When you are standing in line at the supermarket, analyzing and assessing the tabloids as you wait to check out, it is easy to roll your eyes knowingly and point to just which celebrity couples are headed toward Splitsville.
However, while it may be easy to spot the cracks in other people’s (and seemingly complete strangers') relationships, why are we sometimes completely blindsided with our own divorces? How is it possible that we see the doom all around us, but cannot spot it when it is in our own home?
Open Your Eyes: The Signs Are There
Of course, as a divorce attorney, all of these common divorce “tells” that I am going to identify have usually already escalated by the time someone shows up in my office. And yes, many times some clients have had the rug pulled out from under them— and they are in shock to be sure. However, no matter how great someone’s poker face may be, there are going to be some behavior changes if a potential split is on their mind.
1. Your partner’s communication style has done a total 180. It is one thing to have a day where you simply do not feel like talking, and it is another when your significant other shuts down and does not fill you in on what is going on in his/her life.
If you suddenly feel like the person you share a home with is little more than an empty shell and that they have closed themselves off from you, or even if they have actually stopped complaining, there is a good chance they are having some thoughts about wanting to get out of the marriage.
Shutting down lines of communication is just one way that people make themselves care less about their relationship.
2. Financial behavior and conversations about cash begin to morph. This particular point is not just about potential financial secrets coming into play. It could also mean that when your spouse starts plying you with gifts or trips out of guilt he or she may be doing so to keep you from paying too much attention to fluctuations in bank accounts and the like.
When financial changes occur, it could signal that a partner is starting to think about their future alone. Moreover, be aware of gripes about changes in earning potential, a reduction in compensation or bonuses, or other complaints—especially if they have a solid career history and job performance.
It could be a setup to reduce financial expectations when they tell you they want a divorce.
3. They are annoyed about everything. I understand, every married person can annoy their partner, but usually, committed spouses eventually get over it. If your partner is suddenly always on edge, but you feel unable to smooth the tension with a hug, kiss, or through whatever other “magic” you have in your arsenal, realize you may not be imagining things.
They may be checking out of your relationship but feel unsure about how to truly cut the cord.
4. Your spouse has taken on a great interest in other things—except you. Any long-term relationship is always going to have its ebbs and flows. There are going to be times when either of you are interested in a new hobby or venture and other times where one of you might have just discovered a new passion.
That is completely normal. What is not normal is when one partner seemingly has moved on to finding a new singular interest in hanging out with friends, traveling solo, hobbies that do not involve you—and furthermore, places no focus on even trying to include you. Disinterest creates distance—emotionally and physically.
5. And of course, there is always the cheating component. If your spouse is suddenly really possessive of his or her electronic devices, is abruptly required to work late or go on “business trips,” is more concerned about his or her appearance, or is even overcompensating when it comes to your relationship, pay attention.
All of those signs could point to an affair—and combined with points 1 through 4 on this list could indicate your spouse is getting his or her proverbial ducks in a row in order to serve you with divorce papers.
Ultimately, there could also be many reasons for any erratic or unusual behavior in a marriage. But it is best not to wear blinders. Trust your instincts—rarely will they steer you wrong.
If you are seeing the signs of an impending split, you might want to connect with an experienced divorce lawyer in advance to learn your rights – you know… just in case.
Jacqueline Newman practices matrimonial law in New York. She can be reached at her Manhattan law office at [hidden email]