How do you know when your marriage is falling apart? Are there signs that show it’s over?
We asked experts to give light to these questions.
Dr. Sherrie Campbell
Clinical Psychologist | Inspirational Speaker |
Author, But It’s Your Family: Cutting Ties with Toxic Family Members and Loving Yourself in the Aftermath
Married but feel single
You shouldn’t feel single while you’re married, or like you have a roommate. If you and your spouse spend very little time together, hardly communicate and have little to no sex that is not marriage.
The thought of being without your spouse brings feelings of relief
Good and healthy relationships should bring us peace, not problems. If our partner brings us unnecessary stress and anxiety we will feel relief in not having to be around them.
No desire to have sex
Sex can have its ups and downs in any marriage, but the healthiest marriages make sex great by making themselves easy to like and love for our partner. When we can stand our partner the last thing we’re going to want to do is have sex with them.
A complete lack of trust in your spouse
If your spouse has a habit of lying or of infidelity, you will live life feeling completely paranoid. This is not worth it.
You’re having an affair whether physically or emotionally
Any level of infidelity is a sign that your marriage is either not meeting your needs, or you may have personal flaws you need to take a look at in yourself that you will need to fix in order to be a good partner.
Your future dreams and fantasies don’t include your partner
If, when you vision your future, you cannot see your spouse by your side, you may want to consider that maybe you’re not with the right person for you.
You would rather be with your friends
If our partner creates a negative environment for you, we will tend to want to be with anyone other than our partner; especially our friends who bring joy to our lives.
You feel like you cannot be yourself with your spouse
If your partner is constantly criticizing your overtly or covertly you will feel like you cannot be yourself. If you cannot be yourself with your partner without being made to feel uncertain or insecure; you’re not with the right person.
Different ideas around sex, money, and values
This also involves religion, money, parenting and even politics. For partnerships to work, we must have at least some level of common ground on our ideas around sex, money, and values otherwise we become adversaries rather than teammates.
Dating Expert, Dating Scout
You can’t stand being together at the same house
It’s a sign that your marriage is over when you can’t stand to actually be together. Spending time with each other is a must in every relationship, and if you can’t wait to leave the house once your spouse is there, there is something wrong about that. When every little thing your spouse does annoys you, it could be a sign that your marriage is actually over.
You are no longer interested in each other’s whereabouts
It’s alarming when you simply don’t care about what your spouse is doing, where he or she is, why he or she came home late. It’s also worrisome if your spouse doesn’t have the will to share with you such details.
You stop confronting the issues together
This is worse than having arguments over disagreements. Your marriage is at the edge of the cliff when you both don’t put an effort to go through the difficult conversations. You try to forget about the issues that are long overdue and try to live with it because you feel like no amount of talking will bring you to a resolution.
Intimacy is decreasing or is no longer there
You stopped having passionate sex or stopped having sex completely. The quality of intimacy is one sure way to measure your emotional attachment towards each other. If intimacy is dead, it can be a sign that your marriage is over, or getting there.
The idea of your spouse seeing someone else do not hurt or disturb you
Hate isn’t the opposite of love—indifference is. The thing that actually kills your marriage isn’t arguing but rather it is the lack thereof. If imagining your spouse with somebody else barely rouses you, it is time to acknowledge that the feeling isn’t there anymore. You can love them but at the end of the day, you aren’t in love with them anymore.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Deciding that it’s time to end a marriage is complicated. Sometimes people arrive at this choice quickly based on an experience of betrayal from an affair or financial misdeeds.
Other times, in situations that involve domestic violence or chronic substance abuse, the process can take longer, due to the hope that things will change, efforts towards making that happen, and then surrendering when it doesn’t.
For many other couples, the decision to separate stems from emptiness, loneliness or boredom in the relationship. There are shallow, perfunctory conversations and displeasure when spending time together.
Some people actively dislike each other, feeling contempt and disrespect; others just don’t care that much anymore and stop making efforts to connect.
Sometimes anger is a sign that people are still engaged and it’s a way to connect.
Passive aggression, on the other hand, is toxic because of the denial associated with it. So a combination of disdain, anger or resentment can lead to frequent arguments, mutual withdrawal and persistent frustration that indicate the marriage isn’t working anymore.
Dan Blair, LMFT, LCPC
Marriage and Family Therapist | Founder, Blair Counseling and Mediation
Most often the marriages that have not worked out in my counseling and mediation practice are not from lack of knowing what to do, but rather to the loss of energy to do it. It is a burn-out based on the belief that things will not get better, or there is someone else who is more interesting.
Anger and resentment
What sucks energy from a marriage? Resentment, a wall built brick by brick over the years. Depending on how you or your mate handles anger and resentment, that wall is not coming down, so intimate feelings and thoughts will not survive. It reflects a pattern of negative thinking about your spouse. If the relationship is entrenched in negativity, positive feelings are no longer available.
