21 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Is In Trouble

Married Life | | , Intimacy & Relationship Writer
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signs your marriage is in trouble

The new era of social media and the internet has brought an increasing scope of awareness and self-reflection and, as a consequence, people of this generation happen to be way more conscious and concerned when there are signs your marriage is in trouble. Unlike the times of our parents and grandparents, marriage is more of a commitment than an obligation for 21st-century married couples.

It makes sense that the number of divorces in our country has increased with time. According to statistics, approximately 50% of marriages in 2022 will end in divorce. With financial independence shooting up among women and a growing sense of self in general, fewer couples these days agree to stay in horrible marriages. And if there’s emotional abuse or domestic violence involved, anyone with the right support and means would want to walk out instead of putting up with all the red flags.

If you find yourself sitting on your couch agitated after yet another ugly round of bickering with your partner, questioning the health of your relationship, then you need to know the signs of a dying marriage.  To offer you some valuable insights on the matter, we spoke to psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couple’s counseling.

21 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Is In Trouble

Is there a voice at the back of your head constantly nagging you that something in your relationship needs to be fixed? Every marriage goes through rough patches once in a while but that may not necessarily mean the end of your partnership. It’s possible to weather a struggling marriage by paying attention to the underlying problems along with an extra bit of effort to remedy the situation.

Before it’s too late, recognizing the warning signs of a marriage falling apart is absolutely essential. Marriages can be challenging — After all, when you are spending the rest of your life with a person, there are bound to be a series of difference of opinions, contempt, misunderstandings, and several fights.

Some marriages, though, appear to have problems more frequently than others. Such marriage troubles can range from communication problems to neglecting your appearance/health to a lack of intimacy. But don’t worry; we are here to help you spot these signs and hopefully save your marriage. Here are 21 subtle signs your marriage is in trouble. 

Related Reading: Communication Problems In Relationships – 11 Ways To Overcome

1. You’ve been noticing communication problems

Communication is a crucial link to the success or failure of any kind of relationship. One of the early signs your marriage is in trouble is when couples start communicating less and less with each other. An eminent scholar and professor of Florida State University, Frank D. Fincham, writes in his handbook, The Routledge Handbook of Family Communication,  ”Marital therapists also rate dysfunctional communication as the most frequent and damaging problem they confront in their work with couples.”

Nandita says, “In a marriage, communication problems may present themselves as screaming, constant criticism, blaming each other for the smallest of things, being sarcastic in your responses, and exploiting the silent treatment. The origin of the issues traces back to the spouses having different viewpoints on a particular area in their relationship such as finances, personal relationships, or child-rearing decisions. And when these differences are not addressed or resolved in a better way, it results in communication problems.”

The top five reasons for the lack of communication in marriages are stated below:

  • Ignorance
  • Disrespect
  • Lack of love
  • Complacency
  • Lies
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2. You experience the first signs of abuse in your marriage

This is one of the first things to look for when assessing if your marriage is in jeopardy. Cara, a doctor from Chicago, shares with us, “I told my friends that I think my daughter’s marriage is in trouble. But I didn’t know how to broach the topic with her. So I sent her a video on domestic abuse, and talked about how kids need to tell their parents when there are initial signs of trouble in their marriage, and that parents need to believe their kids so that it doesn’t lead to abuse of any kind.”

She adds, “That’s when she opened up. I was shocked. I immediately asked her to come back home and we arranged for couple’s counseling for them soon after.” If someone you know is going through the first few subtle signs of being in an abusive relationship, help them take the necessary steps toward their safety. These could be indications like:

  • Denial: Denial involves the abuser avoiding their responsibility and making the victim feel like all the problems are their own fault
  • Yelling: This can become a routine in an argument and can make conversations unintelligent
  • Gaslighting: Gaslighting involves the abuser making the victim doubt their memory, judgment, and mental stability. The tactics can slowly wear down the victim and cause them to crumble

3. You’re emotionally dependent on others, not your partner

Even though it’s healthy to have emotional connections with people outside of your relationship, yet in some cases, it could be a sign of a broken marriage. You may be witnessing the worst marriage problems if you find yourself frequently complaining about your spouse to your child or a close friend instead of discussing your issues with your partner and looking for practical solutions.

