Every healthy marriage has its ups and downs, and most times couples can learn to navigate the marital issues successfully. Many relationships even grow stronger after having gone through adversity, but sometimes things between partners escalate to a point where couples fear the marriage is in jeopardy.
How can you distinguish between a bump in the road and serious trouble? We’ve outlined some of the top signs your marriage is in trouble and may need some professional help with online couples counseling.
Read on if you’re wondering how your marriage is doing and learn 15 common signs of a failing marriage every couple should know.
“All couples experience issues during the relationship. Being able to recognize the signs and the red flags from the beginning can prevent problems in the future.”
1. You Criticize More Than You Compliment
If you find that you’re criticizing your spouse more than you compliment them, it may be a sign that you have marriage trouble. Sometimes a little constructive criticism is helpful, but too much can hurt your partner’s self-esteem, make them avoid talking with you, and cause deep marital problems. Researchers estimate that you need five good interactions for every one negative to keep a relationship healthy.
What to Do: If you identify with this point, it’s a good idea to step back and see if there’s something in your marriage that’s making you frustrated or angry. This can be a common cause of negativity but is something that can be easily managed through awareness and coping strategies learned through therapy.
If you’re the one being criticized, it’s important to point it out to your spouse. They may not realize they’re doing it.
2. You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Were Intimate
There is no “normal” in the bedroom. How often you should be intimate can be different for every couple. However, if you can’t remember the last time you had sex with your spouse, your relationship might be missing a degree of intimacy. It’s easy to forget intimacy, especially if you work different schedules or are busy raising a young family.
What to Do: If you’re struggling with sexual intimacy in your marriage, not all hope is not lost. You can get that spark back. Not sure where to start? Small touches, massages, and hand-holding are all great ways to reconnect.
3. You Don’t Argue Anymore
No more arguments or disagreements? It may seem like a good thing on the outside, but if you’ve stopped arguing altogether, it might be because you’ve stopped communicating.
What to Do: When was the last time you shared anything meaningful with your spouse? If you can’t remember, you may need to work on your communication skills to avoid marriage trouble. If this is a pattern that’s been going on for a while, you might want a therapist to help you break the cycle.
Need tips for better communication? Check out our recommended communication exercises for couples.
4. You Avoid Spending Quality Time Together
Remember when you first started dating, how you couldn’t wait to see them again? Years later, is your spouse the last person you want to spend time with? While there’s nothing wrong if a married person wants alone time every once in a while, it becomes worrying when you crave it all the time. Why is that? Are they always criticizing you? Do they never want to do the things you suggest? Do you feel more comfortable alone or with your friends than you do with your partner?
What to Do: Reconnect with each other by planning small outings or setting aside a standing date night once or twice a month.
5. One Person Does Most of the Chores
Division of labor in a marriage can be tricky. Even if you set aside ‘traditional’ roles, one person may be more interested in taking on certain tasks like cooking, cleaning, or shopping for the family. However, you might end up resenting your partner if you alone are doing most of the household chores.
What to Do:Talk to your spouse and see if you can come to an understanding about the importance of feeling equal in your marriage.
6. Someone’s Keeping Secrets
Another one of the chief signs of a failing marriage is when there are secrets. Lying, either overtly or by omission, is one of the surest ways to damage a relationship.
What to Do: Open, honest communication should always be the goal in marriage. It’s most likely that someone already suspects something is wrong if there’s a lack of honesty.
7. You Don’t Respect Each Other’s Privacy
A marriage license doesn’t give you the right to know everything about one another. Respecting boundaries and each other’s privacy is important. Reading your spouse’s emails, checking their text messages, or rummaging through their belongings is a breach of trust.
What to Do: Every marriage deserves respect — be sure that you’re both honoring each other’s space and privacy.
8. Your Friends See Problems in Your Marriage
Are your friends and family telling you there’s something “off” about your marriage? Are they concerned about you? Don’t dismiss caring comments as envy or a sign that someone never liked your spouse. They might be seeing marriage problems that you don’t want to admit.
What to Do: If someone you trust brings up concerns about your marriage, try to listen to them objectively before reacting.
9. You Lie About Money
According to research, financial matters are the most common cause of marital strife, more so even than sex. If one of you is a spender and the other is a saver, it can be easy to get into trouble when it comes to money. However, hiding or lying about money matters isn’t the answer.
