What are the signs of an unraveling marriage? When does it usually begin and why does happen? And what can you do about it?
These are only a few of the questions I get from clients every day. Sometimes it seems that many of us are like lost souls, looking for ways to connect or reconnect with those that we love. Why is it that your husband or wife seems to be pulling away from you? What causes them to act disinterested or seem to put you second to the other things in their life?
So what does it really look and feel like when a marriage is losing it’s grip on the two individuals? In a moment, we are going to talk about this at length. We are going to explore all of the different ways and signs that marriages tend to dissolve away, leaving you hurt and vulnerable.
By the way, if you are one of those couples tying to pick up the pieces, yet are still dedicated that your marriage is worth something and that to rebuild the relationship after a split up is well worth your efforts, then take a moment to review this post…
I will tell you at the top of this article, that if you feel this way….if you are one of those individuals who are reading this and say to themselves….”yea, I know what you are talking about because it is happening in my marriage right now”…..then I don’t want you to panic or feel like you are alone or the only one in this predicament.
Do You Feel Lost in Your Marriage
The truth is that marriages of all kinds go through stages and cycles. Relationships do not reside in a really static state. The shape of a marriage, if you imagine it as such, is one that changes in size and dimension depending on the behaviors of the husband and wife.
Sometimes, the marriage can take the shape of a relationship that seems like it sprung forth from heaven. It can feel like neither of you can do no wrong.
Other times you or your spouse may question why you even got married and wonder how the two of you will be able to cope with all of your problems.
If you are wondering about the things you can do to better your message and make it work in all keys areas, you should check out this post…
It is normal for there to be ups and downs. If you feel like all is lost and that your marriage is in near ruins, then I want you to take a step back and realize there is a bigger picture. I want you to learn that seldom are things as bad as we make them out in our minds. And sometimes, it is necessary to travel through the rocky valley of marital struggle before we can experience the fulfillment of reaching the the higher levels of a relationship.
So what does one look for as the first signs of a troubled marriage?
There are numerous signs we can pick up on. None of them by themselves are usually cause for concern. Even if you are experiencing a handful of the issues I outline below does not mean your marriage is about to fall apart.
After all, finding two people who are perfectly aligned in all of their likes and dislikes is essentially impossible. There is no such thing as a perfect couple. All of us are exceptionally unique in who we are and what we bring to a relationship. And who we are and what we can offer to a marriage is ever changing, sometimes only by degree, but nothing in our experience is completely static.
When I look at a marriage, in almost all cases I see a relationship between a couple that consists of strengths and weaknesses. Strong marriages tend to have more strengths and fewer weaknesses. The best of marriages also tend to consist of couples who do one simple thing very well. Specifically, they are nice to each other. They frequently show kindness to each other and appreciation for each other.
It sounds far to simply to be true, doesn’t it?
But studies over many years have revealed that the secret sauce for almost all marriages is the way we treat our husband or wife on this kindness front.
What Are the Problem Spots of a Marriage?
So in my listing of things to look for in marriages that may be encountering problems, I focus first on those things that relate to matters of being kind to each other. Love is amazing and love making is also fabulous. But the glue that keeps the marriage bonded together is the expression of appreciation and the recognition from your spouse that you make them feel like they matter. Frequent expressions of kindness wins the marriage race.
So are our ready! Let’s get started.
A Lack of Appreciation
When we wake up each and every day we have an opportunity to do things that show how we appreciate this other person in our lives. We have an opportunity every day to show that we appreciate that our spouse is part of helping us find our way through the mazes of life.
Ask yourself, how often do you and your spouse exchange kind words and do the little things that demonstrate you care about each other. All of us come into the world with our own needs often foremost in our minds. It is more than a gesture to consistently say nice things to each other and support you lover’s emotional (and physical) needs. This kind of behavior makes or breaks marriages.
When the exchange of kindness and appreciation becomes the norm in a marriage, then the relationship is on solid, sturdy ground. When these expressions of consideration are infrequently passed on to each other, that is when the marriage starts showing cracks.
This is probably the most reliable way in which a couple can assess the strength or weakness of their marriage. Perhaps some day, somebody will invent the “kindness gauge” so that we can all take it and get a reading so we can learn how we score. Wouldn’t that be cool if before you picked somebody you wanted to date that you could look up their kindness gauge to see how this person embraces the principle of showing kindness and appreciation!
When kind gestures and appreciative words and actions become the language of how you consistently communicate with your husband or wife, then you can be assured that each of your will have many fulfilling days ahead.
2. Moaning and Groaning and Bickering and Fussing.
When I ask my clients about the degree in which they negatively interact with their spouse and I get answers like….”almost all the time” or “much of the time“…then I know we have a lot of work to do with the relationship.
Our lives are filled with challenges which can bring on stresses and anxieties. When you are married or involved in a close relationship with another, just that dynamic in and of itself can create additional stresses. As I described earlier, none of us are made to be perfectly compatible with another.
You may think that if you search wide and far, you will find your perfect match in a husband or wife. But I am here to tell you that while searching for someone that you connect with well on multiple levels is a worthwhile endeavor, don’t fall victim to the fairly tale notion that there is a Mr. Perfect or a Cinderella is out there for you.
They are not. The real world is far more complicated than the stories we read or the fantasies we can conjure up in our minds.
What we have are people that are compatible to another at varying degrees. But most often, you won’t know to what degree you are compatible with a prospective husband or wife until you spend a considerable amount of time together and face various situations that impose stress into your lives.
One of the telltale signs that a marriage is struggling is when a couple spends far too much time in conflict with each other. Clients will come to me and tell me that they hardly ever have big fights with their spouse and wonder why things are not going so well. Then they will go on to tell me about the multitude of little relationship run ins they will experience. They will tell me on on hand, they don’t have big, big fights, but that they do bicker and snap at each other quite a lot.
