What are the signs that a marriage is falling apart? As a marriage counselor, I get this questions asked all the time. Even though couples argue mostly about money, children, and sex, what matters the most is to understand the patterns that are getting the relationship in trouble. Patterns are, so to speak, the “root” of the problem. Knowing the root of the problem gives the chance to fix things.
Here are 11 warning signs that your marriage might be failing:
- Noticing passive-aggressive or aggressive behaviors: Conflict can be healthy for a relationship since it helps to identify issues and create opportunities to find solutions. Conflict is negative when there is a use of sarcasm, irony, sneering, cynicism, calling names and/or hostile humor. Research indicates that a ratio of 5:1, in which there are five or more positive interactions for one negative interaction, is the formula for happy couples when there is no conflict, and 20 to 1 when conflict is happening. As you can see, positive interactions have to out-weight the negative ones significantly.
- Feeling dismissed or not valued by your spouse: We tend to mold ourselves in function of what we hear from others, and if their perception is negative, this usually leads to low self-esteem and disengagement. If criticism is part of most arguments, disengagement will or is already happening in the relationship, which implies that one partner is pushing away from each other.
- Feeling stuck in the “blame game:” During arguments, it is easy to forget about the situation that caused the issue, and get stuck in an everlasting battle of who’s to blame for the problem at hand….. The “blame game” looks like this: Your spouse blames you for causing the problem, you feel it’s his or her fault that the situation happened as it did, repeat without ever solving the problem. Do you relate to this?
- Feeling as you need to “attack” first during arguments: This is like when a lion is preparing to attack another predator. Similar preparation can happen when there are many, many, many fights and/or criticism in the relationship. You might feel as if your core is “at risk” and the need to protect yourself is so intense that you start conversations already angry and in attack mode.
- Building a silent wall during and/or after conflict: Taking breaks during conflict is a great strategy to de-escalate arguments when partners have previously agreed to this. Walking away for any other reason may look like dismissing or pushing the other person away. This wall often creates feelings of disconnection within a relationship, generally resulting in several unresolved issues. You may be the one building the wall, possibly because you feel that if you keep engaging in the argument, it will result in a worse argument. Whatever the reason behind the creation and perpetuation of the wall, it results in a disconnection between partners.
- Hiding sensitive information from your spouse: Friendship is an important component of romantic relationships. Let me give you an example of this warning sign. You meet with a friend at a coffee shop and during the conversation you talk about feeling afraid of losing your job. Not sharing this fear with your spouse keeps him/her away from the opportunity to listen and support you while you endure this fear. Hiding important information from your spouse creates a disconnection within the relationship.
- Feeling like your spouse is becoming a stranger: Research has shown that when marriages are failing, partners become strangers living under the same roof. This happens when spouses stop seeing eye to eye on many areas of the relationship, as well as living separate lives. One may join a volunteer group, a book club, working out or other activities that take a significant time away from having quality time with each other. You might not be arguing a lot with one another, but you feel disconnected from your spouse. It feels better to be alone or with others, doing other activities, rather than spending time with your spouse.
- Doing lots of cost-benefit analyses in the relationship: Do you find yourself listing all the things you do for your spouse and the family, feeling like your partner doesn’t do his or her part? I call this the cost-benefit analysis, and it usually feels like there is more cost in staying in the relationship than leaving.
- Day-dreaming without your spouse: It’s not news that some days we find ourselves daydreaming about going to Paris or climbing the Everest, that’s perfectly normal! For marriages, the issue is when you see yourself alone or accompanied by someone else that’s not your partner.
- Taking forever to recover from fights: Research shows that happy couples are able to use humor or other positive actions to lessen the impact of conflict. It’s when you feel locked in the conflict, such as hours and even days need to pass to feel comfortable around your spouse again. Sometimes a massive argument has to happen, and then things begin to lighten up again. However, this can be a very exhausting cycle, right?
- Lack of interest in resolving arguments together: Do your arguments end like this?: “We are not talking about this again,” or “this conversation is over” and walk away or change the topic to something else. Not expressing interest in resolving conflict or listening to your spouse’s concerns causes disconnection in the relationship.
So after reading these warning signs, you might be wondering, is my marriage worth fixing? The answer is: It depends. How many of the 11 signs did you say yes to? 1, maybe all 11?
However, I believe in what the old saying says: “When there is a will, there is a way.” Whether you are finding out that your marriage is displaying some warning signs or you have been considering divorce because you are tired of the frequent arguments, relationships can turn around by taking action.
To Your Relationship Success,
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Relationships & Parenting Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationships, in her private practice, located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her bachelor and master degrees in marriage and family therapy and in business administration. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens, an evidenced based program. She is also a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She is a passionately committed therapist, who thoroughly takes pride and joy from her job. She enjoys working with a culturally diverse population and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an active volunteer of the Broward Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves her family, which is consisted of her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.infinitetherapeuticservices.com and follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/infinitetherapy/