5 Painfully Honest Signs You're A Lousy Spouse

We're all bad spouses at times.

Last updated on Apr 21, 2024

confused woman. It's me, hi. I'm the problem Kues | Shutterstock, RyanKing999 | Canva

What happens when you begin to question whether the hard work of marriage is worth it? The bad times seem to outweigh the good, and have for a long time, while the rewards suddenly are more of a pipe dream. What usually happens once we reach this point is we blame our spouse for being a sorry excuse for a mate and fuel our resentment of them with fantasies about divorce.

But, whoa, wait a minute. Let's back this divorce train up for a moment. Marriage takes work, but it's nothing compared to the effort and work that divorce requires. Getting and then being divorced is at least ten times more frustrating and infuriating than the annoyances of marriage. Once the marriage ends, you and your spouse become adversaries who must agree about child custody, parenting, finances, and possessions. There's nothing easy about that.

You don't just get divorced and the hard part's over. Once the legal divorce is final, you begin living according to the terms of your divorce. Your life remains firmly tethered to the other person (through children and finances) for years to come.


Before you decide your mate is the problem and convince yourself your partner and marriage are disposable, pause and ask yourself if you could be the one with the lousy attitude in your marriage.

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Here are 5 painfully honest signs you're a lousy spouse:

1. You keep a running log of every mistake

You might even throw temper tantrums or pity parties when your partner doesn't bend to your will to make them behave better. Either way, if they misstep, you're right there to point it out to them. Doing this makes your partner feel belittled, badgered, and miserable. They wish you'd disappear when you behave like that, and the longer it goes on, the less they even want to try to please you (or put up with your self-centeredness).




2. You pack your schedule full, leaving zero time for your partner

Life is busy, and your dreams, desires, and responsibilities are important. However, in marriage, the health of the relationship is as important as your individual wants or concerns. Ignoring your partner or telling them to "get out of your way" so you can "get things done" fuels resentment and drives a deeper wedge between you and your spouse. After all, no one wants a partner who continuously pushes them away.

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3. The sound of their voice (or chewing or breathing) grates your nerves

You cringe when they open their mouth because you know they will say or do something you find annoying. You pretend you can't hear them, walk away, or do just about anything to avoid them.




When your spouse (the person who promised to love and accept you the most) acts as if your mere breathing is a disgusting affront to them, you feel tortured and humiliated. Why would anyone want to open their hearts to someone who despises them? Doing this is just mean. And if it keeps up, your relationship won't last long.

4. You insist they "never change" (when actually, they have)

You're so busy thinking your partner is the same person you haven't talked with them about "them" in forever. All you talk about is you and what you want. They feel diminished and unimportant to you. They constantly wonder whether trying to make the marriage work is even worth it — your selfishness drowns out any effort they make in favor of the relationship.

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5. You begrudge every minute they spend away from you

In your head, marriage means you "own" your spouse. As such, your spouse "owes" you their undivided attention unless they're doing something you approve of or permitted them to do. Nobody wants someone controlling them this way — that's servitude, not marriage. Your partner having a life of their own is not betraying you. You trying to micro-manage their existence, however, IS a betrayal to them.

unhappy spouses stand back to backPhoto: Di Production via Shutterstock

So how did you fair? Are you a lousy spouse?


The truth is we're all lousy spouses at times. This doesn't mean all is lost. But it does mean it's time you take accountability for the part you play in poisoning the marriage you claim you're so oppressed by. Maybe skip running to the lawyer's office and head to a relationship therapist's office instead. Maybe work on changing yourself before you throw your partner and marriage away.

If you wish to improve your role in your marriage but don't know how there's only one thing you can do — ask for help! Grab a book on making marriage work. Read more articles about how to have meaningful conversations with your spouse. Talk with a marriage counselor, religious leader, a happily married couple, or coach to get the support you, your mate, and your marriage deserve.

The work you put in will pay off. You'll either be on your way to a flourishing marriage or gain healthy clarity about what your next steps are.


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Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, divorce, and co-parenting has appeared on MSN, Yahoo, Psych Central, Huffington Post, Prevention, and The Good Men Project, among others.