I don’t think that the frequency of big fights between a couple is the best indicator of the health of the marriage. I have known some pretty passionate people who can occasionally get into some really big arguments with their husband or wife, but when they come out the other end in good shape.
Sure, we don’t want to fight all the time with the one we love. Fighting is almost always a lose-lose proposition for both parties. But what I think is more indicative of a stronger marriage is one in which the instances of bickering and fussiness and complaining is held in check.
When things come apart in a marriage, it is often not just some huge fight that is responsible for the marriage being on the rocks or coming to an end. Certainly, it does not help and I see plenty of cases where the last straw was a knock down, drag out fight, ending in both parties exhausted and demoralized.
But, what really drives marriages to go down the tubes is the collective number of instances in which negativity defines the marriage each and every day.
Negative actions can take the form of the smallest things. It can be be a remark or series of complaints that happen all too frequently. It can take the form of subtle emotional abuse that just seems to take on a life of its own. Negativity can take the form of making your wife or husband feel they are not up to par….or they are made to feel they are constantly wrong about things.
It is like marital death by a thousand complaints or put downs. A marriage spiraling into the dark is when one or both spouses are made to feel like every day they wake up, they step into the quicksand of dullness and depression.
Sometimes a marriage can get stuck into routines and when these routines turn out to be “negative” in how they are practiced, then the couple ceases to be partners in love, but rather two souls seeking to get through another day in the company of the other.
3. Not Spending Quality Time Together Alone
One of the problems in a marriage is what I call the marital entropy trap!
What on earth is that, you might be thinking!
Entropy is a universal force that when left to its own designs will lead to deterioration and break down. A couple who at one time were married and lived in bliss in those early days, can fall into this trap. Routines begin to develop and each marital partner can get comfortable with his and her routines.
This not necessarily a problem unless the routine short circuits the time the couple spends together. As a marriage matures, it is natural for a couple to get set in their ways to some extent. The problem is when this marriage loses its freshness and the couple begins to accept the status quo of living each day, week, and month like the previous day, week and month.
A certain degree of boredom, even futility can creep in. As entropy chips away at the foundation of the marriage, the couple suffers.
So what is marriage entropy?
We know in the real world, entropy is a law of the universe. Overtime, things go to ruin. Metal rusts, machine parts breakdown, the fabric of clothes tear. There are thousands of examples. It is a real phenomenon.
Well, in marriage I think there is a force that acts upon the foundation of the relationship. This force is propelled by things like stress, pressure, anxiety, uncertainty, compromised emotional health, weakened physical health, increase in family responsibilities, increase of career responsibilities, and many other things that can act to the detriment of a marriage.
In my book, that is a lot of “headwind” for a couple to contend with. What often happens is the husband or wife or both retreat within themselves when confronted with so much headwind. Or, they find that their disposable time….that time they would otherwise spend with their loving partner….becomes less and less.
When a couple does not spend quality time together, there are so many things that can get shortchanged. The opportunity to simply talk and coordinate is reduced. The opportunity to share and unload their problems can fall by the wayside.
To counter this, a couple needs time alone. Quality time alone. I not just talking about having sex, though certainly that is very important to a marriage. What I mean is that a husband and wife benefit greatly when they can spend time around each other without the interference of work demands, children, phone calls, text messages, or any other interruptions.
This is where the couple can strengthen the bonds again and plan for their futures. This a time for a nice quiet walk or a long bike ride. This time alone could be a car trip to a couples retreat or bed & breakfast. There are literally hundreds of things a couple can do together (alone and away from interruptions). This is very important to any marriage and when it is missing, then it makes it tough for a couple to rekindle the fire.
4. Failing to Embrace Change and Reinvent and Rediscover
One of the the problems many couples suffer from is failing to breathe new life into a marriage.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I am not saying all marriages are destined to shrivel up and die. Nor am I saying that every marriage will require resuscitation. But what I am saying is that it is a natural thing to expect that marriage, even one that is moderately successful, will over time get stale.
People change in small ways over time and the marriage will reflect those changes over time. Sometimes the personal changes a husband or wife goes through during the course of a marriage are to the betterment of the relationship.
Sometimes it is to the detriment. So embracing new experiences together as a couple, along with supporting the new directions your partner may wish to embark on, is vital to the health and growth of a marriage.
Its easy and natural to get set in our ways. So taking proactive measures to change things you do together is important. This can include things like how, where, and when you make love, the type of vacations you take, the places you go to on weekends, the shows you may watch together, the hobbies and sports you engage in.
It helps to shake things up to keep things fresh and renewed. Surprising your spouse with little gifts or a kiss or hug can do wonders.
5. Listening Attentively With Selflessness
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just open up your heart and really listen to what you wife or husband has to say. Empathize with your partner’s plight. Be selfless in your actions.
All these things sound so easy to implement, but the truth is that it takes energy and effort to do all these things well. They are are so important to the well being of a marriage.
Think of these kinds of behaviors as nourishment to the soul of the marriage. Without an effort to practice and repeat these behaviors, couples tend to grow apart and become centered on self. And that is a big problem. It is the antithesis of growing closer bonds. If a husband or wife are looking for a way to create distance and distrust, then shut down the communications by not listening.
So what is attentive listening?
This is when you put all of your own cares and considerations aside and open your heart and mind to what your lover has to say. It is when you encourage your spouse to share whatever is on their mind and quietly you listen, without interruption to what they have to say.
But being a good listener is more than just being quiet and letting your marriage partner have their say. An active listener is engaging with your wife or husband at the right time to show you understand and support them. It involves occasionally asking questions to gain a greater perspective. And it involves thanking your spouse for sharing what was on their mind.