Basically, you are robbing yourself and your partner of the potential to develop an understanding if you find that you are unloading your marital problems on someone else. Even if you don’t really complain, the mental gap between you two seems to be more prominent with each passing day. You don’t just sit and chat about your day any longer, share the latest office gossip, or feel comfortable enough to show them your vulnerable side. The lack of emotional intimacy speaks volumes about the trembling state of your marital relationship.

4. There’s been withdrawal from family and friends

If you can’t let go of that gnawing feeling that your spouse is slowly pulling away from you and the family, it doesn’t look very promising for your relationship. What’s worse, it can be one of the warning signs of divorce. As far as we are concerned, no person in a healthy marriage would distance themselves from their spouse, unless they feel unloved or when there’s nothing left in the relationship for them.

It is important to note that everyone needs breathing space in all sorts of relationships from time to time. However, complete withdrawal from family and friends by either of you is a sign of an unhappy marriage. To resolve this, try spending time with your spouse and talk about what’s happening in their life and why they feel disconnected. 

Infographic on signs your marriage is in trouble
Is your marriage in trouble?

5. A neglect of appearance and grooming indicates a troubled marriage

If you’re not taking care of your appearance, it may be a sign that your marriage needs some work. You’re no longer putting in the effort to be your best self in the relationship. You may even dress purposefully in a way that makes your spouse find you unappealing, in order to avoid intimacy. In any case, not caring about how you look is a subtle sign of your lack of interest in looking good for your spouse, or yourself. 

Related Reading: Why Do Men Look At Other Women – 23 Real And Honest Reasons

6. It’s been a while since you were intimate with one another

The fading intimacy between you and your partner is an indication that something is amiss. It’s not even just about sex. If you no longer caress, hug, or touch each other fondly, it is one of the early signs your marriage is in trouble. Nandita says, “A complete absence of every possible way of being physically intimate, both sexual and non-sexual, needs to be addressed at an early stage.

“But before coming to any conclusion, you first need to assess the stage of the relationship you are in. Because some kind of ailments or old age can naturally mellow down your intimate life. If it’s been several decades into the marriage where both partners are comfortable with minimal physical relationship, then it’s not a problem either.

“When one partner wants more physical intimacy and the other is not able to match up to it or doesn’t want it, that’s when the problems arise. The reason behind it could be several unresolved issues ranging from daily life stress to simply getting bored of each other or different levels of sex drives. If you start living in separate bedrooms and this continues for several months, it can be speculated that you are in a struggling marriage.”

India’s top sexologist and professor, Dr. Rajan Bhonsle, MD, says here, “You both need to communicate your intimacy needs to each other in an unhesitating and congenial manner, without sounding accusatory. Your partner will not know what you expect during intimacy unless you say it clearly.”

7. You’re never really ‘off’ work

According to research, short-term and long-term work overload significantly affect marriages. If you find that you can never relax and enjoy your time off from work because you constantly feel stressed about it, then you are clearly inching toward marriage trouble.

You need to be able to put your work on hold, and unwind and enjoy yourself without experiencing work anxiety throughout the day. If you cannot do that, then it indicates that you’d rather be invested in work than spend time with your spouse, and it could be one of the key signs your marriage is over.

8. You don’t spend time together

Finding time for each other can be difficult if you’re both always working late hours, taking care of the kids, or just generally busy with other things. Additionally, even if you do have some free time, you might avoid spending it with your partner. Feelings of estrangement and resentment may result from this. You can begin to feel more like roommates than partners in your marriage. This separation could develop into an emotional affair or perhaps physical infidelity if you’re not careful.

