5 Signs A Marriage Cannot Be Saved (And You Should Stop Trying)

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upset wife wondering if her marriage cannot be saved

After being married for about six years and now almost officially divorced, there's one thing I can guarantee any married person: Marriage should take effort, but it shouldn't be hard labor around the clock.

It doesn't matter how head over heels you are with the person; if you're constantly engaged in a series of ups and downs that require difficult management and constant, forced work simply to keep the ship afloat, these are all signs you can't save your marriage.

Is marriage supposed to be hard?

Maintaining a long-term relationship of any kind certainly isn't what most people would consider "easy," but a good marriage shouldn't require constant, repetitive and overly self-compromising work. You aren't supposed to be Cinderella, metaphorically scrubbing, dusting and slaving over every detail of your marriage, simply so the two of you can function.

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If that sounds familiar, you need to ask yourself if this marriage worth your time and energy.

Below, we outline some of the major red flags that you should always pay attention to when you're starting to wonder if it's worth it to stay in what has become a marital nightmare for you, and perhaps for your partner, too.

5 signs your marriage cannot be saved and you should stop trying

1. You find yourself compromising who you are.

It's not throwing in the towel if you and your partner are constantly head-to-head or exhausted from compromising yourselves. No one should expect marriage to be sunshine and kittens each day. Your friends on Facebook who are blissfully married and never seem angry at each other are, in fact, angry at each other sometimes.

But if you're changing who you are as a person or making too many concessions for your spouse or vice versa, you both need to face the music.

Marriage shouldn't be hell or impossibly stressful to just maintain. Yes, you're supposed to have stressful periods and occasional fights, but if that's your entire life together since the beginning of time, you're both doing it all wrong. Perhaps you two need counseling or simply aren't a good match.

At the end of the day, no one stays in a sinking ship. It's good to fight for your marriage to keep it alive, but if you're drowning, it's time to get a life preserver.

2. You constantly feel unfulfilled.

As a woman who writes about divorce, I just love the comments on articles from married people telling me how my ex and I should've tried harder. "It's not supposed to be easy!" they insisted in the comments section, as I laughed, thinking about the three or so rounds of counseling I committed to (even though he was skeptical).

But I question this "it's not supposed to be easy" idea. Sure, you'll have difficult periods in your marriage and you'll fight, but you shouldn't be at each other's throats or constantly feel like you're not getting your needs met in the marriage.

A good married couple fights well and not hard. A good married couple gets angry with each other but doesn't bottle it up and build resentment. A healthy married couple works with the other person's strengths and weaknesses. If everything has to be a battle, that's not the kind of love that will last, nor should it.

3. Your time spent together is worse than time spent alone.

Almost every great couple I know has had a rough patch, but over the duration they've been together, the majority of the time they've spent with each other has been wonderful and fulfilling, not quarrelsome and frustrating.

They recognize where they're compatible and work together while being tolerant and patient with areas where the other isn't as strong. They didn't get delusions of grandeur about how the grass is greener on the other side, and if they did, they came back to reality.

Simply put, they're well-suited for each other. Some things and some people just don't gel. But the right match learns how to work together, including when it comes to resolving their differences. If you two are compatible, there may be a bit of a learning curve, but over time, you'll figure out how to work together to find solutions, rather than be mad at each other all the time.

If the latter remains true, it's time to think again about where the relationship stands and whether you're really right for each other.

Some people may truly love the other person but have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye because they're opposites or have different value structures. That was my ex and I. Of course, we did love each other and there will always be love there, but we weren't compatible.

Toward the end, it wasn't time well spent together.

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4. You've exhausted every possible solution to "fix" things.

I tried to save my marriage until I was blue in the face. I knew marriage was work, but I didn't realize that a good marriage should be relatively easy, at least in comparison to the constant battles I faced with my ex. I tried numerous rounds of counseling and other steps to keep us going. What did this accomplish? Nothing.

All that effort that could have gone to something else that would have been truly productive was wasted on anger, fighting, and attempting to mend something that was already broken.

For me, it was taxing and depressing. My normal upbeat personality had dulled and nearly disappeared. I felt so lonely and unloved, yet I kept hoping for a different result.

As it has been famously said, "The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again, and expecting a different result."

5. You feel like a slave to making things work and you're burned out.

Yes, marriage requires effort, care, understanding, and the desire for both people to grow as individuals and as a couple. Marriage requires the two parties who make vows to one another to accept each other as-is, and spend time together to working on issues and problems that will inevitably arise.

A good marriage can be easy at times (most of the time, even!) and when it's not, harmony will be restored and the good times will far outweigh the challenging ones. Never feel bad about yourself for somehow being incapable of saving your slowly sinking ship of a marriage, especially if you have kids together.

The burden doesn't rest entirely on you, and your children will be better off with two happy, divorced parents than an unhappily married pair.

If you value your marriage, love your spouse and you're really not ready to give up, give marriage counseling a try. Perhaps do a "trial separation" period to see if it helps alleviate some of the stress between you and your spouse and work out some of the issues you've been trying to work on.

Maybe go on a little vacation together — or even a staycation — and spend some quality time together to help you work through things and reignite the passion that you've been missing.

Just remember: a happy marriage isn't one in which two people are at war. Put down the weapons and start fighting smartly, or throw down your sword and start disengaging the battle to keep something alive that can't be saved.

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Laura Lifshitz will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for YourTango, New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more.