broken beyond repair when any of the following four things are present- 

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Financial domination
  3. Infidelity 
  4. Persistent dishonesty

Physical abuse is a particularly serious scenario, especially if there are children involved. At that point, it is crucial to remove yourself from the situation with the assistance of someone you really trust. No amount of marriage advice will make you safer.  

When to call it quits in a marriage?  

It is crucial to call it quits on a failing marriage once it has reached a point where the marriage does much more harm than good on the individuals involved or their families.  

The easiest indicator of a marriage needing to end is ongoing physical abuse, however multiple other factors can indicate such things, and an outsider perspective may be helpful. It is often a good idea to consult a marriage counselor before making a decision on such a thing.  

What year is the hardest in a marriage?  

Generally, the seventh year of marriage is considered to be the most difficult. At this point, it would be wise to begin seeing a marriage counselor, regardless of whether or not the relationship in question seems like a failing marriage. 

This is because if issues are identified early, then it is more likely that they can be fixed before they become too out of control, making the marriage feel broken and increasing the likelihood of divorce.  

It is way easier to save my marriage if I did what I could to take care of it in the first place.  

What is the number one cause of divorce? 

According to marriage experts, the number one cause of divorce is infidelity.  

This is followed by financial troubles and miscommunication. However, while these things tend to play a very strong role in ending a marriage, there is almost never one singular event that leads to divorce, as divorces tend to be the result of accumulated tensions and misgivings that make the marriage feel broken.  

Basically, the most common cause of divorce is the choice to ignore the signs of a failing marriage.  

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