It’s normal to wonder about the viability of your marriage when you’re not as happy as you’d like. And the wondering can be both frightening and confusing. “Are we really that unhappy?” “What does an unhappy marriage look like?” “Is this salvageable?” “Is it me?” “Is it him?” “Is it her?” “Maybe all marriages get to be ho-hum. We can’t expect to be truly happy forever, right?”
Yes, there are the obvious betrayals — infidelity, abuse, addiction — but symptomatically even these don’t guarantee the divorce. The truth is, there is never just “one” reason, one symptom, that causes a person to choose divorce.
Unhappy marriages grow insidiously from a lack of correction of harmful — even if subtle — behaviors and choices. And happy marriages taken for granted and left undernourished can render their partners asking, “How did we get here?”
The very thing that makes romantic love so exclusive and unique is the same thing that can be its undoing. Intimacy involves vulnerability. And that kind of exposure means that another person has power to both heal…and hurt. That is an awesome gift of trust…and an awesome responsibility.
So what does an unhappy marriage look like? Are there specific qualities that are always present? Every marriage, happy or unhappy, is unique.
Remember, intimacy, both physical and emotional, is what separates romantic love relationships from all other relationships.
Your conversations revolve around the pragmatics of running a home, taking care of kids, going to work and paying bills.
Your spouse should be your primary confidante for communication about both happy and difficult matters. If you are reaching out first to a friend — especially of your spouse’s gender — you may be emotionally detaching from your marriage.
Arguments should be about communication and improvement of the relationship. They should never be about inflicting pain. Use of blaming language — “You always,” “You make me feel,” “It’s your fault,” etc. — inevitably incites counter-blame and hurt feelings.
You have essentially disconnected and become roommates who simply accept the fact that you live together.
And most commonly the “others” are your children. Yes, your children do deserve to have your attention and love, but not to the exclusion of spending time with your spouse and fixing what’s wrong in your marriage.