If you’re in a bad marriage, your self-esteem will suffer. You might find yourself depressed and living in various states of anxiety.
Nobody should go through life that way.
Every marriage has bumps in the road, but when those bumps become too big or too frequent, you need to take a much closer look at where your life and your marriage is headed.
How many red flags do you need?
Some of them may be playing out right in front of you and you’re either too busy or too oblivious to realize your marriage is in trouble and might be on the fast track to separation and divorce.
This isn’t to say if you see yourself in many of the things that follow that your marriage can’t be saved…because it can.
But the first step in saving a marriage is recognizing problems and taking steps to work together with your spouse to fix them.
Looking back, I realize now that the red flags were staring me right in the face. How many of these warning signs can you spot in your own marriage?
Red Flag #1: You don’t want to spend quality time together.
Do you come home from a long day at work, change clothes and immediately head for your little private part of the house? Is it more important to grab a glass a wine than a hug and kiss when one of you walks in the door?
Everybody needs to unwind, but when you don’t like hanging out with each other on the weekends, or in the evenings when you both get home, a relationship starts to become a burden instead of a privilege.
Spending time apart is okay, but it’s a problem if you’d rather spend time apart more often than not.
Red Flag #2: You don’t fight anymore.
This sounds counterintuitive, but if you can’t even muster up a good degree of anger toward your spouse, your relationship may be in even bigger trouble.
When you can’t talk about what happened, or you are so standoffish that you even refuse to listen anymore, you allow problems to fester and multiply.
With a fight, at least you are expressing your emotions, and many times, as hard as a fight might be, it does allow for the possibility of a resolution coming forward.
A lack of fighting is a sign of indifference, and indifference is worse than anger. Fighting means you’re still committed to your relationship to some degree. Not fighting could be a very troubling sign that you’ve already thrown in the towel.
Red Flag #3: No more sex.
Sometimes there are medical issues that preclude having sex, but when it’s a conscious decision to not pursue coitus, you are cashing in your intimacy chips.
Intimacy is what separates your marriage from every other relationship you have, and when that’s gone it’s a huge issue. If there are medical issues, it still doesn’t mean you can’t show affection with hugging, kissing or holding hands.
When you can’t even do that or don’t want to do that, an alarm should go off about your relationship.
Red Flag #4: Sexual incompatibility.
If there’s still a flame that burns in the bedroom, but you are a small candle and your mate’s is a raging forest fire, you could be sounding a fire alarm in your relationship.
Sex drives change over time. Strains and stresses of modern life will kill a libido too.
But if you can’t work up a good and passionate session on a fairly regular basis and enjoy that time spent together, then sex is a problem and not a joy in life.
Fortunately, there are lots of remedies out there you can try, but if you aren’t willing to spice up your love life or be attentive to your partner’s needs, that will be a problem in the long run.
Red Flag #5: Sexual infidelity.
Do we really even need to mention how damaging this can be to a marriage? It results in a breakdown of trust and communication that can be challenging to move past.
Related: Infidelity: Is Cheating a Deal Breaker?
Red Flag #6: You are not able to have an uncomfortable conversation.
Every healthy marriage will have challenges along the way and communicating about those challenges is critical to maintaining a healthy relationship.
Are you able to talk about money, sex, future plans, children, relationships with other family members, and other touchy subjects?
If you’re willing to be honest, it means there is a level of trust…but if every conversation on a touchy subject just feels like nagging, you are not really going to listen to each other and that means your relationship is going to suffer.
Red Flag #7: You never disagree with your spouse.
This is another version of not being able to have an uncomfortable conversation.
The difference is that you assume a more passive stance because you are either indifferent, fearful of how the conversation will end or you won’t like what you will hear. Every marriage has disagreements and while fighting is bad, never having disagreements could be a sign that something isn’t right either.
In situations like this, it’s not uncommon for things to fester under the surface until they explode into a massive and unfortunate argument that can be the end of a marriage.
Red Flag #8: You won’t go to counseling.
You’ve identified the problems in your marriage, and you’ve talked to your spouse about them.
One of the helpful solutions for many couples is going to either individual or couples counseling.
But if you or your spouse refuse to even seek help, it will only confirm the serious level of dysfunction that exists in your marriage.
Red Flag #9: An uneven division of chores at home.
