Many marital problems stem from one member of the couple “checking out” of the relationship. This is sometimes referred to as “falling out of love,” and it can go unnoticed or unaddressed all too easily.
It may be related to specific issues within the marriage, but it can also be a byproduct of not putting the time and energy into maintaining the health of the relationship. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of growing apart gradually over time.
The good news is that this problem can be resolved through quality time spent together, open communication, and a commitment to making the marriage the best it can be.
Here are five warning signs that you and your spouse have “fallen out of love” – and big red flags that say it’s time to reevaluate the state of the marriage, make some changes, and begin the process of rebuilding the relationship you already have.
1. They’re Critical of Friends and Family
While your spouse might not have a perfect relationship with your friends, your siblings, your parents, etc. – that doesn’t mean they should leap at the opportunity to badmouth them at every turn.
If nothing else, it shows a lack of concern for your feelings, and may be masked criticism of you. If your spouse seems unnecessarily critical of your friends and family, it’s worth asking them why they feel so negatively – and digging deep to find out if they may be using “your people” as a scapegoat for negative feelings about you.
If it never gets addressed, it can’t be solved.
2. Lack of Sexual Interest
One of the most telltale signs of a checked out member of the marriage is disappearing sexual enthusiasm. For a married couple, sex is a way of sharing intimacy and vulnerability, and connecting on both a physical and emotional level.
It’s something of a cycle though – having an active sex life helps couples stay attracted to each other physically and emotionally, and being attracted to each other leads to a better, more fulfilling sex life…
So when it starts to unravel – for whatever reason – it also compounds on itself. The less sex you’re having, the less you want to… and the further apart you grow.
This is a great big red flag. If your sex life is all but absent, talk to your spouse about why!
There are plenty of potential factors here (from health to personal issues and beyond), but if you don’t ask, you’ll never get to the bottom of it – and that could mean a nonexistent sex life, and ultimately, a nonexistent physical connection to one another.
3. You Spend Time With You, But Not With You
If you’re spending time in the same room, but not interacting… Sharing a home but barely acknowledging each other… Sitting side by side but lost in your phones or the computer…
You’re not spending time together at all. In many cases, this can be an indicator of unspoken problems. Your spouse could be using entertainment or social media as an escape – something they can do to avoid addressing their feelings or the problems they have with the relationship.
It may also be a way of mitigating boredom in the relationship without bringing it up. Talk to them about it!
A good approach is to also plan fun and exciting things your spouse will likely enjoy. This is a great first step to breaking them out of their habits and reengaging in the time you spend as a couple.
4. You Go To Bed At Different Times
Now, if you have particular work responsibilities or drastically different schedules, don’t read too far into this one – but if you’re both home in the evenings and still heading to bed separately, it could be a sign that one of you is checking out.
It’s a way of avoiding intimacy sometimes – saying things like, “you go on to bed, I’ll be in a little later” disrupts any ritual of snuggling up to fall asleep together, an evening recap of the day, and so on.
Like many of the other entries in this list, it could be a sign that there are larger problems going on beneath the surface.
5. They Never Include You In Weekend or After-Work Plans
Much like going to bed separately, avoiding sex, or being distracted by TV or smartphones, this is a sign that your spouse isn’t actively interested in spending time with you – and that may be a byproduct of being checked out of the relationship, or some underlying problems they haven’t been willing (or able) to bring up.
Spending time apart with friends or cultivating hobbies is just fine – in fact, it’s healthy for you to each have your own lives and identities. However, too much of this becomes the same problem of avoidance and disconnection we’ve mentioned above.
Your spouse might not even be aware that they’re doing it, so approach the topic gently. Don’t just accuse them of avoiding you. Find out what they’re doing and why it feels important to them to do it. Listen calmly and explain that you’re feeling neglected. You don’t have to get your spouse to give up their hobby or time with friends – just ask that they make some time for you too!
Unfortunately, gradual disconnection harms as many (or more) marriages as big fights, infidelity, or other humongous issues. The difference is that many couples don’t notice while it’s happening, and only realize the state of disrepair when they’ve already fallen into it.
If these warning signs hit home, don’t wait to deal with them! Don’t wait for them to get worse. These issues ARE solvable if you’re willing to face them head on, speak openly and honestly to one another, and put in the effort to reconnect.
You can do it!