In any marriage, even the strongest and happiest, problems and frustrations will inevitably arise. And while it’s not worth addressing every little grievance that gnaws at your gears (say, your partner forgot to wring out the sponge again? Boring but you’ll live), there are some issues that don’t. really shouldn’t be ignored.
Certain issues, such as abusive behavior or a major breach of trust, are generally seen as obvious red flags. But other issues that may seem innocuous in comparison could actually be cause for concern.
We asked marriage therapists to reveal some of the more subtle but potentially serious red flags you shouldn’t ignore.
1. You feel anxious when you’re with your partner or before seeing them
Relationship stress can affect you physically in many ways: frequent headaches, stomach aches, or trouble sleeping, to name a few. If these symptoms seem to appear when you’re with your partner or planning to be with them, it could be a sign that something is wrong with the relationship, says marriage and family therapist Jennifer Chappell Marsh..
“Sometimes if something is wrong in a relationship, we might not be able to identify it, but our body will tell us something is wrong,” she said.
2. You feel lonely even when you’re together.
We all have shitty days where we feel disconnected from our partners. But if you experience these feelings of loneliness more often than not over a period of time, it’s worth considering why you feel so isolated in the relationship.
“It’s a sign that you’re not opening up to your spouse for connection or that your attempts to connect with your spouse are being rejected,” Marsh said. “Feeling lonely is a sign of physical, emotional or both disconnection. Active steps are needed or the gap between you will grow.
3. You don’t know how to fight fair
Conflict is a natural part of any relationship. The ability to talk about issues respectfully is a sign of maturity and health in the relationship. Couples who haven’t figured out how to do this end up either yelling at each other or not fighting at all. Instead of tackling the problems head-on, they just sweeping things under the rug.
“Excessive fighting is a problem, but so is the other end of the spectrum: lack of conflict,” Marsh said. “Generalized conflict avoidance may indicate that one or both partners do not feel confident to bring up issues. Short-term conflict avoidance leads to long-term resentment and disconnection. This is the main cause roommate syndrome, where couples get along but don’t feel an intimate connection.
Therapist Kurt Smith, who specializes in counseling men, said constantly fighting and avoiding conflict altogether both have the potential to erode a relationship.
“It’s typical for couples to make their fight routine look okay. Either they’ll say, ‘All couples argue’ or ‘We never fight’ as if that’s a good thing. Fighting too much and never fighting is destructive to relationships,” he said.
4. When you talk about money, it always turns into an argument.
Often couples have different philosophies and priorities when it comes to their finances – one is a spender, the other a saver; one wants to open a joint account, the other wants to keep things separate. But how a couple reconciles these differences says a lot about the relationship. Yes, money can be a tricky subject. But if you’re unsure how to have a productive conversation, consider seeing a therapist who can give you tips on how to communicate more effectively.
“Having money problems in a marriage is common, whether it’s partners who can’t talk about anything money-related, disagree on how much to spend versus savings, or use the money in a way that harms themselves,” Smith said. “In fact, money is always on every list of top reasons couples divorce. Yet couples almost never come to counseling to resolve their financial disputes.
5. Your partner digs and jokes at your expense.
Some playful coasts between spouses are great fun – as long as both parties are in on the joke. But if you feel like your partner is pulling on you, constantly rolling their eyes at your remarks, or otherwise undermining you, it can eat away at your self-esteem.
“A tendency to belittle, belittle, or make fun of someone may indicate a deeper disrespect or power imbalance,” says marriage and family therapist Spencer Northey. “It can breed resentment and contempt, which is a death sentence for a relationship.”
And don’t let your partner dismiss your reaction as “too sensitive.” You might feel compelled to ignore their hurtful comments, but you shouldn’t have to.
“My advice is if your partner’s ‘playful’ or laid-back comments start to touch a nerve, don’t just laugh it off,” Northey said. “Have a serious conversation about sensitivities and respect. Don’t stay in a relationship where you don’t get the same consideration.
6. Sometimes you feel more like your partner’s therapist than their spouse.
The ability to lean on your partner for guidance and emotional support is one of the benefits of being in an intimate relationship. That said, your partner shouldn’t use you as a substitute for a professional therapist, especially if they’re dealing with a mental health issue or a life crisis.
“Whether it’s dealing with a change in mood, increased stressors at work, or conflict in the relationship, it can be difficult to know when and how to support a partner and when more help is needed. “said therapist Juan Olmedo. “Establishing whether the partner in need is looking for a sounding board to voice or feedback and suggestions to make changes is an important priority to set.”
7. You really have trouble making decisions.
Decisiveness is not a quality that comes naturally to everyone. But if making decisions big and small feels overwhelming or impossible for you and/or your partner, it could be a sign of deeper instability in the relationship, Northey said.
“A minor example would be a couple can’t agree on where and when to go on vacation, so they never go,” she said. “Or they rarely go out, because they can’t decide what to do, so they stay by default.”
Indecisiveness on a higher level could be a couple unable to decide where to live or, more seriously, unsure of their commitment to each other and the relationship.
“In a marriage, they can trade ideas about wanting to break up or just holding on. Usually with indecision there is a frustrating back and forth pattern when trying to make meaningful decisions,” Northey said. “It could be because one or both don’t have a good understanding of what makes them happy, or one or both are unknowingly sabotaging getting along. It could also mean that are fundamentally incompatible.
Northey’s advice? “Begin to recognize patterns of indecisiveness and uncover their roots to ensure nothing stands in the way of a healthy attachment.”