Related Reading: Roommate Marriage – Signs And How To Fix It

9. Resentment is a sign your marriage is in trouble

Resentment is one of the most serious issues in marriages. Love is on its way out of the relationship if you find yourself always harboring grudges against your partner. Unresolved disputes are frequently the root of resentment, which can swiftly develop into poisonous rage and bitterness. Austin-based psychotherapist Dr. Krista Jordan wrote in one of her articles, “Any kind of betrayal (financial, sexual, etc.) can lead to strong feelings of resentment.”

Nandita says, “When resentment creeps into the marriage, I won’t say the whole foundation of the marriage is in trouble but the current status of the relationship does not look great. No matter how simple, if there’s resentment, figure out where it’s coming from as soon as possible and talk it out.”

10. There are early signs of disrespect toward each other

We will call it a potentially bad marriage if you catch yourself treating your partner disrespectfully or if there’s contempt in your spouse’s tone for you. It will not only harm your relationship but will also eventually lower your self-esteem. The person on the receiving end can begin to think they are genuinely worthless as a result of the backhanded compliments or sarcasm over time. Some common signs of disrespect in marriages are stated below:

  • They are unapologetic and defensive when they are at fault
  • They constantly try to change your personality
  • They fail to keep their promises

If you discover that you, too, behave a little disrespectfully on a daily basis, it’s time to stand back and re-examine your marriage. A pleasant, healthy relationship cannot be built without respect. 

warning signs of divorce
Disrespect is a glaring sign that your married life is not going “just fine”

11. Unresolved disputes keep coming up

An unresolved dispute has the potential to end your marriage if you’re not careful. To build and maintain a healthy relationship, it’s crucial to resolve conflicts gently, quickly, and frequently.  The following are some indications that there may be unresolved tension in your marriage. It’s crucial to act toward ending the conflict(s) if any of this seems familiar:

  • You avoid conversations on certain subjects because you anticipate conflict
  • You raise the same points repeatedly without ever coming to a conclusion
  • You frequently go to sleep irritated
  • You discover that you are always watching your partner’s behavior and words for signs that they are misguided or ‘wrong’

Related Reading: 7 Expert Tips To Resolve Conflict In A Marriage

12. You both keep arguing, sometimes to the point of ill health

Arguing is an incredibly normal part of any relationship, but if it’s constant, then it can put an immense strain on couples and can lead to some serious issues in marriages. Maybe you and your spouse are constantly arguing about the same things, or somehow, you manage to transform every conversation into an argument, or one of you keeps digging up past issues. Whatever the situation may be, constant arguing is one of the early signs your marriage is in trouble.

Along with affecting your peace and sanity, it can have a negative impact on your physical health as well. Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and a team conducted a study where they examined 43 married couples having a 20-minute discussion on a sensitive topic. Based on their respective style of argument and a blood sample test, it was revealed that the marriages that were more hostile in nature left the spouses with a higher level of LPS-binding protein which is an indicator of leaky gut syndrome.

13. Boredom has set in

Real life creeps in between two partners after the initial thrill of the wedding and honeymoon wears off, and the daily routine can begin to feel reasonably mundane. It’s crucial to let your partner know if you’re getting bored in your marriage. Not one of the worst marriage problems, but if ignored, boredom might invite further marital issues as it is frequently a subtle warning that something is missing in the relationship.

14. Absence of support is another sign your marriage is in trouble

It’s critical to feel a strong base of support in a relationship. If you discover that you often turn to friends and relatives for help rather than your spouse, then it indicates the absence of support from their side. It may be time to discuss your needs and see if anything can change if you don’t feel like your partner is supporting you emotionally. Here’s what you can say to them:

  • Instead of saying “You should do this/that,” try saying, “I need you to do this/that for me.” Prioritize your need in the statement, not what they are ‘not’ doing
  • Sometimes you just need to vent, but your partner keeps giving you suggestions. In this case, say, “I just need you to listen to me”
  • Lastly, don’t forget to recognize their efforts. A simple “Thank you for doing this for me” will make all the difference

15. You’re basically leading separate lives

When the husband and wife start living different lifestyles, it indicates a failing marriage. Although it can take many different forms, this usually entails one partner growing apart from the other. It is one of the most obvious signs your marriage is over as it looks like you are already separated even while living under the same roof.

