You know things aren’t right, but you continue sweeping the problems under the rug and won’t examine your relationship in the context of the question, “What does an unhappy marriage look like?” The result is that you don’t get the timely help you need to turn things around.
Your daydreams of happiness don’t include your spouse. This psychological detachment is a way of convincing yourself you really don’t care so that there is less pain when the final separation happens.
If you are not communicating, you can’t align your goals. If you aren’t regularly communicating about the things that are most important to each of you, you’ll eventually begin noticing conflicting differences in your perspectives toward life and your goals.
Your faith and politics may suddenly be starkly misaligned. Your ideas for the future of your marriage and family may not resemble anything you co-created in the early days of your marriage. And differences like these can be at the root of a miserable marriage.
Even couples with children and heavy workloads can create and maintain intimacy with healthy, ongoing communication. If you and your spouse aren’t making the effort, however, to understand each other’s work and interests, the intimacy required for a happy marriage will quickly erode.
These needs could be sexual, emotional, physical, or spiritual. And when they go unmet you look for ways to satisfy them. You could address them all yourself, or you could look to someone else. And if you look to someone else to address your unmet needs, you’re definitely dealing with an unhappy marriage and could even be on the slippery slope toward divorce.
Do either of you have unreasonable expectations that the other simply can’t meet? Do either of you make comparisons to “happy couples” and other marriages in an effort to apply pressure or guilt?
Obviously, there is a fine line between healthy fighting and fighting all the time. But fights have the potential to lead to greater intimacy if they are processed and repaired with commitment and compassion.
If you have stopped fighting, it is often a sign you’ve stopped caring.
Listening — true listening — is the greatest tool in building intimacy. When couples truly care about one another, it shows in how they communicate, and especially in how they listen.
Conversations, even arguments, have little to do with the topics themselves, and everything to do with listening for the underlying emotions and feelings.
For example, one spouse may impose financial control over the other, limiting that person’s freedom and inclusion in decision-making regarding money.