Television and films like to tell people that marriages end because of big events like infidelity, but the reality of the situation is that a relationship in trouble is like a snowball. If you let it roll down the hill for too long, it turns into an avalanche that destroys anything in its path. If you can catch marriage problems early on, you'll have a better chance of taking that snowball and making something positive rather than something destructive.
Spotting a troubled marriage is easy if you're watching a favorite character on television, but, when it comes to our own lives, we sometimes miss or dismiss the warning signs. The best way to know is to ask yourself if you are truly happy, compare how you feel away from your spouse to how you feel with your spouse and ask your friends and family what they might be seeing that you aren't. You'll be asking yourself many questions during this period, but honest answers can help you know if your marriage can be saved or if it is time to end it.
If, for most of your week, you are not happy just sharing the same space with your spouse, this is a major sign that there is trouble in paradise. Is work or school an escape? Do you get nervous when your spouse gets home from work because you are expecting a fight?
Also evaluate how you behave when you are away from your spouse. Marital stress can negatively impact your relationships everywhere else. If you're slamming doors at work, grinding your teeth at night and lashing out when people ask how things are, chances are your marriage has something to do with this.
Abuse is a flashing red flag that should tell you to get out and as fast as you can. However, if someone is the victim of abuse, it can be hard to identify or admit the abuse. Also, even if your spouse does not physically hurt you, be aware that emotional or verbal abuse is still abuse and is grounds for leaving. You should feel good about yourself when you are around your spouse.
The Time You Spend With Your Spouse
Think about how you feel when you spend time with your spouse. It's normal to sometimes feel annoyed by the person you share your life with, but, if the size of their eyes, the smell of their breath and the mere sound of their footsteps is enough to make you upset or irritated, chances are something's wrong.
Is every little decision an argument waiting to happen? If choosing a brand of butter results in raised voices, someone sleeping on the couch and the silent treatment, take this as a sign that your marriage might have some kink to work on. Also, how do you feel about confronting your spouse when you have an issue? Do you worry that a small matter will blow up into a big fight?
How is your sex life? Do you still get all hot and tingly when you think about your spouse? It's normal for a marriage to shift a sex life, and sexual relationships can grow repetitive after many years, but, if it's been a long time since the last time you were intimate with your spouse, this may be a sign of a bigger problem.
If you have been apart for a long time, or if your jobs keep you too busy for intimacy, think about the last time you had sex with your spouse. How did you feel? Did you look forward to the experience? Or was it just another checkmark on your to-do list? Marriage can have its boring moments, but you should never dread having sex with your spouse.
Ask for Other People's Opinions
If you're having trouble seeing your relationship for what it is, pretend the situation is a friend's. What would you say if your best friend told you his or her spouse had slept on the couch for the past six months? Sometimes love can blind a person to what is and isn't normal, and it's important to keep the marriage goggles locked away.
Friends and family members can provide marriage advice if you have questions. Chances are they can see things you might not and will have spent time with you and your spouse. Listen to their observations and ask for a little marriage help for various situations. They may have some great advice or opinions to offer you.
The Real Marriage Tax
Ultimately, you should think about the real marriage tax and if it is worth it. How often are you happy versus how often you are upset? How much time do you and your spouse spend arguing versus laughing? In any kind of relationship, the good times should outweigh the bad.
If you're happier when your spouse is away than when they're with you, chances are your marriage has seen better days. Knowing there's a problem is the first step to mending it.
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