Relationships often change over time, but how can you know if they are changing for the worst? In many cases, we don’t see how bad things have become until we’re overwhelmed by problems, until we’re fighting every day and can’t seem to remember where things went wrong.
It’s important to give your marriage something of a “check up” from time to time, where you try to step outside yourself and really evaluate how the relationship is going (not just your opinion of it). The following list contains ten scenarios that may indicate some serious trouble in your marriage. If these seem familiar, or accurately describe a facet of your marriage, it’s time to stop, reevaluate, and make some attitude and behavior adjustments for the good of your relationship.
Here are ten warning signs that your marriage might be in danger:
1. You’ve Become Roommates (Not Teammates)
Teammates work together, roommates simply take care of their own. Instead of functioning like a unit, some couples settle into a divided approach to everything. Like roommates, they do their own laundry, wash their own dishes, worry about their own finances, and only when the responsibility HAS to fall on both people, do they come together to find a solution.
More than just household responsibilities though, roommates share a space, but not always their time. If you’re making separate plans, eating separate meals, and beginning to live separate lives, this poses a serious threat to the strength of your marriage.
2. One-Sided Decisions
If you used to ask your spouse for their opinions – on things major AND minor, for their input on big decisions and because you wanted to know what they thought about the little things – but it feels like you’re making decisions without so much as considering your spouse’s input, there’s been a big breakdown in communication.
It means you and your spouse are either no longer considering one another’s opinions, or there’s so much tension that it’s easier to simply not ask. Both present major problems.
3. Sex Life Stasis
Sex is an important part of staying physically and emotionally connected, but if other problems are damaging the way you see one another, sexual attraction can just keep slipping further and further away. We don’t really want to jump into bed with people we see as an impediment to our happiness.
Alternatively, one of you may be withholding sex as punishment, disinterested because of self-esteem issues, or any of a wide range of reasons that can cause your sex life to come to a standstill.
4. Tit for Tat
The moment you start quantifying mistakes made or contributions around the house, comparing your spouse’s numbers to your own to find out who’s “more right” – you’re walking down a dangerous road. This kind of scorekeeping is always a bad idea. You wind up with a list of mistakes to dwell on, instead of a list of positive qualities to be thankful for, and inevitably a list of things your spouse DID NOT do, instead of what they’ve done right.
This kind of behavior almost always comes from a place of anger, frustration, or resentment, so the only things we keep track of are negative. This reinforces our viewpoint, and does little but make us more frustrated.
5. Seeking Connection Elsewhere
It can be emotional or physical, “harmless talk” or a full blown affair, but no matter how it unfolds, if you’re seeking connection from someone other than your spouse, your marriage is in trouble. If you’re even tempted, stop yourself and think about your actions (or even your thoughts). What’s preventing you from reaching out to your spouse for that connection? How can you solve the problem?
6. Button Pushing
After enough time spent together, it’s pretty safe to say that you and your spouse know each other’s “buttons” for anger, embarrassment, etc.
While you may have pushed those buttons by accident in the past, it’s a real sign of trouble if you’re pushing them on purpose to get a rise out of your spouse. If you’re taking pleasure out of this kind of control and manipulation, the problems run even deeper.
7. The Mental Vacation
If you’re constantly imagining a life away from your partner, it means that you’re both ignoring whatever problems are making you feel that way, and likely not letting your spouse know what’s troubling you. This kind of “checking out” is both unrealistic and unhealthy. If your mind is somewhere else, you’re just going through the motions of a marriage, which will only lead to further disconnection.
8. Dateless Days
When the romance was alive and well, chances are good that you and your spouse went on “dates” of some kind. This doesn’t even have to be an extravagant, dinner-and-dancing type excursion – just that you made a point to plan to spend time together. You did fun things together, and made an effort to be nice to each other. Maybe it was just bringing home your spouse’s favorite snack or leaving a sweet note on the bathroom mirror. The point is, you took the time to make each other feel loved – not because you felt like you were supposed to, but because you wanted to.
If that behavior has fallen by the wayside, part of the spark is surely missing.
9. The Talk Is Gone
Did you used to sit up all night talking with each other about anything and everything? Was it easy to lose track of hours and cover all kinds of topics, to talk openly about your hopes and fears?
If that kind of conversation seems missing from your marriage, and the talk now seems limited to a few short words about who’s picking up the kids or what you need from the store, something has definitely changed for the worse. Conversation with your spouse shouldn’t feel exhausting.
10. Looking Out For #1
Ideally, you and your spouse should be making decisions based on your combined needs as a couple, or what best suits both of your individual needs. If you (or your spouse) are starting to make decisions based only on individual needs, however, and not even considering the potential needs of the other person, the “team” dynamic of your marriage is in jeopardy.
These “danger signs” can come in varying severity, in combinations, or in slightly different forms than you see here. The point is to be aware of the little breakdowns in connectivity that can happen gradually, and by the time you notice, there has already been significant damage to the health and strength of your relationship.
If you notice these things happening in your marriage, don’t let them continue! Stop and look for the root of the problem, and be brave and honest enough with your spouse to get this stuff out in the open. You can work on it individually or together, but if these issues go unaddressed, they will only chip away at your happiness and lead to even more difficulty.