In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by the age of 50 — but only a fraction of those people last in their marriages, according to the American Psychological Association. In fact, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce, and the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.
While the divorce rate in the country does appear to be dropping (the percentage began falling in the early 1990s and has since continued to decrease), there are still 3.2 divorces per 1,000 married couples. If you feel like your marriage is failing, you're not alone.
But there are some red flags you can look out for that suggest you might be on your way to divorce. Then, you can either turn things around or at least better prepare yourself for what's ahead.
Here are nine signs that your marriage is in trouble, according to psychology.
1. You're quick to find faults in one another.
Let's be clear: Criticizing your partner is a whole lot different than offering a critique to help your partner.
"Critiques and complaints tend to be about specific issues, whereas criticism has to do with attacking your partner’s character and who they are," according to Psych Central. "For example, a complaint might be: 'We haven’t gone on vacation together in so long! I’m tired of hearing about our money troubles!' Here we see a specific issue being addressed that is a problem for one partner. A criticism might go something like this: 'You never want to spend money on us! It’s your fault we can never go away together because you spend all our money on useless things!' This is an outright attack on the partner’s character. It is guaranteed to put them in defensive mode and sets the tone for war."
2. You walk on eggshells around one another.
When you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner, or they express that they feel like they have to walk on eggshells around you, it's not a good sign.
"Relationships where you have to tread lightly — each day you wake up you are figuratively having to walk on eggshells because your partner or someone you know behaves or acts all too frequently with a constellation of traits that are simply toxic — so toxic that you have to be ever so careful around them, lest they lash out at you," writes Joe Navarro, author of Dangerous Personalities, for Psychology Today.
3. Your partner's familiar ways irritate you.
Sure, annoyance can be a sign of a good relationship. After all, when you're so comfortable around your partner, or they're so comfortable around you, that's why you or they may start exhibiting these annoying behaviors. And comfort is a good thing. Besides, if your partner doesn't annoy you at all, it might be because you're emotionally withdrawn, which isn't good.
"When you first start dating someone, it’s common to be on your absolute best behavior — especially if you really like the other person — so you’ll refrain from certain behaviors you may enjoy, like getting up at noon on weekends or eating a bag of Doritos for dinner," Kira Asatryan, a relationship coach and author of Stop Being Lonely told Time. "But eventually, the real you is bound to come out… and start exasperating your partner. In some ways, annoying one another is a sign that you’re in a 'real' relationship."
That said, when everything your partner does starts to irritate you, and you begin judging them and lashing out on them or keeping pent up frustration inside, that's not a good sign for your relationship.
4. Emotional abuse is common in your relationship.
Contrary to popular belief, emotional abuse can certainly be as serious or harmful as physical abuse.
Some tactics of emotional abuse by an abuser, according to Springtide Resources, include:
- Isolating you from friends, family, cultural or faith community and care providers
- Preventing you from having independent activities such as work or other education
- Acting overly jealous or possessive, and accusing you of having affairs if you talk to another person
- Coercing you into sexual activity to prove your love
- Criticizing you constantly about her actions, size and appearance, and abilities
- Using your disability to demean or control you
- Threatening, intimidating, harassing or punishing you if you don't comply with your abusive partner's demands
- Using the children to control you, undermining your authority as a parent or threatening to take them if you should leave
- Making all of the decisions in the family, withholding information and refusing to consult you on or about important matters such as where you live or your family's finances
- Controlling the money—what is spent and how it is spent, and not allowing you access to financial resources, or conversely not contributing to any of the household expenses
Of course, emotional abuse can wreck a relationship.
5. You live like a single person.
If you're living like a single person, going out with other romantic interests, traveling by yourself without your partner all the time (sometimes is, of course, okay and even arguably healthy!) or sleeping alone, for examples, this could be a sign that your relationship is in trouble. Of course, maybe you and your partner have a more open relationship, and you both enjoy your independence, but if either one of you begins crossing boundaries, that's a major red flag.
6. You don't turn to your partner when you're stressed.
A wealth of research suggests that couples can indeed help each other cope with stress, which improves their relationship. That's because ignoring stress can take a toll on your marriage, especially if one or both of you becomes snappy, irritable, withdrawn or totally depressed. And it can even become contagious — your partner can take on your stresses, too.
If you don't turn to your partner when you're stressed, this could be a problem for your relationship. Working through stress together can help your relationship, and evading that confrontation can be detrimental.
7. Your future plans don't include your partner.
If you're making plans for — or even just fantasizing about — your future, and those plans or fantasies do not include your partner, that may be a major issue for your marriage. Thinking about quitting your job to travel the world, adopting children, moving to a new city or something else, but you don't want to do it with your partner? That's a red flag.
8. Your relationship is lacking in physical intimacy.
There are tons of benefits of having more sexual intimacy with your partner. In fact, according to a 2015 study conducted in China, more sex and better quality sex actually increases happiness. And, when our bodies secrete cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) during sexual intimacy, it helps us to relieve stress. Another hormone, oxytocin, is also released with sexual stimulation — and that can boost your mood.
Without all these natural life enhancers, your relationship may be in trouble. Besides, if you don't want to have sex with your partner, that could be a sign of something deeper.
9. You or your partner physically or emotionally cheats.
If either your or your partner physically or emotionally cheats, it's first a breach of trust, and you need trust for a relationship to last. Second, the cheating may have happened because of an underlying issue in your relationship. According to a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, people cheat for all kinds of reasons — from not feeling sexually satisfied to feeling stuck in the relationship. Any of these reasons could ultimately lead to the demise of your relationship, if the cheating alone does not.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.