We asked now-divorced men to reveal the moment that signaled their marriages were finally over for good. Here’s what they said:
1. When my son mentioned ‘mommy’s new friend.’
“I should have known it was over when she said at dinner that she didn’t know whether she loved me anymore. I should have known it after 18 months of sleeping in separate bedrooms. I should have known it when she stopped demonstrating any positive or negative emotions toward me. I should have known it after spending a holiday weekend with our young son on a road trip that she declined to take with us. I should have known it after I saw her missing wedding ring upon returning home from that trip. I should have known it when she moved out the next day, driving away with our little boy in the back seat. But I didn’t. Still, I hoped. And then, two weeks later, my son innocently mentioned a dog and some little girls he had been playing with. They belonged to ‘mommy’s new friend.’
‘Did you have a sleepover at mommy’s new friend’s house?’
I never knew a one-word answer from a child could be so lethal and life-changing. I thought I might die, right then. That’s when I knew.” ― Matthew
2. When she said ‘I hate you’ and meant it.
“Like the end of most marriages, mine included a lot of dominoes tipping into the next, but there always seems to be that first domino that starts the process. My ex-wife made arguing an Olympic sport. During one fight over something I can’t even recall, she looked at me red-faced and yelled, ’I hate you,’ and I knew she meant it. There is no coming back from that four-letter word.” ― Bill
3. When I realized sleeping in the guest room was better than sleeping next to my wife.
“One typical winter day I came down with some horrible sickness and quarantined myself in the guest bedroom to avoid spreading my plague to my wife. After I recovered, I realized I preferred staying in the guest room. I am still a strong believer in the fact that most people sleep better alone, but it does create a literal separation between the couple. Then I started noticing other differences and changes in us as individuals and in our marriage. But if I had to pinpoint one moment, it’s the moment I quarantined our marriage. We both survived and are thriving; however, our marriage stayed in quarantine and didn’t make it out.” ― Adam
4. When her dream house was more like a nightmare to me.
“After we sold our first home, we were looking for new houses. I had a couple that I really liked, but she was stuck on this one house and kept coming back to it. I hated that house. It was hideous inside, untouched since 1978 (ugh, that wallpaper!), not in the town I wanted to live in and nothing about it tempted me. When we walked in the front door for a showing, I watched her face light up like I hadn’t seen in years. She walked around wide-eyed from room to room, and in the face of all the horrible decor and issues with disrepair she told me it felt like her ‘forever home.’ I put aside my own wants and we made an offer the same day.
Now, I had always been a subscriber to the ‘happy wife, happy life’ mantra, but this was different. In some sad and serene part of me, I knew I wasn’t going to be in that house forever ― but I wanted her to have it. For her. It was at that moment that I knew that I still loved her but that it was done. I spent the next year remodeling that house on nights and weekends, and roughly about when it was done we split. She still has the house, and I’m happy for that.” ― Billy
5. When I refused to deal with my own underlying anxieties about commitment.
“When I look back at my marriage a dozen years after divorce, trying to define what exactly went wrong, my hindsight doesn’t stop anywhere within the previous dozen years that I was married. It inevitably goes back further, to all those years of early adulthood when I realized my anxiety about forming deep relationships with anyone, let alone potential spouses. Instead of examining that and getting help to deal with the issues that kept me from forming real connections with people, I blame them instead.
As a result, when it came to forge a real commitment, I just didn’t have the tools to ultimately be successful at it. If divorce has taught me anything, it’s that the seeds for it are growing within us long before we ever meet our potential life partner. And it’s up to us to eliminate that crop before even trying to cultivate a relationship.” ― Craig
6. When my wife’s divorced friends convinced her we were doomed.
“When my wife spent most of her free time with other divorced women. She had already moved into the guest bedroom and was disengaged at counseling, but the real force pulling her away was her ‘friends’ telling her it was ‘her turn.’ There’s an old saying: ‘Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.’” ― Bill
7. When I didn’t care enough to try anymore.
“While it didn’t feel altogether different that time, the weeks leading up to my divorce were more strained and frustrating than in times we had fought before. As I look back on it now, however, I realize that even I had given up. I was no longer trying. What had once been a challenge for us to overcome together became a battle for us to fight independent of one another. That realization hit me pretty hard that night, as I lay in bed just a few hours after she asked to take a break. By the time she revealed she wanted a divorce, just a day and a half later, I had already recognized that this was it, we were done. I was done. It hurt, but I didn’t care anymore.” ― Derick
8. When we realized we hadn’t liked each other in years.
“I was a complete mess. I cannot speak for my ex-wife. But for me, I was simply not in a good place in my life and had long since lost my identity. I was so spent from trying to figure things out in a career that doesn’t tolerate mistakes. Slowly, trapped in an isolating mindset, failures became my only confidants. Failures and self-loathing became my past time and closest friends. And over time, a person as messed up as I was simply cannot love anyone correctly.
I’ve made my peace with the fact that when we internally dislike ourselves at such deep levels, we are in no place to love anyone else. We simply keep trying to fill the hole in our souls in the hopes we won’t feel as damaged as we know we are. In the end, my ex and I simply stopped trying to love or even hate each other. All emotions were simply no longer accessible. We began to realize that the last time we liked each other was well before marriage and even dating. Long before all that, we were just really good friends.” ― Michael
9. When I justified her bad behavior.
“The first time I brought up the fact that our relationship wasn’t going to work, she broke my headphones. I think, deep down inside, I knew the relationship wouldn’t last early on. She would lose her temper quickly, become increasingly paranoid and jealous and yell a lot. I kept justifying anything bad that happened. I had no escape, at least that’s how it felt at the time. I was afraid to leave for fear of being hurt or stalked or humiliated in front of peers.” ― Tom
10. When I realized we weren’t even fighting, we were just avoiding each other.
“It was a long series of events, and decisions that slowly led to the final demise: when we stopped holding hands in public, when we no longer did date nights together, when we started to confide in others rather than our spouse, when we started to feel like the other person was an obstacle to our happiness rather than an advocate for it. Unlike a lot of couples, we never fought. We just gradually learned to avoid each other, and little by little, it led to a decision to end it. By the time I really saw the signs, and understood what they meant, it felt like it was already too late.” ― Gerald
Note: Respondents’ last names were withheld to protect their privacy and the privacy of their families. Some responses have been lightly edited or condensed for clarity.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.