10 Easy-To-Miss Stages of a Dying Marriage
Many of my clients come to me wondering if their marriage is dead.
It can be hard to tell, from the inside looking out, where one’s marriage stands.
Why? Because, as the years go on, some behaviors, good and bad, become normalized, and it’s hard to tell if they are affecting the marriage in a negative way.
What my clients know is that they are unhappy in their relationship, but they aren’t sure if that means it’s over.
I tell them that there are specific signs, specific stages of a dying marriage, that can be easy to miss.
Knowing what they are is a crucial way to know if your marriage is dead or if it might be resuscitated.
Here are 10 easy-to-miss stages of a dying marriage to help you decide the next steps in your.
#1 – Out of sight, out of mind.
Do you find that, when you are away from your spouse, you never think about them, much less miss them?
Do you find that you only think about them when you are apart when you need them? Or when you are angry with them?
For people who are in a happy marriage, part of that marriage is having that person on your mind, or at least coming to mind, while you are apart.
Thinking about them shows that they are important to you which is a good sign that your marriage might not be dead.
#2 – Not noticing the little things.
When you are first with someone, it’s the little things that are so special.
The cute way that they do things. The jeans that hug their butt just so. The silliness that they display when they talk to their mom. The way they rejoice in making you happy.
As marriages go on, it’s easy to stop noticing the little things. Time and familiarity make it so those little things seem to not be as important anymore.
And, as a result, spouses can start to feel invisible and unloved.
Ironically, not noticing the little things is an easy-to-miss stage of a dying marriage because, more often than not, not noticing the little things at first is a sign of being comfortable and familiar with your partner. Ultimately though, as time goes on, that comfort can cause a disconnection that can end a marriage.
#3 – Ignoring the tension in the room.
When my ex-husband decided to go back to business school, which meant leaving the house every other weekend and being consumed with homework when he was home, I was so very angry beyond angry.
But we never talked about it. Instead, we just pretended that I didn’t care.
Over the two years when he was in school, there wasn’t a moment when the two of us were in the same room that there wasn’t tension. Instead of addressing it, though, we ignored it.
It got worse and worse, and I am sure that our marriage never recovered from those periods of sadness and anger and we are now divorced.
#4 – Loss of intimacy.
This is the sign of a dying marriage is that isn’t as hard to miss.
According to Marriage.com, sex increases levels of commitment in a marriage. Because of intimacy, couple who might get disconnected over the course of the day or week can reconnect through physical touch
And that can save a marriage.
Unfortunately, in many relationships, women need to feel connected before they are willing to have sex while men need sex to feel connected. This leads to a détente and sex that never happens and might even lead to even more disconnect between the two.
#5 – Lots of acts of service.
One thing that I noticed as my marriage died was how many acts of service we did for each other.
I would bring him lunch at work. He would take the kids away for the weekend to give me some space. He would take out the garbage, and I would make his favorite meal.
Both of us did these things because we were trying to show the other love.
Unfortunately, my love language is quality time, and his physical touch and the acts of service that we were doing for each other made neither one of us feel loved.
And, because we weren’t feeling loved, it was hard to fight for the marriage, and ours eventually died.
#6 – Talking about the weather.
Does this happen to you? Do you find that you talk about the weather or current events or kid’s activities or that the car needs to be fixed but do not talk about anything of any substance at all?
Do you do this because you have found that you have nothing left in common, nothing to talk about?
Or perhaps you do this because you are both avoiding talking about the elephant in the room and so you keep the conversation surface level.
Whatever the reason, not being able to talk about things is definitely a sign that your marriage might be dead.
#7 – Not having fun together.
Just like having things to talk about, to keep a marriage strong, it is essential that the couple have fun together.
That they take the time to share experiences that they both enjoy. To stay up to date with each other’s interests. To spend time together laughing and appreciating each other.
This can be a slippery slope in a marriage. While the things that you both enjoyed initially attracted you to each other, as time goes on, those interests can diverge. And diverge to the point where you have nothing in common anymore.
They can also diverge to the point that you have disdain for what they want to do and only participate grudgingly.
Do you and your spouse still have fun together? If not, then that could well be that your marriage is dying.
#8 – You friends don’t want to spend time with you.
Have you noticed that invitations from friends have gotten increasingly sparse?
Do your neighbors not drop by as much?
Does your family tell you they don’t like what they see between you and your spouse?
Even though many couples don’t see just how bad off their marriage is, people on the outside definitely can. They can read the tension and see the contempt and hear the complaining.
Being with that couple can be uncomfortable and just plain not fun. And so they make excuses to spend time elsewhere, ironically leaving the unhappy couple to themselves to become even more unhappy.
#9 – Being antagonistic.
Do you find that you are picking fights with your spouse all the time?
Instead of talking about things that are frustrating you, are you passive-aggressive, saying unkind things under your breath and then saying that everything is fine?
Being antagonistic is definitely as sign of an unhappy marriage. Imagine if a friend acted that way, picking fights and being rude. Would they still be your friend? I am guessing not.
People in a happy marriage don’t pick fights and be passive-aggressive. They treat their partner with respect and try to communicate clearly about things that are important to them!
#10 – No willingness to act.
I can’t tell you how many of my clients tell me that their spouses aren’t willing to get help for their marriage.
That they don’t see the need or don’t believe in therapy or make excuses that they don’t have the time.
As a result, things just stay the way they are or get worse.
A good marriage is a marriage that is being consistently worked on. It’s two people who want the marriage to be healthy and are willing to do whatever they need to do to keep it that way, and they do so without rancor.
For a couple who is stuck in unhealthy patterns because the desire to not deal is there, their marriage will definitely die a slow, painful death.
Are you reading this article because you want to save your marriage? Then I would suggest that, when you are done, you talk to your partner about getting help to work on your marriage, perhaps rebuilding it into something strong.
Sometimes the stages of a dying marriage are hard to spot.
Much like when we are drowning and trying to keep our heads above water, so being in the midst of an unhappy relationship can be hard to see.
It’s important that couples recognize the signs that their marriage is not a healthy one so that they can take the steps that they need to take to save it, if they want to.
Your marriage doesn’t have to be DOA. There is still time to save it, if you both want to!