No marriage is perfect – no matter how things may look from the outside. Every couple has struggled and for some, the struggles are so great that the only way to describe their union is as a bad marriage.
But there are a couple of curious things about bad marriages.
Some aren’t bad all the time or even most of the time. These are marriages that are situationally unhealthy and are reactions to something specific that happens.
The other curious thing about unhealthy marriages is that bad isn’t the same for everyone. What one couple (or one spouse) calls bad another couple easily accepts as normal.
So what causes a bad marriage?
There’s no single or simple answer here. People who are in unhealthy marriages have all kinds of ways to describe what is the root problem of their relationship woes.
1. Betrayals – sexual and emotional
2. Too much fighting
3. Regularly receiving the silent treatment
4. Not talking about problems
5. Not cooperating or working together
6. Not listening to understand
7. Finding blame instead of problem-solving
8. Being taken for granted
9. Not meeting sexual needs
10. Not meeting needs for intimacy
11. Keeping secrets
12. Passive/aggressive behavior
15. Prolonged or repeated absences
19. Anger issues
21. Lying repeatedly
22. Improper parenting behavior
23. Putting other families first
25. Untreated addictions
30. Bad example of marriage for children
33. Name calling
This is a long list and by no means is it complete. But what is interesting about this list is that it only contains three definite signs of divorce: abuse, refusal to treat addictions, and setting a dismal example of marriage for your children.
There is no doubt the rest of the stuff on this list describes a bad marriage. But even if one or more of these descriptions nails what’s wrong with yours, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to leave your marriage.
Identifying that you have a bad marriage is just one piece of the puzzle to knowing if it’s bad enough to leave. (Unless you’re dealing with one of the definite signs you should get divorced.)
Knowing that you have a bad marriage should trigger you to start asking other questions. Questions like:
- Am I OK living like this?
- Do I still love my spouse enough to want to work on things?
- What have I already done to make my bad marriage better?
- What am I willing to do to make it better?
- Do I have hope things can be better?
It’s only by asking tough questions like this and answering them with brutal honesty that you’ll ever know if your bad marriage is bad enough to leave or only bad enough to make better.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are struggling with a bad marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.