Ask any married couple and you will hear the same thing: Being married is not easy. Loving someone and having them be your best friend is wonderful, but the daily slog and the tit for tat fights and the little squabbles add up. Sometimes the person you love most in the world becomes the person whose eyes you dream of scratching out in a fit of rage. Those are the bad moments.
Of course, there are also lovely moments. Moments when you can't imagine being with anyone else and the sun rises and sets with your spouse. But how can you tell when the bad moments are starting to outnumber the good? How can you tell when your marriage has gone from normal, everyday difficulty to "we're in trouble" town?
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It's easy enough, say the experts. It's not that the two of you are headed to a split or even that you need to leave that evening. There are five basic signs your marriage is getting rocky. In other words, it's not time to divide the assets, but it may be time to seek counseling or some kind of outside intervention.
1. You go to bed at different times. Uh-oh. I am so guilty of this. You know how it is? You are tired and want to sleep. Your spouse isn't and doesn't. Is that really so bad?
Answer: Yes. Yes it is.
"When you start going to bed at separate times, three things happen," says psychotherapist Christina Steinorth-Powell, author of Cue Cards for Life. "The most important of the three is this: You stop having those intimate minutes of conversation with one another before you drift off to sleep. The other things that happen when you start to go to bed at separate times is that you are less inclined to cuddle, which usually leads to the third thing -- less sex." All bad.
2. You feel ambivalent about your partner. It seems like people who divorce would probably hate each other, right? After all, why would you leave a marriage if you didn't feel so strongly that the other person is a horrible human being? Not so. In fact, a sign of trouble in a marriage is not in the intensity of the hatred, but in the level of apathy.
"If a couple comes in and one of the partners says to me, 'I hate him/her!' I always say, 'That's great news!' Hate is not the opposite of love ... ambivalence is," says psychotherapist Mia Adler Ozair, author of Insider's Secrets: How to Choose an Exceptional Therapist (and How to Avoid the Bad Ones). "If the partners are at least still feeling feelings toward one another (even if they are negative), that means there is still a pulse and I don't have to revive the dead."
3. You are out alone and only talk about the kids. Children are wonderful, and the love you share for your kids can make a marriage flourish. But when the focus of your relationship becomes something other than your relationship, it's a problem. Period. All the experts agree on this.
"If you have focused so much on being a family and raising your kids and let your couple relationship go, you may find that you've lost your couple connection completely," says "Dr. Romance" Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and the author of Money, Sex, and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. "This is why so many couples break up as soon as the kids are grown (or even before). Your man-and-wife relationship is vital -- it's the foundation your family is built on."
4. You STOP arguing. Everyone thinks that fighting is the sign of a horrible marriage. It's not. In fact, STOPPING the arguments is more concerning.
"Arguments are intimate," says Valerie Jencks, founder and executive director of Prairie Family Therapy in Chicago. "Physiologically, we become aroused with conflict requiring that we pay full attention to the person we are fighting with. In marriage, arguments are one way that couples connect with one another. A decrease in arguments may signal the couple is drifting apart or avoiding one another."
5. You no longer know each other's passwords on social media. I actually never have known all my husband's passwords. Not sure what that says! But the point here is this: Is there a change in behavior? Are you suddenly locked out of his life?
"When you start having secret passwords on social media, it's usually a pretty good indication that you don't want your spouse to see something," says Steinorth-Powell. "If you're doing something you're not comfortable with your spouse finding out, then you shouldn't be doing it. Ever."
So the bottom line is this: It's not as simple as "we need to get divorced." It never is. But there is something to be gained just by checking in on your marriage, taking its temperature, if you will. Catching things early can save your family. What can you do? Seek counseling. Do things together again. Go on dates.
"[If] you are slowly becoming less engaged with one another, it means both of you will be more inclined to seek a strong connection outside your marriage," says Steinorth-Powell. "Even the most mundane activities that couples do together have a bonding value."
Did you ever feel like you were drifting from your spouse?
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