Three very good reasons to leave a relationship

Each day we speak with couples that are navigating tough marital issues. They want to find ways to move past a lack of intimacy, inability to resolve conflicts, and poor coping skills.

They are unclear on who is to blame or what needs to be done to resolve the issues. They want to better their communication, settle disputes and discover ways to increase the closeness in their relationship. They want to feel more comfortable in their lives even if that means divorce counseling.

Those considering divorce might wonder whether it's time to leave. Should I leave my husband or wife?

No matter how long you've been considering it, divorce or separation is a weighty decision. Many couples have been considering their options for a long time before calling us. For some, this is a new and lingering struggle.

It's not a therapist's place to tell couples whether or not to give up on their marriages. It is, however, vital in pre and post divorce counseling to know what issues require radical change. Without these concrete behavioral changes, the odds of building a healthy relationship in these situations are slim to none.

Bill Doherty, developed and trains therapist in a process called discernment counseling. It is a process that helps couples navigate ambivalence to determine if they should decide to divorce. For this reason some people also refer to it as divorce counseling or pre divorce counseling.

He described three situations that he considers to be a sign that it's time for a divorce. These are hard reasons to leave a relationship; chronic infidelity, substance abuse, and abuse.

In some cases these factors will prevent couples therapy from being effective, in other cases couples therapy may exacerbate the problem. For those reasons we screen each couple before recommending couples therapy. We want to make sure that we are helping each couple in the right way.

Put another way affairs, addiction, or abuse are each good reasons for leaving a marriage.

Chronic infidelity

Nearly half of our work at Couples Therapy Inc. is in affair recovery.

In most cases, the affair is an isolated incident, sometimes a workplace situation. But for some couples there is a pattern of infidelity, or compulsive sexually acting-out, and it is a chronic issue.

The involved partner is unable (or unwilling) to recognize how destructive their chronic and compulsive infidelity has become. Or in some cases there is an underlying cause to the impulsive behavior, like sex addiction, that will need individual support.

Before recommending intensive couples therapy we may recommend that the involved partner spend time in individual therapy. They need to explore the motivation behind these behaviors and address them. These issues are best addressed by an individual mental health professional before relationship struggles are addressed.

A current and ongoing affair is also a deal breaker for couples therapy. In this case, we may offer discernment counseling for some couples.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

Addiction treatment has become increasingly sophisticated and effective. While a challenging battle lies ahead, many couples find a happy ending and move on to have a healthy relationship.

Someone who is abusing alcohol and other drugs is engaging in behavior that is akin to having an affair. There is a third party in the relationship and that is the substance.

The addicted partner is comforted by the substance through challenging times. When times are good, they are celebrating with the substance. Additionally, they are spending time and resources with that substance. All of this is happening at the exclusion of their partner--they are left on the outside.

Until that "affair" is ended, work on the relationship will not be effective.

We do work with couples whose relationships have been affected by addiction. However before the relationship can be addressed, the addicted partner must first seek treatment for their substance abuse.


Sadly cases of physical abuse and emotional abuse happen in more relationships than many people realize. If there is physical abuse (domestic violence) in your relationship, it is time to leave, it is time to divorce.

There is a big difference between an unhappy marriage and an abusive relationship. We can help with the former but not the latter.

Emotional abuse may be helped by a qualified couples therapist but not in all situations. It is important that you are honest during your meet and greet with the therapist. Use that time to give the therapist a clear understanding of your relationship. This will allow them to give you the best possible recommendations for proceeding.

Should I leave my husband?

Should I leave my partner?

Many of us have fleeting thoughts of separation or divorce after a fight or our partner's hurtful actions. However, these are different than the initial emotional stages of divorce that many divorce therapists see.

When you are seriously considering leaving your partner, you begin to discuss this issue with a trusted friend or spiritual leader. You may take active steps like setting up your own bank account or look for housing.

Couples who are uncertain whether or not to divorce can benefit from discernment counseling. This type of counseling helps them explore if their marriage could be improved with increased communication skills or if they could have a more fulfilling life with someone else.

All of the therapists at Couples Therapy Inc are trained in Discernment Counseling. If you (or your partner) are wondering if it is time for divorce or seeking divorce counseling, Discernment Counseling helps you to decide whether couples therapy, divorce counseling, or divorce is the best option.

Our therapists with evidence-based training can help you to decide to stay married or to leave your marriage. If you decide to stay in your relationship, they can teach you the necessary skills to become happily married. Consider a weekend intensive.

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Jessica Hufnagle

Jessica is Co-owner and Director of Couples Therapy Inc. She has a background in psychology, an MBA focused on organizational behavior and is also a certified life coach. Jessica works behind the scenes to bring the wisdom and experience on the Couples Therapy Inc clinical team to couples all over the globe. 

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  1. This may seem absolutely wrong, but when I asked my now ex-wife to go to marriage counseling, I wanted her to change back to what she was before our daughter had died. I didn’t say that, but wasn’t willing to settle for the explosive and just plain weird things she was doing (she probably had had a major depression, and considering that she later abandoned and cut off both me and our surviving children, that seems likely)..

    What is the best way to save a marriage when they have faced a major crisis – we had the death of a child, followed almost immediately by a hurricane/flood – and one seems to have a severe mental health problem?

    1. You’ve faced, as a couple, two of the worst disasters that can befall a couple, Oliver. I doubt many of us could resolve that without the help of a trained science-based couples therapist. Contact us or find a Gottman or EFT certified therapist in your area…Dr. K

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