Loneliness or inability to have fun with each other
Another factor is not feeding fun to the marriage. A trust that your partner is really there for you, or accepts you for who you are may be damaged.
Failure of the external source of hope and commitment
Perhaps it is their faith, or their kids, or their savings account that is being protected. If one of these areas become less important, marriages are more at risk.
If you put energy into most things, it will get better. But marriages take two, and when one is opting out of the effort it takes, this too shall pass.
Any relationship is over when one or both members decide, consciously or otherwise, to stop working to improve their relationship to one another.
As healthy sexual relations are the core of any healthy intimate relationship, a lack of healthy sex and/or an unwillingness to put energy towards improving sexual intimacy is certainly a sign of a declining marriage.
Certified Mental Health Expert | Family Care Professional, Maple Holistics
Most people think that if they argue a lot, it’s a sign that the relationship is on rocky ground. The truth is that sometimes silence speaks louder than words. Fighting shows that you care while silence is a sign of defeat. Obviously, arguing incessantly isn’t great either, but disagreements are an inevitable part of a healthy relationship. If you don’t fight at all, it might be a sign that your marriage is over.
Every relationship has its natural ups and downs, but if your marriage is imbued with negativity it might be a sign that it’s over. Tension shouldn’t be the natural state of your relationship or home life, and if this is the case, it might be time to reevaluate if this relationship is working.
Neither of you can be your best selves when you’re surrounded by an underlying sense of negativity. If this is the case, calling it quits might be the only way to allow you both to live your best lives.
Lack of care or indifference
Caring for each other is a fundamental aspect of being in a relationship, but it’s more than that. It’s not just about caring for each other but caring in general. If you feel an overwhelming sense of apathy towards your relationship it might be a sign that your marriage is over.
Indifference is a warning sign in any relationship. If you can easily imagine your life without your partner, and you’ve mentally checked out of the relationship so to speak, your marriage might be over and divorce is on its way.
Dr. Jess O’Reilly
Resident Sexologist, Astroglide
Your marriage is only over when one or both of you decide to call it quits. As many of my older clients will tell you, the key to a lasting relationship is deciding to stay in the relationship — through the ups and the downs. There are no sure-fire signs that the relationship is over, but you may want to look out for red flags that you need to work on the relationship, because it likely won’t last (or you won’t be happy and fulfilled) in its current form. For example:
You’re no longer willing to put effort into your relationship
It may be time to reconsider whether or not you should stay together. Happy relationships are a matter of effort and research suggests that those who embrace a growth-based approach to relationships as opposed to leaving it up to destiny fare better in the long-run.
You’re sexually incompatible and you’re unwilling to look for ways to find a middle ground
You may want to consider whether the relationship will work. Sexual compatibility is not determined by fate — it’s the outcome of collaboration and effort. However, if you’re not willing to put in a similar amount of effort, you may find yourselves at an impasse that could eventually lead to a breakup.
For example, If you want sex daily and your partner only wants it once per month, you’re not sexually incompatible. As long as your levels of openness to communication and behavioral change are similar, you can make it work and develop compatibility. Some of the solutions might include masturbating, being open to having sex even when you’re not in the mood (i.e. using sex to get in the mood), having different types of sex (e.g. offering to get your partner off and vice versa) and making lifestyle changes to help the lower interest partner experience a boost in desire (e.g. reducing stress, sharing workloads).
If you believe that good sex life is rooted in destiny or finding your soulmate, you’re unlikely to reach this compromise. If however, you understand that no two people are perfectly compatible and you have to work at it (talk about it and make behavioral adjustments), you’re more likely to become compatible.
You don’t think happy thoughts anymore
If you no longer recall fond memories in a positive light, it may be a sign that you need to reinvest in the relationship.
You’ve stopped fighting
Some people gauge their relationship success by the prevalence (or lack of) fights, but research shows that happy couples don’t avoid conflict — they use it as a source of growth to improve understanding. If you refuse to fight over core issues and you can no longer be bothered to do so, this may be a red flag.
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Certified Imago Relationship Therapist |
Co-founder of The Marriage Restoration Project
While it is always possible to revive a relationship, if both partners commit to do so, there are certain signs that your marriage is over unless serious changes are made. The most obvious sign is if your spouse is cheating and is not interested in ending the affair, the future for the relationship is not bright. There are always exceptions, but in most cases, this marks the end.
Similarly, any other exit where one’s spouse is checked out of the relationship, disengaged, and unwilling to commit, your relationship is pretty much over unless a drastic change occurs.
Related: How to Get over Infidelity Pain