Marriage is hard work; it’s not always breakfast in bed and sex on Sundays. In fact, it’s seldom those things. A healthy marriage requires clear communication, respect, and emotional, and physical, satisfaction. But what if you’re not experiencing any of those things? What if you’re feeling more dissatisfied than satisfied within your union? It’s easy to think that what you’re experiencing is unimportant or not a big deal. Maybe you wonder if you’re overreacting or blowing something out of proportion, but what if you’re not? Too many people stay in mediocre “meh” marriages when they could choose more “yay” in their lives. Wonder no more. Below are some clear signs that you’re in an unhappy marriage.
Are the four horsemen present in your relationship?
According to the research of Dr. John Gottman (a.k.a “the guy that can predict divorce with over 90% accuracy”) your marriage is headed for dissolution when the four horsemen of the apocalypse are present: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Here’s what they look like:
1. Criticism: Offering a critique about something is different than criticizing your partner. Criticism is attacking the core character of your partner whether it’s how they respond in situations to how they drive to calling them “selfish.” When there’s consistent criticism present in your relationship, you often feel attacked, rejected, and hurt.
2. Contempt: This is when we mock and make fun of our partner. We treat them with disrespect with our words and action, like scoffing or eye-rolling. According to the Gottman Institute, “while criticism attacks your partner’s character, contempt assumes a position of moral superiority over them.” It’s also the single greatest predictor of divorce.
3. Defensiveness: If you’re constantly being criticized, then naturally one will become defensive. It also appears when we refuse to take accountability for our actions and rather have a tendency to blame our partners and make it their fault instead of our own. For example, you complain to your partner they didn’t empty the dishwasher like they said they would and in response they say something like, “I shouldn’t have to empty the dishwasher anyway! I do a lot of work around here and I’m tired.”
4. Stonewalling: Rather than confront or communicate the issues in the relationship, one partner will shut down and shut the other person out. Discussing issues rationally becomes near-impossible and causes the other partner to feel confused, helpless, and left out.
Other signs you’re in an unhappy marriage
Other common signs that you’re in an unhappy marriage, include:
5. You aren’t having sex: When you’re barely having sex anymore and are stuck in a sexless relationship, then that’s a huge red flag that intimacy and physical connection is lacking, which are important elements of marriage.
6. You don’t spend time together anymore: If you and your spouse are spending more time apart than together, and would rather blow off steam with friends or alone, then there doesn’t seem to be much point of being in a relationship.
7. You feel disconnected: Are you in the same room together but not really? Like, one of you is watching TV while the other is scrolling through their phone? When you receive good news, do you immediately tell your best friend over your partner? Do you find yourself at a loss as to what to say to your partner? If so, the level of disconnection is deep and is a warning sign that your relationship is in disrepair.
When a marriage is toxic
A marriage turns toxic, Adam M. King, MA, CLC, who operates relationship counseling services with his wife, Karissa J. King, MA, LMFT, told Scary Mommy, when one of the three A’s are present: addiction, adultery, or abuse.
8. Addiction: This can be drug, alcohol, or pornography addiction. It may develop after years together or it may have been there all along, and was hidden from you by your partner.
9. Adultery: When you or your partner, or both, is unfaithful which could mean committing a sexual and/or emotional affair with another outside of the marriage.
10. Abuse: This can range, and include, anything from physical abuse to emotional and verbal abuse to sexual and financial abuse.
Even if the three A’s are present in a relationship, Adam says a marriage can definitely be turned around. “When we see addiction, adultery, or abuse, we always recommend individual counseling first. Once there are positive outcomes and healing takes place in individual counseling, that’s a sign that it’s time to work toward re-energizing the marriage in couples counseling.”
In fact, if any of the above signs are present in your marriage, it’s always a good idea to consider couples’ therapy if you’re interested in saving your marriage.