Rings, a wedding, a white dress, and promises to be together “till death do us part.” Every person who’s decided to tie the knot with their other half truly believes that this is going to last forever.
But despite this confidence, many couples end up divorcing and trying to figure out what went wrong with their marriage and why it turned out to be a temporary relationship instead of a lifelong love. ‘Was this relationship doomed from the outset? Or was it something I did that destroyed the love?’ - if these questions are nagging at you, we’ve prepared a list of signs that you and your spouse are likely to divorce.
However, it should be made clear that these factors just indicate a susceptibility for divorce; they don’t necessarily mean that any particular marriage will fail. Likewise, having no signs from this list doesn’t guarantee you a trouble-free marriage.
It’s just a matter of knowing what can be dangerous for this relationship that you appreciate so much and preventing a disaster from happening to the best of your ability.
So without further ado, here are 11 features that many deteriorated relationships have in common.
There’s Addiction in the Family
It doesn’t matter what addiction we are talking about – whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling, or overworking, addictive behavior is one of the greatest threats to a marriage. Substances are very jealous “friends,” and while they seem to be fun at first, in the end, they take up massive chunks of time and space in your life, leaving nothing for the family.
Any addiction is undoubtedly easier to prevent than it is to treat, so the best thing to do is to follow a healthy lifestyle and engage moderately in all your activities. If you notice that there are signs of substance abuse in your family, contact a mental health professional to seek help.
A recent study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research shows that alcohol abuse alone doesn’t necessarily cause marriage problems. It’s also a matter of how similar the partners’ drinking patterns are.
Researchers have discovered that a husband and wife with different attitudes towards alcohol (one of them is a low or moderate drinker while the other drinks heavily or doesn’t drink at all) are more likely to get divorced than couples with the same levels of alcohol consumption.
However, two heavy drinkers living together are at a high risk of splitting up despite being on equal levels. So, each partner should be encouraged to monitor the level of alcohol they drink - a healthy amount, whether that is none or some, will help the functioning of your marriage.
Cheating Is a Regular Thing
Many couples have gone through moments where one or even both partners didn't follow their vows and cheated. They might have done it because of strong emotions, the influence of alcohol and drugs, or just to unwind a little.
The reasons can vary. But the main thing is the conclusions the person makes about what they’d done. If, after one such experience, a spouse decides that they won’t do it again, makes a promise to their spouse, and chooses to work towards a happier marriage – and then does it again – there is a high chance they will do it over and over.
And when cheating and empty promises become a habit, the marriage won’t last.
The same thing applies to keeping ex-lovers as friends. A person with whom you once cheated on your spouse is not your friend. You are just trying to fool yourself that everything can be “normal” while keeping them close for the next time you need them (maybe subconsciously) and causing pain to your partner.
There’s no doubt that cheating (disregarding, of course, situations where you and your partner have agreed on an open relationship) and addiction are always signs that you lack something in your marriage.
Still, there are some less obvious signs which also indicate that a sad ending is near. So, let’s look at some of them.
You Have 1000 and 1 Reasons to Avoid Your Partner
No question having personal space and spending some time without your spouse positively impacts any marriage. Partners often have different interests, and, naturally, they spend some time apart.
Most family psychologists actually recommend doing this so that the partners didn’t lose interest in each other. Time apart gives you energy and the opportunity to develop and be a more interesting person.
However, things go wrong when there are nothing partners share or when they are not interested in whatever excites their partner. If you notice that you’re constantly looking for reasons to be anywhere but with your partner, your marriage is in trouble.
You may not even see it, but you always have some plans with friends, or extra work, or a hobby you need to devote all your evenings and weekends to. This list could go on; the point is that if your spouse is a person you want to spend as little time with as possible, this is a sign that there are issues in your relationship.
Try to understand why you want to avoid them and work on this problem. Remember, spending quality time together is key to a happy relationship.
Why is it so important? Usually, when people spend time together, they also share their thoughts and feelings, have a chance to discuss their concerns, and solve everything that’s bothering them.
When partners avoid each other, they have no opportunity to meet and talk. This lack of quality communication, and its ensuing unsolved issues, often becomes one of the main reasons for divorce.
However awkward or unpleasant it may be, you should discuss what is going on in your relationship with your partner. Especially if you’ve already had thoughts about separation, it is time to start talking.
You Feel Lonely
This one is sort of a side effect of the previous issue. Lack of communication creates a wall between partners. When one of them is emotionally distant and finds excuses not to be together all the time, the other one naturally feels lonely and abandoned.
And usually, this situation creates a vicious circle of evasion and solitude. So, if you constantly feel lonely or your partner seems to be neglecting you and trying to spend less time together, don’t put up with this – talk to them. It might just be a misunderstanding.
Perhaps some external situation is consuming all your partner’s energy, and they actually need your support. While you’re silent about your feelings of loneliness, your spouse says nothing about his or her need for support.
Talk! Or, what if there is something they are embarrassed to talk about, so they feel lonely as well? A good open conversation could help to solve it.
But if there is no communication and your partner doesn’t appreciate your attempts to reach them, it may be a sign that they are breaking up with you - first mentally, but we can imagine what the next stage is.