Granted, in some marriages, one spouse may stay home while the other works, or one spouse may have more flexibility when it comes to taking care of household duties…but when there is clearly an unequal distribution of house work or how to do it or to what level a house should be cleaned or function, you’ve got an issue.
It’s further compounded when you’re in a home an attempting to raise children, who can add a tremendous strain on household resources.
Each spouse may also have their hot issue items as well, such as a sparkling clean bathroom or kitchen, while the other spouse may put added value on having laundry done or good meals around a dinner table every night.
You are the product of two separate households from where you were raised, and this will create different value systems that you will either need to find compromise with or prepare to do battle with every single day.
Red Flag #10: Drug or alcohol problems.
Many people turn to drugs and alcohol even when a marriage is going well but when this happens as a marriage is going bad, the effects multiply exponentially. If you want to speed up wrecking your marriage, drugs and alcohol will do it.
This kind of destructive behavior can also come back on you in a big way during and after a divorce.
If it can be shown that this played a role in the break-up in your marriage, it can be used as grounds for divorce in some states.
It will also most certainly play a role in child custody issues and may even impact alimony or how property is divided in some cases. If you care about your marriage, keep your drug and alcohol habit in check.
The hangover could be much more massive than you even suspect.
Red Flag #11: Your spouse has the memory of an elephant.
It’s one thing to argue, but to bring up a minor transgression that took place several years before is not only bad form, it’s a big sign that somebody has been keeping score.
You aren’t the same person you were many years ago, but if your spouse is stuck on that version of you or brings in several examples of past behavior from way back when, look out!
Those memories fester, become bigger than they were and manifest themselves in clusters that combine to make your life an ugly train wreck that can seemingly come out of nowhere.
It’s especially bad when you’ve let go and moved on and can barely remember those past events or the memories are so hazy that you have no effective way to counter the accusations against you.
Red Flag #12: Lack of respect for your privacy.
Your spouse may check your phone messages or texts without you knowing it, either by hacking into your phone or insisting you give them access.
They may scour phone bills that come in or track all your social media accounts as well. These signs of distrust are also signs of emotional abuse.
While it’s nice to share as much as possible with your spouse, there are some things you might just prefer to be kept private.
Red Flag #13: Publicly embarrassing you.
It’s one thing to do a little teasing every now and again, but quite another to do a full-court press and embarrass your spouse, especially in your mutual circle of friends, coworkers or relatives.
If you’ve been married for any length of time, you should know the soft spots your spouse has and if you want to ruin your marriage, make sure you publicly humiliate your spouse every chance you get.
There is a sanctity that goes with marriage, and if you or your spouse cannot respect that sanctity, then you have already taken a big step towards ending your relationship.
Red Flag #14: You’re the last one to know.
There is an information hierarchy that should be in play most of the time during a marriage. Your spouse should be among the first to know about goings-on at work, weekend plans with friends, enrolling kids in classes, and on and on.
It’s disrespectful to unilaterally make decisions or share information with people other than your spouse in most situations.
If it’s ever happened to you, you know the feeling of betrayal that comes with it. It doesn’t feel good, that’s for sure.
Red Flag #15: Your friends spot problems in your relationship.
You may be blind or oblivious to the problems in your relationship, either out of convenience or fear, but if your friends raise issues about the quality of your marriage, you need to listen.
If you are in denial or ignore obvious signs that others can see, you are setting yourself up to be blindsided.
Sometimes friends can also be a good source for you to unload your problems and help you work through solutions that may be jamming up your marriage.
You need to know who you can trust, who has a good and balanced view of your relationship and have a small circle of friends and relatives who can give you legitimate advice.
Similarly, if they come to you unsolicited with problems they see, you could be further along the breakup curve than you realize.
Red Flag #16: A spouse who can’t or won’t hold a job.
Unless you’ve agreed that one of you will be a stay-at-home spouse, both of you need to be committed to finding and keeping jobs to the best of your abilities.
This isn’t to say that you won’t hit rough patches in your employment, but if it takes both of your incomes to keep a home running, then you both need to find jobs and stick with them.
You’ll be able to tell when a spouse puts forth honest effort in this area…or not.
Red Flag #17: A spouse who forgets or doesn’t keep special days as special.
If your other half forgets birthdays, anniversaries or other days that are special in your lives, or worse yet remembers but does a crappy job of celebrating the occasion, then you don’t need a card or flowers to tell you something is amiss.