This can mean that you may go on for days without having a proper conversation with your partner. You may find each other looking at your phones at the dinner table instead of talking about each other’s day. As a result, you find yourself having to cope with feeling lonely in the marriage.

16. You or your partner is flirting with others

One of the most typical signs that a marriage is over is when a partner is constantly flirting outside the marriage. While casual flirting can be harmless, this can lead to a spouse having an affair, especially if they are being evasive with their phone and computer use. It can be hard to control your jealousy when you see your spouse brazenly flirting with someone at a party, not taking your feelings into account at all. That should tip you off about the broken state of your marriage.

According to research, some of the most common reasons for infidelity are listed below:

  • Lack of love and emotional connection between spouses
  • Issues with self-worth
  • Weak commitment
  • Neglect from the spouse
  • Unfulfilled sexual desire 

17. You’re disengaged from each other

Disengagement is one prevalent sign of a dying marriage. The central meaning of this is that one or both partners are no longer emotionally invested in the relationship. It can take various forms:

  • Couples might cease discussing their shared future plans
  • They don’t talk about their individual aspirations anymore
  • There’s no curiosity about one another’s day
  • They don’t notice things about each other, like a haircut, a new outfit, the preparation of a new dish, a new routine, a new hobby or passion, etc.
  • You don’t feel compassion toward each other

Related Reading: The Top Rules Of Separation In Marriage To Make It Successful

18. You’ve been keeping score

Keeping score is a definite way to increase stress and animosity in your relationship, and it is one of the most serious issues in marriage, regardless of who does more around the house, who earns more money, or who looks after the kids better. According to relationship experts, John Gray and Mark Gungor, men typically keep score by doing significant things (like buying expensive gifts or planning excellent vacations) and awarding themselves lots of points for each.

Most things are worth no more than one point when it comes to how women count things. Men may not perform a lot of everyday duties since they think they are providing enough for their spouses. Wives continue to believe that their husbands are significantly underperforming, which is also valid.

stories on falling in love and more

19. The marriage is making you feel confined

It’s crucial to pay attention to your feelings if it seems like you are imprisoned in the relationship. It can indicate that you are in an unhappy marriage. Does your spouse make you feel controlled at every step in life? You barely have any say in any marital aspect and you are always walking on eggshells around them. Pay attention; this might be one of the warning signs of divorce knocking at your door.

There are several reasons you could feel trapped with your spouse:

  • Your core needs aren’t being met
  • You can’t express yourself freely; there’s fear/stress of judgment or criticism
  • Your partner is being too possessive and insecure and has curbed your basic freedom
  • They don’t give you enough space or scope to explore your individuality
  • They try to control your personal and social life

20. You’re both creating diversions to sweep problems under the rug

Many spouses who are somehow surviving in a horrible marriage start looking for Band-Aid fixes to disguise or distract from the actual problems in the union. Couples in this situation may do the following:

  • Trying an open relationship
  • Taking an adventurous vacation
  • Talking about having a baby – Bringing a child into an unhappy marriage is the worst thing one can do

According to Nandita, “A couple may look for distractions to avoid sensitive issues because they don’t know how to handle them in an amicable or harmonious manner. If there’s a major communication gap that leads to a lot of ugly fights, people simply start avoiding their problems.

“Instead of constructive criticism and solution-oriented discussions, you push them under the carpet and let them pile up there. But the issues will rear their ugly heads every now and then. The more time that happens, the deeper the problems actually get. As long as you keep avoiding them, there will be some kind of erosion in the relationship – Could be emotional or mental.”

Related Reading: 9 Signs You Are The Problem In Your Relationship

21. There’s been a lack of sweet gestures

Even the smallest of sweet and romantic gestures go a long way. From taking care of your spouse when they’re sick to holding the door open for them, every single act of affection indicates the presence of love and care in your marriage. If you find that your partner is not showing you love as they used to, then maybe that ‘spark’ just isn’t there anymore.

