8 Subtle Signs Your Marriage is Falling Apart
10 Signs Your Marriage Is In Trouble
If you've been watching Sarah Jessica Parker's emotional HBO seriesDivorce, then you know that sometimes marriages don't necessarily fall apart because of one specific instance — like an affair. And while SJP's character Francesdidcheat on her husband Robert and itwasdevastating for her family, her infidelity wasn't the core reason a split was imminent. There was resentment over money, dwindling passion, and the big one: a lack of respect for the others feelings, goals, and desires.
And though the show is fiction, the truth is, marriage is messy and complicated, and infidelity is not the only reason marriages suffer. Here, marriage experts offer 10 signs that your marriage is in trouble — and the word "cheating" is never mentioned.
If you're only focusing on your kids or career, leaving no time for date nights, or any alone time to check in and stay connected, you need to take a step back and ask yourself why your husband has become the lowest priority. "Disconnection is a leading cause of divorce, and can sneak up on a couple before they're even aware of how vast the distance between them feels," explains Anita Chipala, author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love. "They lose the feeling of romance and connection, then perhaps their sex life decreases, then they fight more, then they avoid arguing by avoiding each other, and on it goes." Small, daily interactions — like catching up on your day in bed — that you consciously make the time for can make a big difference in strengthening your relationship.
Maybe when you first met, you and your husband had the same 10-year plan: climb the corporate ladder, have 2 kids, buy your dream home. But if your visions start to differ — maybe you no longer want children at all, maybe he wants to quit his job, move to a new city, and try something new — you're going to have to compromise if you want to stay together. "Before you go your separate ways, see if there might be a middle ground," says Rhonda Milrad, founder of Relationup. "There just may be a way that each of you can give a little and alter your visions so that each of your needs can be accommodated. You may find that the future you thought that you couldn't envision for yourself turns out to be very satisfying."
If you have a strong sexual desire for say, that Chris Hemsworth-lookalike in your office — but not your partner — or your level of intimacy is reminiscent of what you had with a college roommate (that is to say, nothing), it's time to figure why the romance and sexual connection all but evaporated. "Instead of giving up, it may just be time to reboot your sexual life," says Milrad. "You have to take steps to breathe the romance and sexual intimacy back into your marriage. Set up romantic evenings, demonstrate affectionate touch, and initiate sexual contact. You may find that one positive experience begets another and soon, the two of you have a satisfying sexual life again."
You know what your mother used to say: If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all? Well, if you find that you're only spewing venom to your husband about everything from the way he orders his food to how he folds his clothes to the decisions he's made at work, how can either of you expect to feel supported?
"This usually is a result of poor communication —you don't feel heard or understood, you're unable to share feelings, or say 'I was wrong', which becomes more fault-finding and back-biting than a willingness to listen and compromise," explains Chris Grace, director of Biola University's Center for Marriage and Relationships. A good test is to notice the number of positive, upbeat interactions to negative ones. If they're equal and you're finding that there's a positive interaction for every negative one, the discord is only going to grow. "A great goal is to aim for a healthier ratio, such as four positive, upbeat interactions to every negative one."
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Spending time apart is just as crucial to nurturing a relationship as spending time together. But when your alone time is filled with doubt, unease, and wariness from your partner, it defeats the purpose. "If your partner begins to demand your trust, and even seek to keep you from others for fear of being abandoned — such jealousy and control is unhealthy," explains Grace. Abusing technology to check up on and see if you really went to dinner with the girls or if your husband demands you check in wherever you go — even to work — the implication is you're doing something wrong and are being dishonest.
Yes, your therapy sessions should be a time to get anything off your chest without being judged or feeling inhibited. But if your sessions become a place to bitch about your husband and explore the myriad of reasons why you might want to leave him — it's time to take a step back and remember that you're not in the marriage alone. "I'm always shocked to hear that a therapist will support their client's decision to divorce their spouse without first advising the couple to work together on resolving their conflict," says Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, and Imago therapist of The Marriage Restoration Project. If the problems are bubbling up to the surface so much that you have nothing else to discuss during therapy, you owe it to your husband to broach the subject of seeing a counselor together to work through your problems together.
If you feel like you have two jobs — one that pays the bills and one that keeps your household running — with no help from your husband on the latter, it's understandable to feel resentful and even burnt out. Marriage is a partnership, so if your husband isn't sharing responsibilities such as carpool pick-up, unloading the dishwasher, or grocery shopping and you feel like you're drowning, it can cause tension. "Have an open and fluid conversation about 'grunt work,'" suggests Erika Boissiere of The Relationship Institute of San Francisco. "This means the dishwasher, the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning up, the everything. Is it shared? Also, build in fluidity. Sometimes we have a hard day, sometimes we got a poor night's sleep, and sometimes, we're sick. Tell your partner when you need an extra hand — and extend the same to your partner when you notice they're feeling low."
Fights will erupt in any relationship, but it's how you handle them that says so much more than what you actually were actually fighting about. If you or your partner isolates, shuts down, and refuses to talk things through after a major blowup, the fight isn't over. "How can a fight ever be resolved if you shut the other person out? If this becomes your norm, conflict never gets healed. It gets buried under the rug, only to surface later," explains Boissiere. If you're the one putting up the wall, take a deep breath and tell your partner exactly how long you need for your "time out." If you need twenty minutes, an hour, a whole day, it's on you to keep track. "It's thenyourresponsibility to come back, on-time, and continue the discussion. If you start fighting again, take a longer time out. Also, it's important that you never tell your partner thattheyneed a time out. You always stay in the 'I' position: 'I need to take a break.I'llbe back in 30 minutes.'"
If a stressful situation from the minor (your toddler is melting down in public) to the major (your investments took a huge hit in the stock market and you might lose your home) sends your partner to a bottle full of pills or booze to cope, it's going to affect your marriage. "Not addressing substance abuse is typically a relationship killer. We call them 'misery stabilizers' because you're struggling with something and using substances to cope," explains Boissiere. "Depending on the addiction level, counseling or group meetings are helpful. Also, the spouse that is not addicted can attend support groups to learn about resources and tools so things can be fixed."
Separate bank accounts — whether they're a secret or one you/your spouse knows about — are a huge red flag that there's a lack of certainty that you'll stay together. "The subliminal message most of us read when there are separate accounts of any kind is, 'Hmm, I may leave you, so I had better have a secret stash of money to survive,'" explains Stacey Greene, author of Stronger Than Broken: One Couple's Decision to move Through an Affair. "When couples have separate accounts, they generally have separate financial goals.
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