Upon learning that I was newly separated, people constantly asked me, “what happened?” My honest reply was always the same, “It’s not what happened. It’s what didn’t happen.” Because sometimes marital problems are not so obvious.
People usually attribute the causes of divorce to the big three: infidelity, domestic abuse, or a major marital conflict. In fact, people are also more accepting and understanding of marital meltdowns when it comes to these serious issues. But the truth is, the majority of people claim they got divorced because they simply grew apart. And there are a number of masked reasons why once blissfully married couples eventually part ways.
Here are 3 not so obvious signs you may be heading for divorce.
1. General dissatisfaction and unhappiness
I became a shell of the woman I was during the last few years of my marriage. My laughter diminished, my smile faded, and my happiness disappeared. But I ignored the signs. And attributed my melancholy to everything else under the sun such as my fatigue as a new mom and our financial stress. I ignored, shrugged off, and even projected the real source of my deep sadness until I realized that it was because of my unhappy marriage.
Unhappiness can stem from a number of emotional, environmental, or physical ailments. Yet, a joyful and stable partnership should help carry you through most of life’s challenges. If you can’t seem to find a morsel of delight when you’re together, then you need to ask yourself what’s missing from your marriage that can’t be found extraneously.
To determine if your marriage meets your expectations, ask yourself some pointed questions. How would you rate your marital happiness on a scale of 1 to 10? If you could wave a magic wand and fix anything in your relationship, what would it be? Are you as happy now as you were when you first got married?
2. There’s no more intimacy
We mistakenly assume that intimacy refers only to physical affection. But in fact, intimacy can—and should—exist on many levels (i.e. emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical). In some cases, an absence of true closeness may enhance your loneliness and could send you seeking support and fulfillment elsewhere. I must confess that when intimacy was lacking in my marriage, I found intimacy in my dreams (yes, while sleeping). But even that didn’t fill the void.
Intimacy is to marriage what peas are to carrots. Without one, the rest seems incomplete and hollow. It’s important to realize that every couple has their own definition of intimacy. There’s no magic formula. What’s important is that both partners feel equally fulfilled and satisfied when it comes to their respective desires.
3. You’re always looking for the next big distraction
I’ve witnessed countless unhappy couples dive into to a number of large-scale projects to mask—or distract themselves from—the real void in their lives. Sadly, couples do this subconsciously as a coping mechanism. They try to find meaning in other aspects of their lives to minimize the lack of fulfillment in their core relationship.
When I felt trapped in a loveless marriage, I embarked on a number of home renovations and new hobbies. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy that work, but I wasn’t engaging in them for the right reasons. Again, I projected my problems. And this prevented me from focusing on—and addressing— the real issues in my marriage.
If you’re investing more time and energy in your respective projects than in your marriage, then you need to take a step back and refocus your energy on what’s really important.
What should you do if your marriage is in trouble?
Identify the problem.
A little bit of self-analysis and reflection go a long way when trying to understand your problem. Sometimes, we think we know what’s making us unhappy, but the deeper analysis can reveal a different source altogether. This is why it’s important to take the time to dig deep.
You may even have to read up on the subject and talk to someone you trust and who can remain objective about your situation.
Communicate, listen, and communicate more.
Communicate openly and honestly about how you’re feeling with your spouse. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you need and want (even if it may hurt their feelings). For example, if you feel disconnected from your partner, then address the potential lack of intimacy before you start looking for it elsewhere.
Be sure to listen to their concerns and needs too. Try to find a solution that works for both of you. And start with small steps if needed. You may have to revisit this conversation a few times, read up on the subject, and even seek help.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
If all of the above fail, or isn’t enough, then consider seeking professional advice or counseling. The earlier you do this, the better! Therapy provides a safe environment, and whatever you say remains confidential.
Couple’s therapy helped me realize some deep-seated issues that I brought to my marriage (and yes, most of us have some issues). There’s no shame in that. As long as you take the proper steps to learn and heal from them.
Life is a journey, and so is marriage. Invest in your marriage as much as, if not more, than anything else in your life.