Ending a marriage is a decision that’s extremely personal and involves independent and difficult introspection. Ideally, a couple might try couples therapy before making any definitive decision to split. It’s virtually impossible to give definitive and globally-applicable advice that’s relevant to all marriages. It’s similarly difficult to provide a list of warning signs for couples as evidence that a marriage is over. But sometimes, if a relationship becomes too much effort, it’s best to part ways. Here are five warning signs that your marriage needs significant attention.
Emotional needs are not being met
You come to realize that your emotional needs to be nurtured, supported, acknowledged, prioritized, and to feel like you belong are consistently not being met. That’s not to say that the first time you feel invalidated or ignored you might be ready for a divorce. This is only a warning sign after this issue has been discussed, attempted to be remedied, and remains a concern.
Potential trap: Don't assume your partner knows you feel this way. This has to be explicitly talked about.
No interest in physical intimacy
If you’re consistently uninterested in any form of intimacy with your partner, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship. This applies to both sexual intimacy as well as physical closeness. Couples vary drastically in terms of how often they engage in sexual activity. But if you don’t feel the need to be physically close to your partner, or this is a belief held by your partner that you do not share, it may be a red flag.
Potential trap: Be careful in differentiating these feelings from feelings of distance following a fight or argument. After an argument that brings about a set of negative emotions, it may be perfectly normal to not want to feel physically intimate with your partner for a period of time.
Life goals aren’t aligned
If your life goals are diametrically different than your partner’s, you may encounter significant difficulty. Can you find similarity in what you want out of life in terms of:
how to prioritize finances?how many kids to have?how to spend free time?how to parent?and which passions/interests to pursue?
These are just some life goals to consider. But if goals with similar serious implications don’t match up, and neither of you has any flexibility, you may reach an impasse.
Potential trap: Don't count on compromise as a way to resolve these differences. Compromise, in some forms, may not be sustainable.
Completely separate social circles
Having completely separate social circles where you connect with other people individually rather than as a couple may indicate a problem. Ideally, a couple should have at least a few other individuals with whom they can spend time with, together, as a couple. Lack of this may be a stressor.
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Potential trap: This doesn't mean that you can't have a girls' or guys' night out or go on a trip with friends separate from your partner. The idea suggests that you don’t spend too much time apart such that it’s being prioritized over time spent together as a couple.
Finally, and hopefully obviously; physical, emotional, sexual abuse raises significant warning signs about the health of a relationship.
These are just some suggestions to look out for in a marriage, and not necessarily a guide to divorce. But thinking about how issues like these may add up to negatively impact your relationship is an important reality check.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgewood and Hoboken, NJ. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.