Every marriage goes through its ups and downs, and the longer you've been married, the more ups and downs you will face. Spouses will face challenges when dealing with typical life changes such as the birth of a child, financial difficulties, or aging. But when the challenges seem to outweigh the benefits of a partnership, it may be one of the clues that your marriage is in trouble.
It can be difficult to make time to focus on mending your relationship when you are in the thick of raising a family. You may be tempted to put it off and hope that it gets better on its own. However, as Denver psychologist Susan Heitler told WebMd, not talking about your problems will only cause the marital tension and the distance between two spouses to grow. Similarly, relationship expert Michele Weiner-Davis told The Huffington Post that many couples wait around six years before seeking marital counseling, and many end up leave their marriages without seeking any type of help at all. Additionally, constant fighting with your spouse or giving each other the silent treatment will compromise your health on a daily basis, according to family therapist Sharon Rivkin of WebMd.
How can you tell if your relationship is in real trouble, or if you are going through a temporary martial challenge? The following are some clues that it may be time to seek help.
1. You Can't Agree On Anything
It is said that opposites attract, and it may be exciting to partner with a person who has dissimilar tastes and interests—as long as you are both willing to learn from each other and respect your differences. But, consistently disagreeing with each other and excessive bickering can be a sign that your marriage may be in trouble. Mark Merrill, founder and president of Family First, a national non-profit organization, has a list of things spouses must agree on in order for their marriage to survive.
2. You Fantasize About Cheating
Psychologist Max Belkin wrote in Psychology Today that it is common to fantasize about someone other than your spouse. However sex expert Nikki Ransom-Alfred warned readers of MSN.com that "having sexual fantasies about someone close to you could lead to confusing feelings for that person in real life; it's not worth the risk." While it may not be uncommon, fantasizing about cheating could indicate that your partner is not fulfilling your sexual needs, which can signal trouble for your relationship.
3. You Confide In Someone Other Than Your Spouse (And Hide It)
It's healthy to have a friend to whom you can confide, but if you find yourself hiding these conversations from your spouse, it may signal a trust issue. Do you keep these conversations a secret because you worry that are you sharing too many intimate details or revealing things about your marriage that would embarrass or hurt your spouse? "The problem is not that you shared an intimacy with somebody else," William Doherty, the Director of the University of Minnesota's Couples On the Brink project told Oprah.com, "but that you edited the event out of the conversation."
4. You Don't Include Your Spouse In Your Plans
Whether it's happy hour, a golf outing, or a business trip to Venice, making plans without asking your spouse to join you can signal that you no longer view your partner as a friend. A marriage where the partners are always "doing their own thing" can lead to jealousy and resentment. Weiner-Davis stated that when partners spend too much time apart, their emotional connection suffers, and they ultimately begin to live separate lives.
5. You Withhold Affection
Giving your spouse the silent treatment is an obvious example of withholding affection. But it can also be more subtle. A husband who is busy, distracted, or in a bad mood may not make the effort to be affectionate towards his wife. Yet, he may still expect to have sex with her.
Reader's Digest interviewed counselors across the country who shared, "if you hardly acknowledge your wife all day, she's not going to want to get intimate with you at night." Women can tell when their husbands are only being nice in the hopes of getting lucky, and this is often a turnoff.
6. You Withhold Sex
In an article for Huffington Post, author Francesca Warren stated that it is common for women to use sex as a weapon and a reward. If she feels as though her husband is not holding up his end of the bargain, or she wants something specific from him, a wife may withhold sex until her husband complies with her wishes. She may even use sex to reward him with sex if he pleases her. Psychotherapist Allison Cohen wrote in a piece for YourTango that sometimes a partner who still has sexual feelings for the other stops pursuing sex in order to punish them or make a point.
7. You Always Assume The Worst
If your husband doesn't answer the phone at work, you worry that he is cheating on you with the secretary. If your wife dresses up to meet girlfriends for dinner, you immediately wonder who she is trying to impress. Doreen Meister, a family therapist, told Livestrong.com that assuming the worst is a sign of a disconnect in the relationship. It can be a signal that your marriage is heading off track and may require professional intervention.