Being a great spouse, a loving parent, advancing your career: each is a full time job in itself. When we’re that busy, it’s all too easy to just keep pressing on, focusing on the next task on the to-do list, but never taking the time stop and ask ourselves how our marriage is doing. What are the signs of an unhappy marriage you could be missing, and how do you fix them?
Marriage problems rarely appear overnight or out of thin air. They usually grow, bit-by-bit, day-by-day. But that means it can be all too easy not to notice them (or to avoid noticing them) until it’s too late.
To deal with problems, we need to spot them first. Here are a few of the tell-tale signs that could mean that your marriage is failing at making you (or your partner) as happy as it should.
1. You don’t talk as much as you used to
The importance of communication to a relationship just can’t be overstated. It is through communication that we can feel closer to each other, build and demonstrate trust, and work through our problems. It’s a sign of trusting, loving relationships, and without it a relationship will ultimately be unsustainable.
If you find yourself speaking less and less to your partner, that your only conversations are functional small-talk, or that you rarely speak about anything other than the kids or other people rather than each other, ask yourself why, and what harm it could be doing.
Is there a reason you’re speaking to each other less? Can you make an effort to create more meaningful conversations? We tend to overlook how big of an effect the less frequent communication can have on your marriage until problems arise. Work on making sure you talk to your partner and communicate every single day.
What to do
Make it a point to have more conversations with your partner. Talk to your partner and come up with a special time every day where you just talk. It doesn’t have to be much. Set aside 10 minutes each night before bed where you both put away your phones, turn off TVs and other electronics, and just talk. Talk about your day, your plans, goals, etc. The point isn’t to have a super deep conversation every day, it’s to just talk. Connection will naturally form when both of you make an effort to communicate.
2. You need to open up
If you’re not communicating, chances are there are secrets between you.
We can all have parts of ourselves that we want to keep private. But if you’re routinely keeping things from your partner, or feel that you can’t be open and honest with them, it shows you don’t fully trust them, and means they won’t trust you either. Love cannot live where there is no trust.
What to do
Start small. If you’re not used to opening up, suddenly trying to force yourself to reveal your true feelings can be overwhelming. Start by bringing up small things you were hiding before, such as wanting to try a new hairstyle that made you self-conscious, and work from there. These small steps will soon cover a lot of ground.
3. You don’t laugh as much anymore
Remember you and your partner making each other laugh so hard your stomach hurt? Remember how connected you both felt? When was the last time it happened?
We all know that laughter is good for your health. It’s vital for relationships, too. Indeed, a shared sense of humor is often what brings couples together in the first place. If you find that you and your partner rarely laugh together any more, ask yourself why and how you can change that. And just as importantly, think about what you’re missing out on.
What to do
Be more silly! Life doesn’t have to always be serious. Step out of your comfort zone and try purposely making each other laugh. Grab some face paint and draw funny faces on each other. The sillier, the better!
4. Quality time is limited
With the daily hamster-wheel of school runs, work appointments and life in general, it’s easy to think of excuses for why you’ve ended up spending less and less time with your partner.
Even if it’s not a sign you’re in an unhappy or bad marriage, a lack of quality time spent together could soon cause other issues. Quality time is when we really start connecting and bonding with our partners. It’s when we truly get to know them and their feelings.
And no, spending time alone with your partner doesn’t mean neglecting your kids. In fact, it’ll make your relationship with them stronger as well. Children who see their parents in happy relationships trust their parents to meet their own emotional needs more than children with unhappy parents. Do not underestimate the effect your own happiness has on your children.
What to do
It’s easy to feel like we have absolutely no time left in our days after work, errands, chores, and kids. The great thing about quality time is that you don’t need to dedicate a lot of time to see the benefits. Set aside 10 minutes a day where you don’t worry about anything else. Chores will be done after, the kids are fine, dinner is done. It’s time for just you and your partner to spend together.
This solution is pretty closely related to the solution for having more conversations between you and your partner. Naturally, when you put effort into communicating more, you’ll also increase the amount of quality time together.
5. You aren’t as intimate as you used to be
Happiness comes when we feel a connection to people. Whether emotional, spiritual or physical. If those connections are lost, problems can arise.
