Be mindful of signs that your marriage is in trouble

Gottman calls criticism one of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," a group of factors that can doom a relationship and are signs that a couple is headed for divorce. The other three are contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

I had no idea she was so unhappy.
He didn’t say much so I just thought he was depressed.
She didn’t express any interest in me so I found someone who did.
I’m tired of fighting so I choose to not say anything.

Those are just a smattering of the comments heard every single day in the offices and client sessions of marriage and relationship counselors and life coaches across the country. Every marital relationship is unique and each one faces its own one-of-a-kind challenges. There is no blueprint and there is no “one size fits all” solution.

However, there are some common signs of marriage problems. What we have learned in our coaching and counseling practice, JUST US LIMITED, is that many couples tend to bury their heads in the sand and ignore issues that ultimately will not go away.

Not only will they not go away but they will repeat themselves, time and time again, and they will get worse. It is much more helpful to have an honest, open, and vulnerable conversation with your spouse about marriage matters. Both of you need to be heard and need to be feel cared for and supported.

In our experience, here are a few warning signs that danger is near:

1. You Aren't Communicating

Over the course of time, married couples can easily fall into bad habits. Priorities can shift, and they will find themselves engaged in the habit of discussing the children or the finances or the workplace ad nauseum. But it is so important to reset – the number one priority should always be our spouse. We need to know their temperature every day – and they need to know ours. How are they feeling – is anything bothering them? What made them smile today? How can we be a better help to them? What can we do to lighten their load? We may be thinking “Sure, that sounds great – but what about me?” We might be surprised, and it may take time - but love reciprocates.

Without healthy communication, daily annoyances can turn into lingering resentment that is far harder to get over. Don’t let it get to that point. TALK!

2. You Are Communicating, but You’re Having the Same Argument

Show me a marriage that doesn’t have any arguments, and I’ll show you a marriage where something is probably wrong. I suppose it is possible but even healthy marriages have arguments. Our marriage ministry is first and foremost Bible-based, not research-based but we certainly recognize the value of sound research. Research suggests that couples who argue effectively are 10 times more likely to have a happy relationship than those who sweep difficult
issues under the rug. So talk it out, but don’t hit below the belt with rudeness and insults that are off-topic. And if your arguments are on repeat with no resolution, there is a problem that needs to be addressed. That may require outside help through coaching or counseling.

3. You're Always Criticizing Each Other

When we know that our spouse has our best interests at heart, we are okay with constructive criticism, something we all need in varying doses. But when criticism is constant and negative, that’s another story altogether. Negative criticism can be a sign that our marriage is headed for divorce, according to Dr. John Gottman, one of the world’s best-known relationship gurus and a therapist with more than 50 years of experience working with couples.

Gottman calls criticism one of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," a group of factors that can doom a relationship and are signs that a couple is headed for divorce. The other three are contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Please note that expressing our feelings is a healthy and constructive thing – but saying it the right way and not in a way that triggers us or our spouse matters.

We can say it in a hostile manner: "You spend more time with your dumb friends than you do with me and I’m sick of it. You are so selfish."

Or you can say it in a way that is constructive: "Honey, I don’t feel loved when we don’t make the time for each other. I’m definitely willing – can we talk about that and work toward changing it?"

Which way is better?

4. Lack of Intimacy

If our relationship lacks intimacy, that is a strong indicator that there is a disconnect between us and our spouse. Especially if we don’t want to engage in intimacy with them – and vice-versa. Marriages grow through increased intimacy, and intimacy extends far beyond sex, and can mean different things to different people, according to their own love language. Intimacy can be watching movies together, cooking together, even bowling together – with the key word being “together.” We have to know what makes our spouse tick, and get our spouse to ticking!

There are so many other warning signs and factors: keeping secrets, lack of trust, having an affair (including emotional affairs), and any form of abuse: physical, emotional, or otherwise. Pay attention and be aware of what’s lurking in the background.

All marriages have challenges!

Remember that even good marriages go through challenging times. If your marriage is struggling, there are quality resources available to you and your spouse if you are willing to work on the relationship. Even if a spouse isn’t currently willing to see a counselor or coach, you can do so and get on a pathway to healing.

Our ministry, JUST US LIMITED, is here, and we will stand and work with you to combat the challenges of your marriage. Please contact us and let us walk with you and your spouse in a safe environment. All marriages have challenges, but they can be opportunities to grow together. Take advantage of the opportunity – we are with you.

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