Immediate Steps To Take If You Think Your Marriage Is In Trouble

You should act right away if you have the slightest hint that your marriage is going downhill. It’s crucial to make an effort to pinpoint the underlying causes of your problems. Seek help through marriage counseling if you and your spouse lack good communication skills. Even if the situation seems hopeless right now, you can still come out unscathed as a happily married couple unless it’s a deal-breaker like adultery or emotional/physical abuse.

Nandita suggests, “First of all, to start the healing process, you both need to acknowledge that you are in an unhealthy marriage and there are areas that need to be worked on. Most couples fail to understand the gravity of their situation as they have been living in that dysfunctional state for too long. Secondly, ask yourself: What exactly is the core issue that’s troubling your marriage?

“The third step is communication and for that part, both spouses need to be equally enthusiastic. There should be scope for discussion and it can even lead to a debate. It is okay to disagree as long as it’s coming from a space where you want to resolve the issue and not spiral into the loop of blaming-shifting and having the same argument again and again.”

If you think your marriage is in trouble, you can attempt to salvage it by taking these immediate steps:

1. Make a list of every known issue

Any marriage that is on the verge of dissolution carries a great deal of unaddressed concerns. And if you want to keep the relationship intact, now is the moment to create a list of the issues and work toward resolving each of them. Talk to your partner and tell them how important it is to discuss the ongoing problems – Before they get out of hand. This is an effective way to solve relationship problems without breaking up.

2. Improve yourself

It’s never too late to start over. So, learn how to have a compassionate and peaceful marriage and renew your commitment to one another. Learn how to show affection to your partner, spend as much quality time together as you can, reaffirm your vows to your new relationship, and say it out loud.

3. Get rid of the three As that lead to divorce

Anger, affairs, and addiction are the three As that lead to divorce. Any kind of negative habit is harmful to a marriage. If either one of you gets angry quickly, then learn to control it. Affairs are already considered the last straw in a marriage for the majority of people.

Related Reading: 8 Ways You Can Help Your Partner Get Over Drug Addiction

Addictions come in many forms, including alcohol, substances, porn, and gambling. Work toward quitting the addiction before your spouse decides to call it quits with you. However, if it’s your spouse who’s an addict, give them a chance and help them get over the condition before you call quits on them.

worst marriage problems
Addiction, affair, and anger are big no-nos when you are trying to save your marriage

4. Learn to voice your worries in a non-accusatory way

To be heard better, one must convey better. In an argument, make sure you have a positive approach when discussing your partner’s shortcomings. Remember, a little constructive criticism always has a bigger impact than turning on each other. People make the mistake of being hostile and rude when it comes to an argument with their spouse. Next time, try to be as calm and collected as you can be when you argue with them, and gently voice your expectations from the relationship. 

5. Increase your positive energy toward your partner

Take a step back and consider what you like most about them whenever you start to get upset. Think about the way they make you laugh or the things that made you fall for them in the first place. Reminding yourself of positive things like “They are always there when I need them” can help you add positive energy for them in your mind. Keep these traits in mind and allow them to alter the way you see the present issues. You can also make an effort to change your own attitude. It’s more likely for your spouse to return your positive energy if you are radiating it.

Key Pointers

  • Focus on the subtle signs that indicate growing trouble in your marriage
  • Every married couple faces some issues in their married life, and these issues can be solved with mutual cooperation
  • If you find your marriage to be in trouble, it is always advisable to seek help from family, friends, or a professional
  • From communication problems and intimacy issues to withdrawal from family and constant arguing, these are all subtle signs of an unhappy marriage

When two people are married, they make a lifelong commitment to love and cherish one another. But sometimes this bond can deteriorate. A marriage may end for a variety of reasons, but unresolved issues between two spouses are frequently to blame. It’s crucial to get counseling if you’re experiencing marital difficulties. There are numerous services available to assist couples in resolving conflicts and preserving their marriage, as marriages CAN be saved with work and dedication.

This article has been updated in August 2023. 

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