Marriages typically do not go from being perfectly happy to the brink of divorce overnight. It is a usually a long process of little things that slowly degrade the fabric of the relationship until one spouse feels they can no longer take it anymore. Unfortunately, men often do not notice the problems until it is too late, as (depending on where you find the statistics) divorce is initiated by the wife anywhere between 60-75 percent of the time. This can leave many men feeling blindsided.
However, there are many signals your marriage may be heading for the rocks if you take a hard look at your relationship. If you are able to catch some of the signs early enough and both spouses are willing to work at fixing the issues, it may be possible to repair your marriage before you have passed the point of no return.
While many of these will sound like clichés when it comes to divorce, it only goes to prove how commonplace they are in broken marriages. There is by no means a definite list of red flags, but here are some of the major indicators that your relationship is in jeopardy:
Breakdown in communication
This phrase has become a platitude for a reason — healthy communication is essential to maintaining a strong connection. The scope of this expression covers a lot of different areas within the relationship, but if effective communication between partners has diminished compared to the past, it could be a sign of trouble ahead — particularly if the underlying issues are not addressed.
Poor conflict resolution
Everyone has probably heard at some point or another that “fighting is part of a healthy relationship.” While that is true to the extent that all couples will have differing opinions on matters throughout the course of a long-term relationship (which is a good thing because it exposes new ideas and insights that one side may have never considered), it is only healthy if you are able to resolve the issues satisfactorily.
When couples develop methods to decide arguments that are damaging, it becomes incredibly detrimental to the relationship. This can be anything from avoiding fights altogether, to hurtful attacks on character. If you always seem to “win” arguments, it doesn’t mean you are simply always right — you may be implementing harmful tactics that are slowly eroding at the foundation of your relationship.
Again, a healthy relationship involves disagreements. However, these negative interactions should never outnumber the positive — or come even close. Psychologist and researcher John Gottman came up with the positivity ratio of 5:1 for a stable relationship, meaning you should have around 5 times as many positive exchanges as negative. This comes from his research that showed happy couples were much more likely to share positive feelings and emotions than unhappy couples, who were more likely to share harsh and negative criticism.
Lowered emotional connection
Connecting and relating on an emotional level is key for keeping the flame alive. Falling out of love is a process, and when you stop care about the emotional aspects of your spouse, it is only a matter of time before the flame begins to flicker. Additionally, this also frequently leads to affairs, as either spouse begins to look outside of the marriage for fulfillment of their emotional needs.
Actively demonstrating interest in the emotional well-being is an important part of keeping the intimate relationship strong. This often means when that when the emotional connection weakens, the physical relationship is soon to follow. Conversely, sex is also an important aspect of relationships that helps to reinforce the emotional connection. These two negative aspects feed into each other, and when either the physical or the emotional needs of a relationship are not being met, it can quickly create a downward spiral.
Obviously, these are all very broad symptoms that could have a variety of underlying causes depending on everyone’s unique situation. If your marriage is suffering, however, you need to discover the cause of the issues before it becomes too late. Saving a shaky marriage is no easy task and requires delving into uncomfortable topics, many long conversations, hard work from both spouses to work on faults you didn’t know existed and may require professional counseling. Even then, it might not be enough.
However, attempting to repair a marriage is definitely worth a shot as it is much easier than tearing everything down and starting over from scratch. Even if it is ultimately a futile effort, attempting to work out your relationship problems can pave the way for a more amicable divorce.
For men, it can be especially difficult to tell when a marriage is on the rocks. But follow your gut, and if you feel has been something off, it may be time to address those issues head on. Skirting around them and pretending they don’t exist will only work for so long before a process server shows up at your work with divorce papers in hand.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”