Don’t ignore these signs of a loveless unhappy marriage
Are you in an unhappy marriage and worried you may be headed for divorce? Being in what feels like a loveless marriage can be draining. And you may not know how you got to this point.
However, marriage troubles rarely develop overnight.
Each partner often is just trying to survive the day-to-day busyness of life that they rarely look back to see the cumulative damage.
Here are 8 tell-tale signs that your marriage is unhappy and you and your spouse need to fix it ASAP:
1. You struggle to speak civilly
Maybe you feel hurt and wronged by your partner, making communication just plain difficult. Every discussion dissolves into a fight because you feel your perspective isn’t heard.
You and your partner outline every past flaw and fault. You both end up shouting because each of you is full of emotion.
It takes an effort to listen actively. Often, especially after many years with your spouse, you stop actively listening and start making assumptions. While assumptions are great ways to speed up the process of getting from A to B, they can be messy and full of inaccuracies. And if all your communications are full of assumptions, you will never feel like you are heard. Nor will your spouse.
Relying on assumptions and not listening actively also keeps you on the surface. Even if you reach a “solution,” often the solution doesn’t hold.
That’s because the real problem (usually a clash of values, expectations, goals, etc.) lives below the surface details of the problem.
So, not actively listening may leave you feeling stuck replaying the same argument repeatedly. You two are fighting so hard to be heard, and no one is listening to validate feelings and work towards a real solution.
2. There’s a lot of silence between you
Alternatively, the silence is pervasive because you feel like you have nothing to say.
Maybe limiting contact keeps the peace. Perhaps you feel like you need to sort your thoughts out and are even tempted to discuss your marital issues with others. Maybe, for your own reasons, just avoiding your partner makes sense.
Your partner should be the person who you want to share the best and the worst parts of your day with. They should be the ones who can safely receive your most vulnerable feelings. This emotional intimacy is the basis of a strong marriage.
When you choose to go elsewhere for that support, you are shutting your partner out. According to Dr. Shirley Glass and Jean Staeheli, authors of Not Just Friends, choosing to share the significant parts of your day or your marital troubles with others is opening windows to them and building a wall between you and your spouse.
The more barriers between you and your partner, the harder it is to breakthrough. But more importantly, the more you may open yourself up to extra-marital affairs.
3. You’re allowing the “Four Horsemen” to enter your marriage.
According to John Gottman, psychological researcher and clinician on divorce and marital stability, your marriage is headed for trouble if these four “horsemen” are prevalent in you or your partner’s communication.
Criticism is not the same as critiquing nor voicing a complaint. Critiquing is offering a careful judgment on what you consider the good and bad parts of something. Criticism tends to cut deeper because it’s judging the merits and faults of someone. It’s a subtle difference, but there is a difference. Critiquing in a relationship focuses on the action, criticism focuses on your partner’s character.
Defensiveness is often a response to criticism because you feel attacked. You think you have to justify yourself and may even push blame back. Unfortunately, this is viewed as excuses by the critical partner and sends the signal that you aren’t serious about the issue. Criticism and defensiveness draw battle lines and rarely lead to good solutions in conflicts.
Contempt is when you treat others with disrespect, mock them, ridicule, call names, mimic, scoff at them, or roll your eyes. It makes the other person feel unvalued and worthless, while you have placed yourself (knowingly or not) in a place of moral superiority. Contempt keeps you right without ever having to recognize your partner may be struggling as well.
Stonewalling is often a response to contempt. When the listener withdraws from the conversation, refuses to engage, or shuts down, that’s stonewalling. It usually takes time for stonewalling to emerge in a relationship, but when it begins, it can quickly become a bad habit and hard to stop.
4. You’re not having sex anymore
Sex is not only healthy for your emotional health but also for the overall health of your relationship. Regular sex with your partner improves your confidence, which reflects in your marriage. It can improve your self-esteem and your sense of being an attractive, desirable individual.