It can be an extremely painful experience to go through marriage trouble, especially if it culminates in the end of the relationship. Perhaps even more painful is when the desire to end a relationship is not mutually shared. It might even catch you off guard.

For instance, what do you do if you learn that your partner has been thinking about ending the relationship—but you don’t want this to happen? 

Why Your Partner Might Want Out

The first important thing to do in this situation is to try to understand why your partner wants out in the first place.

Why does this matter?

Making an attempt to understand what your partner is feeling and thinking can act like a lifeline for people experiencing marriage trouble.  While it may not always “save” a relationship, this kind of communication and empathy often eases the pain for both partners by giving them a chance to feel heard. It can also provide valuable insight into their behaviors. 

Common reasons why a partner wants to leave a relationship include:

  • Attachment injury, akin to an emotional wound that often follows some sort of breach of trust in a relationship
  • A build up of resentment, which can occur if a partner subjugates their own values and boundaries and doesn’t express their true needs
  • A feeling as if they’ve lost their friendship or emotional intimacy with you, which is often precipitated by lack of quality time together

Of course, this list is in no way all-inclusive, and depending on factors such as your level of communication and your partner’s unique way of expressing themselves, this could be brand-new information. Or, it could be something you’ve suspected and sensed coming for a long time.

Regardless of how surprised you are by their sentiments, do your best to listen with as little judgment as possible. Rely on your active listening skills, avoid making ultimatums and defensive statements, and show your partner you are open to suggestions. 

What You Can Do If Your Partner Expresses a Desire to Leave the Relationship

In addition to having a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one—step number one when navigating marriage trouble—there are several steps you can take if your partner is expressing a desire to end your relationship:

  • Seek marriage counseling. Support and guidance from a licensed marriage counselor can be invaluable. The type of objective input he or she can provide can help you and your spouse feel and express your emotions appropriately while also looking past your emotions so you problem-solve in a more centered and rational way.
  • Look at yourself more closely. Ultimately, you can’t change your spouse’s behaviors and feelings—but you can change yours. Indeed, your own actions and thoughts are truly the only thing you can take full responsibility for. Try to identify how you have contributed to this situation and what you can do to help your marriage trouble.
  • Prepare for separation if your spouse is adamant. Speak with a lawyer and be sure to take care of your own mental health if the road to separation is ultimately one you and your partner are headed down.


  • April Eldemire is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Bringing Baby Home Educator, and couples expert in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She is passionately devoted to helping couples achieve thriving relationships. For information on a Bringing Baby Home workshop, counseling services, or to subscribe to her Tip Sheet, visit her website.