How do you know if your relationship is in trouble? What are those tiny signs that indicate all is not as it should be? And once you’ve identified the problems, is there anything you can do about them? Check out these ten signs of a failing marriage.
- One partner prefers to stay up late watching TV than cuddling up in bed. When the choice is to spend time channel hopping, or in the company of some political pundit on a late night opinion show rather than snuggled up to your love bunny, then this could be a sign of trouble. Of course, once in a while is fine, but if it becomes a regular occurrence you might want to nip that habit in the bud. In the same vein, if you take to reading late into the night while your partner slumbers, it could mean you are avoiding intimacy and holding yourself apart from them. That little gap between you may as well be a mile wide.
- You find yourself carrying out an inventory of ‘credits’ and ‘debits’. It goes something like this, “Well, I cooked him dinner tonight and cleaned up afterward. He just watched football. That means I don’t have to have sex.” When you are basing your relationship on, what is essentially, a cost/benefits analysis, you know you’re in trouble. When you feel as if you are the one holding it all together, you need to make some changes.
- You compare your marriage with other people’s.
- You have more outside-the-marriage activities than inside. You spend time with friends, at your book club, at the gym, gossiping with the neighbor, or visiting your parents. Leaving very little one-to-one time with your spouse. The way to know if you are nurturing your own interests and individuality is to examine your motives. If you say, I can’t wait to get to my sewing class, we’re doing French seams tonight.” That means you are looking forward to the class. If you say to yourself, “I’m only doing this to get out of the house (and away from him) then that could be an early sign of problems to come.
- You don’t share the details of your life either because you assume your spouse won’t be interested, or you can’t be bothered to have the conversation. You might have had coffee with your best friend in town, but you don’t mention it to your partner. There’s no particular reason, only that you don’t see any point in telling him. This shows that you are seeing yourself as a singleton, rather than as one half of a couple.
- You miss the excitement of a new relationship. You fantasize about having an affair. Of having all that undiluted attention. That electric shock when you first touch hands. That first kiss that feels like drowning in passion. You don’t do anything about it. Yet. But you crave it.
- Your arguments are becoming routine. You fight over the same things. You say the same things, You notice you are repeating phrases that your mother used. The outcome is the same – maybe you don’t speak for five hours, then one apologizes and you make up. Even your fights are boring.
- You escalate your emotions to bring excitement to your marriage. You notice your fights are becoming a well-worn ritual, so you step them up a notch. Use extreme comparisons, bring in a few new and biting insults. You partner retaliates. You are bathing pushing it to the limit. The cracks are getting deeper and wider.
- One partner has a higher sex drive than the other. This is not a problem if the two are able to compromise. It would be unusual for any couple to always be in sync in their desires. However, when the partner with the lower sex drive refuses to participate in any sexual activity at all, this can leave the other feeling rejected, angry, and disconnected. All these feelings can emerge in other ways, possibly culminating in an affair and total marriage breakdown.
- You might say, “I love you” as a habit, yet you don’t express love to each other. You don’t pay or receive compliments. Maybe you don’t kiss any more. Those little displays of affection have dried up and are but dust on the breeze of impending divorce.
How to Counteract the Signs of a Failing Marriage
Identifying the signs; your negative routines, lack of interaction and communication, is the first step to counteracting them. It is your decision whether you want to get a grip on your marriage and strengthen it instead of allowing it to weaken. One spouse can turn things around for both – as long as both partners are invested enough to care.
The keys to a successful and rewarding relationship rest on two factors: time spent together and meaningful communication. No marriage can be successful when both partners are living separate lives. No relationship can work when the extent of communication is along the lines of, “Pass the salt, please.”
It takes vigilance to notice the tiny hairline cracks in a marriage which can lead to total breakdown. It’s your decision whether to make the necessary changes in order to avoid either long-term misery, years of indifference, or divorce.
Practical Steps to Saving A Marriage
- Don’t expect your spouse to change first. It won’t happen. You have to take on the responsibility of making changes in your behavior. When you do this, you’ll probably find that your partner changes too. It might take longer, but it will happen.
- Give praise when praise is due. Show appreciation for the small things. Notice when your partner does good. They’ll be surprised and very, very pleased. Make them feel good about themselves and they will do more to please you.
- Listen. Pay attention. It’s easy to retreat into your own world and let their words wash over you. Stop. Put down what you are doing, look at them and listen. They are your spouse. They deserve your full attention. If you are genuinely too busy listen properly, then say so, “I’m making dinner and it’s hard for me to listen to you right now. Shall we talk about this when we sit down?”
- It sounds cliched, but if you don’t make time for each other, you will have no marriage. Doesn’t matter how you do it. Sit next to each other. Plan a movie night. Go out for dinner. Walk on the beach. Sit in the garden. Do nothing together; just be together, wherever.
- Do all, or even some, of those small things you know will make your partner happy.
Avoid Marriage Therapy
No-one’s saying you shouldn't seek advice, if you really need it, but if you really want your marriage to be rewarding, you can start by fixing the small things and the bigger problems will never appear.