Headed to Splitsville: 3 Ways Emotional Divorce Seeps into Marriage

couple arguing with each other

All too often, marriages end not because of a huge, hurtful change like a cheating fiasco or a gambling addiction. A majority of cases are a slow burn, gradually drifting apart, often with one spouse caring less and less about the other. People call it ‘emotional divorce,’ being separated even before you haven’t signed the legal papers or split the family home yet. All the same, though, it’s a prelude to taking each other to court. How does emotional divorce happen? Here’s how it crops up in marriages:

The emotional distance between partners seeps in when there’s a subtle, unnoticeable change in the atmosphere in the household: spouses going from passionately-in-love individuals to just housemates. Housemates who happen to have shared responsibilities in keeping the house in order, paying the bills, and taking care of the kids. These duties sometimes get in the way of talking about the status of the relationship and experiencing intimacy with one another. You’ll notice that you and your spouse don’t necessarily fight, but you don’t feel close to each other either. Sometimes, that close connection is sought elsewhere, outside the marriage. In other words, when the relationship has turned into a business-as-usual kind of thing, it’s likely that you’re headed to emotional splitsville sooner or later.

When one partner decides to close off

Sad young couple holding billboard sign with break love heart

There are also instances when emotional divorce happens due to one partner’s decision to not be vulnerable anymore — to build walls. Sometimes, they would go weeks or months away from home, without ever telling where they are. When they do come home, they’re irritable. They dodge their partner’s attempts to save the relationship.

You can write these people off as simply narcissistic. But, in most cases, they come from a place of hurt. Maybe there was infidelity in the past they couldn’t move on from or they themselves felt abandoned by their partner at the time of a parent’s death or a major illness. It’s hard to save a marriage when one partner has already decided to leave. In these cases, it does progress to legal separation. If you have an emotionally distant spouse, there’s a good chance that they might not be compliant to legal responsibilities to your child, so make sure to work with an experienced Denver child support attorney in building your case.

When the ‘hiatus’ becomes a comfort zone

Being in the ‘housemate trap’ mentioned earlier is strangely comfortable. You fulfill your duties. You don’t fight. You do your own thing. At the same time, being the only one who reaches out and tries to save a marriage is hard work. Combine these two factors together and couples allow themselves to be caught up in the downward spiral to emotional divorce. Unless there’s outside intervention, you’ll really head towards separation, the legal kind, this time. If this is the state of your relationship already, don’t wait for things to get worse and worse. Be proactive about it. Initiate the talk about divorce. Talk about the set-up for the kids when you do the split.

Break-ups rarely explode. Often, they quietly happen. In between cold, distant spouses. In the midst of boring house chores and work responsibilities. Are you experiencing emotional divorce yourself?