There is nothing more painful than watching your marriage disintegrate before your eyes. It hurts. In fact, it may be amongst the most painful experiences you will have in your lifetime.
During our many radio and television interviews over the years we are often asked this simple question, "How will I know if my marriage is in trouble?" Our research with couples around the world has identified 7 warning signs that your marriage is in trouble:
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1. One or both of you show increasing disrespect for each other. In failing marriages, there are growing signs of disrespect. Resentment and contempt have replaced patience and love. You go out of your way to avoid being together.
And sadly, when you are away from your spouse you are happier than when you are with them. Having fun with your mate seems to be a thing of the past. When mutual respect and understanding fail, your marriage is well on the way to its end. Make no mistake about that.
2. You fight and argue much more often than before and do so unfairly. Fact is, you have nothing nice to say to or about each other anymore. You love to nitpick at each other. Your teasing isn't fun, it is now painful and hurtful. You use each other as personal pincushions!
Sadly, your arguments are repeatedly about the same subjects. You are increasingly critical of each other, you fight constantly, and you no longer fight fair. As we have said many times before—it is okay to argue—all successfully married couples do—but the truth is this, successfully married couples have learned how to fight fair. Their arguments do not become personal and attack oriented.
3. You and your spouse are no longer capable of communicating with each other in meaningful and productive ways. Communication between a husband and a wife is of paramount importance to the health of a successful marital relationship. Failing marriages communicate less and less. There are fewer and fewer meaningful exchanges between the two people who occupy the marriage bond.
Worse yet, they don't talk with each other about their mutual problems anymore. Frankly, failing marriages lose the ability and the willingness to resolve their marital problems. They just don't care anymore. When communication between a husband and wife shuts down, there is little hope for the marriage. Always remember this, no problem was ever resolved, no divide ever bridged, and no disagreement ever broached when people refused to communicate. When communication falters, a marriage is in trouble.
4. Sexual intimacy in your marriage is low and increasingly non-existent. In a failing marriage, sexual intimacy is low. Sexual intimacy becomes more and more infrequent. Marriage partners turn into roommates, they live together in the same home, but do not share the intimacies of a marriage. Unfortunately, intimacy becomes a thing of the past.
It is clear from our more than 30 years of research that sexual intimacy is over-rated when it comes to the best marriages. There are many other elements that are equally or more important to a successful marriage than sex. But make no mistake about it; intimacy is about more than good sex. Intimacy is holding hands on a walk, snuggling in the morning, hugging a lot, touching each other, and, in general, feeling emotion for each other.
5. Your conversations and discussions are dominated by financial arguments. It is clear, when you argue increasingly and incessantly about financial issues, your marriage is in trouble. We have written extensively about this subject over the past two years, and if the truth were known, most arguments in a marriage center on financial issues.
Worse yet, you discover your spouse is lying about money and other financial related issues. They lie about the bills, the balances, the payoffs, and the commitments. A very bad sign, indeed.
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It is clear that we live in trying times when it comes to the economy and finances. But the truth is that the best marriages survive and thrive during trying economic times. The best marriages find a way to deal with the economic uncertainties. Failing marriages have not learned to cope with economic uncertainty because they have not learned how to communicate with each other. If all you talk about is your financial plight, you marriage is in trouble.