Marriage is one of the hardest relationships to navigate in life. One reason for this is that men and women are wired differently. This means that some issues will never be resolved, and that is okay. No relationship is perfect 100% of the time and both you and your spouse have likely made hurtful mistakes. Although arguments can be frustrating, disagreeing with your spouse is actually a normal part of the marital foundation. The kind of arguing and disagreements that are necessary in marriage are those where both people are heard, valued and both partners seek to understand each other. What if you don’t argue? You could say that couples who never argue are avoiding important topics or suppressing hurt feelings to keep the peace. When a couple has been married for more than a few years and shares they never argue I become very curious. I am curious to discover who is not being honest, who is dominating, who is hiding in fear, who is … and why?
Now that you have you are probably asking yourself “If arguing is normal, how do I really know my marriage is falling apart?” Those are great questions and I will begin to answer them. Below are some common warning signs that your marriage may be in trouble.
Renowned psychologist and marriage research expert John Gottman outlined four major relationship killers and criticism is at the forefront. Habitually criticizing your partner can create deep seated resentment and contempt. One form of criticism is attacking your spouse’s character. When things go wrong in your relationship, it is easy to blame the other person, but it is essential to attack the problem rather than the person. This does not mean that you have to keep your negative feelings to yourself, but does indicate that you should choose your words wisely. Instead of saying things like “You always do this, you are so selfish and dismissive!” You can say, “When you make decisions without involving me, it really hurts and makes me feel like my opinion doesn’t matter.” In this way, you are communicating your hurt without condemning your spouse.
Feeling drained when you’re at home or around your spouse is a sign that something is wrong. Maybe they constantly complain or only focus on the negative. This can cause you to feel like nothing you ever do will be good enough for them, and this is an exhausting environment to live in. When you are surrounded by this type of outlook, you may begin experiencing feelings of helplessness or worthlessness. These feelings commonly precede the development of depression and other self-esteem issues if not processed effectively. To protect yourself from sinking into a negative space, set healthy boundaries with your spouse. It is not your job to fix their mess, but it is your job to guard your happiness and well-being.
Lack of Intimacy
Maybe you and your spouse struggle to connect or no longer enjoy being around one another. What once was exciting and intimate can begin to seem like a chore. This causes you to spend less time with your spouse and may eventually lead you to imagine life without them. You may begin to distance yourself from them or deny their bids for affection. Eventually, you are living with a person who you no longer know. All the qualities that attracted you to them in the beginning have disappeared and you may feel like you are married to a roommate. This is why it is important to continually create new, shared meaning. Make it a point to try out a new hobby, or schedule time for intimate connection. By doing so, you grow with your spouse and nurture the connection you share.
When marriages begin to struggle, it is not uncommon for spouses to seek connection elsewhere. This includes both being physically or emotionally intimate with a person outside of your marriage. A common misconception in the relationship world is that cheating only pertains to having sex with another person who is not your spouse. But, creating an emotional connection that provides you with satisfaction is also infidelity. You may notice your spouse taking a sudden interest in their appearance, staying out later than usual, or becoming territorial with their phone. If so, it is wise to address your concerns with your spouse by having an honest conversation. During the discussion if they become overly defensive or dismiss your feelings, it may be time to take further action or seek professional help.
We are all built for intimacy and connection, but relationships are hard. Feeling like your relationship is doomed? You are not alone. Whether you are experiencing a major betrayal in your marriage or simply want to develop healthy skills to improve your connection, marriage counseling can help. At New Vision Counseling and Consulting, we have therapists from all walks of life who are trained in experts ins in helping you in your marriage. We are here to guide you through the ups and downs that happen in any relationship. Your therapist will create a compassionate and understanding environment that gives you and your partner a safe space to identify and work through your problems. If you are ready to invest in the future of your relationship, call us at (405)-921-7776.