You Dream About Life Without Your Partner
If a mental divorce is already happening, you may find yourself daydreaming about living alone or even with someone else. Of course, from time to time, every married person ponders a bit of “what if…?”, and this is absolutely normal.
But if you dream about this all the time and believe that your life would be much better without your spouse, this is a reason to resort to marriage counseling.
Your emotional state with and without your partner can also be an indicator. According to Sunny Joy McMillan, author of Unhitched, if their presence is a reason for your heart to beat faster, not because of love but because you are angry (your stomach is like a tight knot and your heart is like a heavy stone), these are signs your body gives you to suggest that you can’t stay in this relationship anymore.
And similarly, if you feel better when your spouse is not around (you are relaxed and enjoy your life more), you should really think about the quality of the relationship you have.
Some people go even further than just fantasizing about single life. They start taking small steps towards it, sometimes without considering them to be worrying signs of significant relationship issues.
These may include looking for a new job to have more financial security, looking through apartments to rent “just to see the prices,” or opening a separate bank account. It’s great to have a backup strategy because life is unpredictable, but a good marriage requires either trust and going all-in or not going in at all. Your choice!
Financial planning is another indicator of family problems, which brings us to the next point.
Money has Become a Problem or a Secret
Finance is a topic that is never easy to discuss, and yet it is the reason for many problems in a relationship. Divorce statistics published in the study "Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education" show that financial problems cause 36.7% of divorces.
Whether you like it or not, family life depends heavily on money, even if you are a big believer in the mantra that love is all we need. Sure, romantic feelings are a high priority. No relationship is possible without them. But there’s also reality - you have to live somewhere, eat something, feed your children, etc.
Making financial decisions without consulting your partner, hiding any debts or problems from them, or just being stressed all the time because of money are reasons that many couples divorce.
If the topic of money becomes a hot one in your family – e.g., you don’t have enough money to pay rent, but you notice new things at home and don’t know where they came from – it’s time for a serious talk.
Another way for money to be a problem is your spouses or your general attitude towards this topic. Some people could be called “spenders” – they are quite careless with money, tend to waste money on their immediate desires, and don’t do any long-term financial planning.
In contrast, there are “savers” who treat money too seriously. They don’t make any spontaneous purchases and always want to have some extra cash in the bank account just in case. And if one partner is a saver and the other one is a spender, money will likely cause issues regularly.
If you find yourself in this situation, you should be ready to negotiate with your partner and find a financial strategy that will suit both of you.
Sex Is a Rare Thing in Your Life
A consistent sexual life is one of the reasons people get married in the first place. And no matter how much time you have spent together, there should always be room for passion in your relationship.
Of course, the stress of everyday life and getting “bored” with each other may negatively influence your libido. Still, if you are not satisfied in the bedroom, which has lasted for a long while, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong in your relationship.
Randall Kessler, a divorce lawyer, says that many divorcing couples haven’t had sex in years and that problems in the bedroom often lead his clients to separation and divorce.
PsychologyToday also proves that a significant divorce rate occurs precisely because of the lack of intimacy.
This doesn’t mean that you have to have sex with your spouse even when you don’t want it. Each partner has a sexual norm. This means that each couple can find their own sexual schedule and sexual practices they enjoy most.
And what is enough for you might be too much or too little for other couples. Sometimes your appetite may also change due to natural reasons (like pregnancy or disease), but these changes are temporary and usually don’t evoke tension and conflicts between partners.
The point is that if you feel your sexual life is fading and you are not happy about it, this is a clear sign that your marriage is heading towards disaster. And it’s up to you to prevent it.
Moreover, it’s not only about sex. Lack of physical contact is also a negative sign for your marriage. Hugs, tender touches, and kisses create a connection between partners and provoke the release of hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for the feelings of affection and attachment.
If you don’t feel like holding your spouse’s hand anymore or feel disgusted when you think about kissing them, think about what might be causing this reaction and try to change it before it’s too late.
There Is Contempt and no Respect in Your Relationship
‘Love is all you need,’ John Lennon once sang. But psychologists and family counselors continue to show that this is not the whole story. There are so many more necessary things to build a marriage. And respect is one of the most important ones.
It’s the most fundamental aspect of a healthy relationship in which both partners are safe and treated as valuable and important parts of the family team. So when there is rejection and, even worse, contempt, this is not a healthy family anymore.
Contemptuous attitudes are poisonous for marriage and corrode its very basis. Marriage is intended to be a calm and safe place for every member. Elayne Savage, Ph.D., author of “Breathing Room: Creating Space to Be a Couple,” says that showing contempt to your spouse is a way to express your disgust and superiority on the deepest level, and it only creates resentment and pain, destroying intimacy and love.
A lack of respect, in turn, reinforces this situation, and everything that the relationship becomes is fighting and defending. So, if you find yourself arguing all the time, this might be the case.
You Argue All the Time or Don’t Argue at All
Some people think that conflicts are a negative thing and should be avoided in a relationship. And there is the opposite side that believes that a good argument is a way to make the relationship stronger. Actually, both opinions are right, but only up to a certain point.
