Q: I have been in a marriage for seven years and people keep telling me not to give up but to keep trying and it will work out. However, nobody is telling me how I will know when it is over. I have given it my best shot but with minimal returns. In fact, it seems the harder I try, the worse the relationship and his behaviour are becoming. I was brought up to believe that marriage is forever. My parents are still married in spite of challenges. My siblings are all married but I am not sure if they are happy.
A: This is a difficult question with no easy answer. It might not be just one thing that determines whether a marriage is over but a series of things over a period of time.
Some will claim that the marriage is over when he starts having sexual intercourse outside the marriage. It is a sign that marriage is over when he has serial extramarital relationships and he does it openly. It shows he has lost respect for you and does not care about you or himself. It could be that he is selfish or has loose morals, but either way, it is a sign of a marriage in trouble.
Others will say that the marriage is over when he is violent towards you and repeatedly hits you. If your life is in danger or the lives of the children are in danger, then the marriage is over. If he threatens you, and can act it out, then you are in trouble. Physical abuse in a marriage should not be tolerated.
Some will argue that the marriage is over if the husband starts sexually molesting the children. This is a criminal offence which should be reported to the police. It could be that he is mentally sick or spiritually depraved. This is another tell-tale sign that the marriage is over.
If the husband is cruel and stops providing for the family the basic necessities of life, then it is over. It shows that he has a mean streak and does not take his responsibility seriously. If he has the means to care for his family and does not, then it is indicative that the marriage is collapsing.
Marriage is a partnership between equals. Therefore, both of you should discuss plans and implement them together. You should be doing things, going places, and generally having fun together. Lack of 'oneness' is a sign of marital failure.
signs of a good marriage
You should be able to share certain core values such as truth telling, honesty and fair play. Otherwise, the foundations of the relationship will be weak.
There are many other signs of a good marriage such as respect for your parents and friends and sharing of financial status.
There are some persons who might experience awful treatment and interpret this as a test of 'for better for worse'. Some will be battered and bruised physically and emotionally and stay in the marriage for religious reasons or for the child's sake or for financial reasons or because it looks better to be in a miserable marriage than divorced.
The call is yours and no one can tell you when it is over. You will feel an estrangement and an emotional distance. Please talk with a marriage counsellor and try to get your husband to attend the counselling sessions.