What to Do: Try to be open and honest about your spending habits and financial plans.
10. You Daydream About Having an Affair
Another sign of marriage trouble is if you fantasize about having an affair with someone else. In a strong marriage, all of that energy will be directed toward your spouse.
What to Do: Instead of indulging in daydreams, have a conversation with your partner about why you’re thinking about other people. You might want to enlist the help of a therapist or marriage counselor to help you navigate this tough conversation.
11. You Always Feel Stressed About Your Marriage
A common reason for marriage trouble is plain old stress. If you worry a lot about the state of your union, it may be a reaction to tension or isolation in your relationship.
What to Do: Like any other issues you might face in your marriage, learning to manage stress may take working with a therapist to find the source of your tension. Find stress-relieving activities you can do, both with and without your spouse. Going for an evening walk or working out together, journaling, and meditating are all known ways to combat stress.
12. Your Spouse Isn’t the First Person You Call
If something bad (or good!) happens in your life, your spouse should be one of the first people you want to tell. If you reach for the phone to share the news with someone else, you might want to think about why that is.
What to Do: Make sure you and your spouse are each other’s priorities by sharing accomplishments, disappointments, frustrations, or anything else that’s a big deal in your life.
13. You’re Dragging Your Feet About a Big Decision In Your Marriage
Have you been delaying a decision about something big, like moving to another state, buying a new house, deciding to start or expand your family, or going back to school? While it can be normal to resist change a little bit, you may be putting off making a big decision because you’re hesitant about what it means for your troubled marriage.
What to Do: Try to figure out why you’re avoiding that big decision. It might take some long heart-to-hearts with your spouse, but it can open the lines of communication and maybe even help you reconnect on some level.
14. You Feel Lonely All the Time
Everyone feels lonely some of the time. If you’re lonely a lot, though, even when you’re with your spouse, you could have marriage trouble.
What to Do: The reasons for your sadness and loneliness can be complicated, and you might need to consider therapy to resolve things, but acknowledging there’s an issue is a great first step.
15. You Ignore Red Flags
It can be easy to put certain things that bother you aside at the beginning of a relationship. Marriage red flags concerning spending habits, inappropriate flirting, or a dismissive or controlling attitude toward your friends and family shouldn’t be ignored, though.
What to Do: It’s never too late to revisit concerns you might have suspected or noticed at some point along the way. Figuring out what you can do to (or if you can) work through things is the next step.
When to Get Professional Marriage Help
A problematic marriage doesn’t always have to end in a broken marriage. If you recognize you and your spouse in several of the above signs of a failing marriage or if things have been heading down a scary path for a while now, it might be time to consider seeking professional marriage counseling. A therapist can often see what you can’t because you’re both too close to the situation.
“Fixing relationship problems is not impossible. When you have the right tools and communication skills, it’s much easier.”
Therapy can teach you ways to work through your marriage problems, learn to deal with insecurity in relationships, and help you connect again. Don’t wait until things get too bad. Seeking counseling early gives you the best chance of learning how to save your marriage before it gets even worse.
Get Professional Help with Talkspace
The best marriage advice is to seek help from a marriage counselor. The good news is that it’s easy to find couples therapy today. Even if you live in a remote area or can’t travel to a therapist, online therapy through Talkspace can change the course of your married life. Our therapy platform makes online couples counseling accessible and convenient.
“The idea of having a couples therapist comes to most couples when the relationship is at risk. However, as therapists, we recommend that couples have a therapist from the beginning to establish a better understanding and boundaries.”
Reach out to Talkspace today to learn more about how you can repair marriage trouble and reconnect with your spouse.
1. Poulsen, Ph.D. S. A Fine Balance: The Magic Ratio To A Healthy Relationship. Purdue University: Consumer and Family Sciences Department of Child Development & Family Studies; 2008:1-3. https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/cfs/cfs-744-w.pdf. Accessed July 18, 2022.
2. Papp L, Cummings E, Goeke-Morey M. For Richer, for Poorer: Money as a Topic of Marital Conflict in the Home. Fam Relat. 2009;58(1):91-103. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2008.00537.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230928/. Accessed July 18, 2022.