As Shakespeare said, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” If you aren’t making as much eye contact as you were before, you are losing that intimacy that was built over many years. It might not feel like it, but something as simple as looking at your partner in the eyes while saying, “I love you” before leaving for work can have such incredible results.
What to do
Intimacy is a lot more than just sex. It’s giving your spouse a good morning kiss and a goodnight kiss every day. It’s walking up to them and giving them a hug just because. Practice your physical touch with things as simple as running your hand through your spouse’s hair more often. You will notice a difference in intimacy almost immediately.
6. You aren’t yourself
Everyone should be able to feel comfortable in their own skin. And if there’s one person around whom you should always be able to be the real you, it’s your spouse. When you’re with them, you should feel safe, confident, and loved for who you are.
If you’ve started feeling like you have to hide your true self or emotions, there could be something going on. Is it a personal thing? Did a problem arise between you and your partner that made you feel less comfortable around them due to a lack of resolution? Asking yourself these questions and answering them honestly can lead you to a solution.
What to do
To solve this, you’ll first need to ask yourself a very personal question: Why do you not feel like you can be yourself? Is it a personal issue you’re struggling with, or is your spouse acting in a way where you don’t feel like you can be yourself?
If it’s a personal issue, work on figuring out what it is and how to fix it. Maybe set up an appointment with a therapist and talking about it with him or her.
If this is an issue with how your partner is treating you, bring this concern to attention. Maybe your spouse doesn’t realize he or she is causing this. Ignoring the issue, however, will never solve it.
7. There’s tension between you
Do your partner’s habits – those things you used to find endearing or quirky – now really annoy you? Do you feel like they’re always getting things wrong? Or do you find yourself criticizing everything they do?
Step back and ask yourself why. Is it really the way they leave the lights on or how they chew their food that’s bothering you, or is there something else going on? Is it about what they’ve done, or is it about how you feel and how – for whatever reason – you want to make them feel?
What to do
Tension in relationships can be an incredibly hard obstacle to overcome. It makes us less likely to try to fix our problems, which builds even more tension, forming a negative loop. Work on breaking this tension by bringing up issues you may be having with your partner when you’re both calm. Usually we will wait until conflict arises and we blow up, which just causes more stress in the relationship and can make your partner resentful.
Here’s a handy list with tips on how to de-stress your relationship!
8. You don’t show much affection
Do you greet your partner with a hug and a kiss? Do you fall asleep in each other’s arms? If you used to but not anymore, why not? Most of us get comfortable after being in a relationship for years. All the little things that used to give us those feelings of butterflies and warmth have become less frequent, to the point where you might see problems in your marriage.
The good news is most married couples don’t start showing less affection because they don’t love each other anymore. A lot of it comes from life overwhelming us. We get promotions at work, we get our first house, we have kids, we have chores to do, errands to run. It’s all very physically and mentally exhausting, which translates over to less physical affection with your partner.
What to do
Affection is one of those things we tend to forget to show in long-term relationships because we tend to fall into routine. Make it a point to be more affectionate by giving your partner a lot more kisses and hugs, cuddling more, and holding hands when walking or driving. It’s very easy to add a little bit of affection to mundane, everyday things.
Being in a marriage is hard. Giving unconditional love is hard. There will be good times and bad times, highs and lows. A marriage isn’t a document you sign and put away in a drawer. With how common it is to joke about marriage causing relationships to turn boring, it’s easy to believe that’s what’s supposed to happen. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You and your spouse need to continuously work to keep each other happy and not let the happiness slip away.
However, you deserve to be happy. If your marriage isn’t making you feel that way, be honest with yourself, and don’t just hope that it will be better tomorrow. If you notice your marriage is exhibiting one or more of the signs above, take steps to change that. Speak to your partner, reach out to friends you trust, talk to a counselor or therapist. Problems can be solved. You owe it to yourself, your partner and your family not to ignore them.
It’s important to note that an unhappy marriage and a bad marriage are two separate things. Marriages take a lot more work than most people expect. A lot of couples go into marriage thinking the love they feel for each other will get them through any problem, but the truth is it takes a lot of effort and working through struggles together.
Many times, a marriage becomes unhappy because we stop trying. Life gets in the way, responsibilities come up, and before you know it, it’s been a month since you spent quality time together. Another week passes, one by one, until you feel it’s too late.
Is your marriage unhappy?
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