Is your marriage in trouble?
By Diane E. Lykes, LCSW
When it comes to having concerns about your marriage, rest assured that you are not alone. The phrase, “How to save a marriage” is typed into Google over 8,000 times a month. And the statistics citing half of first marriages and 70 percent of second marriages ending in divorce has remained unchanged.
There are definite warning signs that indicate your marriage may be in trouble. Learning about these “red flags” will help you address the issues in your relationship so that you don’t become one of the statistics. And more importantly, will enable you to live your life in a marriage filled with devotion, romance, respect and love.
Warning signs you should not ignore
One of the major red flags in an unhealthy marriage is a pattern of repeated criticisms where one or both partners feel they can’t do anything right. Often times, negative language is used about the partners’ personality and character.
It’s all business
When the relationship begins to feel like a business arrangement couples should take notice. If you can spend hours under the same roof, attend social functions together and run the household errands without ever having meaningful conversation, you are losing your connection. Couples who spend a great deal of time in silence begin to feel as if living alone would not be any different.
Lack of intimacy
Physical affection is an extremely important part of any romantic partnership. A marked decline in intimacy is one of the telltale signs of a failing relationship. If your partner is showing very little interest in intimacy, it is likely a red flag and may also be a sign of an extramarital affair.
Both partners become worn down from repeated arguments. It feels as if you are always angry with each other about something.
When you begin avoiding each other or repeatedly walk away from conflict rather than seeking resolution, you are likely to feel misunderstood and disrespected. Problems never get resolved and you begin to develop layers of “baggage”.
You have developed a list of all the things you can’t stand about your partner rather than noticing any of their positive qualities.
You are already thinking about divorce and playing out scenarios in your mind about what your life would be like without your partner in it.
Great relationships don’t just happen. There is no luck involved when it comes to which couples live happily ever after and which couple part ways. Yes, one in two marriages ends in divorce, but almost all of these relationships began with love. So why do so many commitments fall apart? The answer is simple: love is not enough.
This may sound very unromantic, but it is true. If you interviewed couples who have been married 20, 30 or even 50 years, they would all tell you one thing: keeping the romance, excitement and happiness alive requires hard work from both partners. Hope and luck have nothing to do with their good relationships. What they have learned is the “how to’s” for a successful relationship. In the same way an architect learns how to design a beautiful structure, these partners have taken the time to learn how to design a beautiful marriage.
In her marriage seminars, relationship guru Dr. Ellen Kreidman offers insight into the importance of understanding the basics of a good relationship (rather then assuming that “love will conquer all”). For example, she states that a man falls in love because of the way he feels about himself when he is with a woman. When he no longer feels good about himself in the relationship, he may find someone else or something else that gives him this good feeling again. She believes that extramarital affairs are his effort to feel desired, special and needed again. Her mantra: “If you don’t have a love affair with your partner, someone else will.”
And, is it any different for a woman? A woman falls in love because she feels beautiful both inside and out in her partner’s eyes. The most common reason why a woman files for divorce is “neglect”. She feels as though her partner has checked out of the relationship and she is left feeling alone in a marriage that once brought her great fulfillment.
So ask yourself this question: how does your spouse feel when they are with you?
“Love is life…And if you miss love, you miss life,” Leo Buscaglia.
The time to be happy and have a great relationship is now. Postponing happiness or waiting for a divine intervention that will solve your marital problems will lead you down a lonely road. Consider putting 150 percent of yourself into making your marriage work. The benefits will last a lifetime.
Diane Lykes is a Principal of Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany where she specializes in individual and couples counseling, educational training and clinical consultation. Synergy is a unique counseling practice providing compassionate, solution-oriented treatment for adults, children, adolescents and families. She can be reached at 466.3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org