Psychologists say that arguing is an inevitable part of any relationship. When two independent personalities meet, it’s unrealistic to expect them to agree on everything. And, of course, your partner does things you don’t like or disagree with.
The problem arises when you fight about everything. This sort of relationship is too exhausting, as no one wants to live on a battlefield. If you find yourself arguing with your spouse all the time and disliking every little thing about them, it’s time to remember why you chose to marry this person. You can make a list of things you appreciate about them.
It’s also crucial to understand that it’s not just the quantity but also the quality of your conflicts that can be dangerous for your marriage. If you take a harsh stance and use sarcasm and accusations while talking to your partner and criticize the kind of person they are, the conflict might not be solved and will probably lead to more problems.
It may seem that if conflicts are destructive for a relationship, they should be avoided altogether. But that’s wrong. Keeping the peace, in this case, would mean being silent and not sharing your negative emotions. But this leads to the accumulation of resentment and anger and isolates you from your spouse.
According to Douglas Kepanis, a divorce attorney from New York, many of his clients ended up destroying their marriage by keeping silent. They may have been either upset but too embarrassed to talk about it or didn’t want to upset their partner by talking about unpleasant things.
So, what would be a recommendation as far as arguing is concerned? As with many cases, everything should be done in moderation. You shouldn’t hide anything that bothers you from your partner, but you shouldn't be too disparaging either.
Flooding your partner with negativity won’t lead anywhere good. If you want some things to change, be willing to give it time and try to do one thing at a time. An overwhelming wave of negative emotions will only make your partner feel isolated and detached.
Remember the formula for a healthy argument: talk about your feelings and criticize behavior, not personality. Suggest things, but don’t make orders to your partner about what they should change to deal with the issue.
This requires a certain amount of attention and concentration, and it might feel a little unusual at first. But it’s worth trying, isn’t it?
You and/or Your Partner Don’t Want to Try
If you answered ‘no’ to the question above, I have some sad news for you. There are a million things that could go wrong in a marriage. Life is like a box of chocolates, as Forrest Gump would say, and you never know what will happen.
There is one sure thing, though. Any problem in a marriage can be solved if both partners are ready to invest their time and energy. Relatively few things are unchangeable and unsolvable; everything else is just a matter of effort.
Therefore, a couple needs to be ready to solve issues as a team and not let them build up. Both partners should be willing to cooperate to make the family healthier and happier. Sometimes only one person is working towards this or even worse - both partners have given up, and now the marriage is just a habit of living under the same roof. Either you unite to save the family, or you inevitably split up – there is no other way.
You See Only the Dark Side
Every relationship has its ups and downs. Every person may doubt from time to time, whether they’ve made the right choice and married “the one.” But in a healthy relationship, it is easy to deal with these thoughts because there are always more positive things to think about.
When a marriage is falling apart, everything is exactly the opposite. Partners see the past, the present, and the future of their relationship only in shades of grey. This extreme lens doesn’t allow them to see all the good things about their marriage.
This point of view can be changed, though! Appreciation and gratitude are skills you can develop in yourself. Try to identify two good things about your relationship for every negative one. There are many great things in life that we just take for granted – you might see something worth fighting for after all.
To Sum Up
You might feel a bit overwhelmed now, as there are so many dangerous signs of an upcoming divorce. How can we sum it all up?
Well, there is a study that does this perfectly. It’s a 40-year-long research project by Dr. John Gottman, a marriage and family therapist. As a leading specialist on marriage research, he found out that there are four characteristics that all relationships at the pre-divorce stage have in common:
- Contempt (we mentioned this). Putting yourself higher than your partner and thinking about them as someone inferior is a bomb that will undermine the very foundation of your marriage.
- Criticism of who your partner is, but not what they are doing. We all make mistakes, and it’s okay to tell your partner when you are upset or angry with their actions. It’s an entirely different thing when you start attacking the kind of person they are. This leads to nothing but defensive behavior and conflicts.
- Being defensive (directly follows from the previous one). Perceiving everything your partner says as an insult and taking it personally is another way to argue instead of solving an issue in your family. In a healthy relationship, it’s not you against me; it’s us against the problem.
- Stonewalling. When a spouse distances themselves from the problems and relationship as a whole. This creates loneliness and even more significant distance between partners and eventually leads to divorce.
These are what Gottman called the four horsemen of divorce. And their appearance in your marriage is an alarm call – either you take actions to save your relationship or are more likely to get divorced.
Perhaps the most important sign that there is something wrong with your relationship is that you are interested in the topic of this article. You may not know what exactly is happening, but you obviously feel that you need to change something.
The main point of family and living together is to feel happier and more fulfilled when you are with your partner than when you are alone. When this feeling is gone, and you can’t remember the last time you were happy in your marriage, it’s time to stop for a moment and analyze what is going on with you and your relationship.
If you believe that one or more of these signs exist in your family, first of all, don’t panic. Once you know there’s a problem, you can start looking for the solution.
The best thing to do now is to talk to your partner and share your worries with them. You are stronger as a team. And if you feel that your team needs support, don’t hesitate to enlist marriage counseling. With professional help, you will have a greater chance of dealing with the issues in your marriage and saving your family.