Unless your spouse is a complete social misfit (and some spouses are) then it’s not that hard to put some effort into remembering these kinds of dates and then making them enough of a priority to put some effort into making you feel special.
It’s simply not that hard to do in a healthy relationship.
Red Flag #18: Lies about or hiding money issues.
One of the most common reasons marriages fail is related to money issues.
One spouse generally controls the purse strings, paying bills, budgeting and handling investments and bank accounts, but that information should be an open book and readily available to the other spouse without hesitation.
Some spouses may develop a spending or gambling addiction that can lead to them hiding money problems that will threaten and undermine the financial stability of a marriage.
Some people shop online as a means of self-medication or to meet a need that isn’t being met elsewhere in their lives.
It can quickly spiral out of control and put extreme pressure on a relationship, not to mention having to deal with dishonesty, betrayal and anger as well.
Red Flag #19: You don’t look forward to coming home.
It’s one thing to feel this way while you’re in an argument, but when it becomes a standard way of how you feel, you have already started to passively break up with your spouse.
Home is a place of refuge, a place to relax and unwind, but if you go home with the fear that you could be stepping into a big pile of relationship sh#t, you will find ways to stay late at work, run errands on the way home, plan boys or girls nights out with alarming regularity, and stay gone for long stretches of the day and night on the weekends, you are avoiding the very place you should be the most comfortable.
Red Flag #20: A spouse who threatens divorce on a regular basis.
They may throw out the notion at the first hint of an argument and you’ll dismiss it as just talk much of the time, but it can also be a sign that they are tipping their inner thoughts to you.
A spouse who does this is unhappy and they are letting you know it. It also means they are probably lacking in conflict resolution skills and that can create its own set of ongoing marital problems.
Red Flag #21: Disagreeing on parenting issues.
There are limitless ways a mother and father can disagree on how children should be raised. Where to go to school, what friends to hang out with, how is homework handled, how to discipline, what religion to follow, how hard to push a child academically and/or with athletics or in special activities.
The list is endless and unless there is agreement on most of the major points, it can be a very real and passionate argument that ensues over and over. Add in the extra challenges of being new parents that include a lack of sleep, inexperience with how to care for a child, high daycare costs, and it’s easy to see how the stresses of having children can lead a marriage down a disagreeable path.
Red Flag #22: Choices in friends.
The group of people you ran with in high school or college may have been a lot of fun at the time, but even if you have grown up, they may have not.
You may feel a certain loyalty to your friends, but let’s face it some of them just are not compatible with your spouse and they are sure to let you know it. Some friends, especially those that are still single, can be toxic to a marriage.
Finding the right balance or even deciding to part ways can be exceptionally tough and it could breed resentment. If your spouse chooses to hang with friends even when they know it rubs you the wrong way, that’s a problem.
Red Flag #23: Are you guilty of emotional infidelity?
Just because you don’t actually sleep with someone outside of your marriage, it is still possible to become emotionally involved with someone else.
If you’re spending a lot of time with someone, sharing intimate secrets or confiding things you shouldn’t, it could be a flag that you’re moving into dangerous territory that will undermine your marriage.
This can also lead to lying to your spouse, and more often than not you will get caught in that lie.
Red Flag #24: You feel lonely.
If your needs for companionship and emotional support are not being met, it’s quite possible to feel lonely even when you are physically still with someone else.
If you feel more uncomfortable being with your spouse than being by yourself, you’ve got a problem that needs attention.
As an offshoot to this, if your partner won’t actively participate in things you like to do (i.e. line dancing, cooking watching football, seeing your favorite artist in concert) then that will also breed loneliness as you fly solo or with friends and their spouses more often than you’d like.
Red Flag #25: You ignore your gut feelings.
The subconscious mind is a wonderful thing.
It will work out problems 24/7 and will never lie to you, even when you lie to yourself.
Many times, you will try to deny the little voice deep down inside of you.
Actively ignoring your gut can only go on for so long.
Either your marriage will get help, or that little voice will keep pushing you until you take the step of separation or divorce to silence it.
You have trusted your gut over the years for so many things in life. Your marital relationship should not be ignored on this level.
Red Flag #26: You always feel stressed out when it comes to your marriage.
Everyone has a little bit of stress in their lives, but when there is an overabundance of stress in your marriage, it will impact your relationship’s bottom line.
If there is no longer an ease in how you interact with your spouse or you feel you’ve always got to be on guard, there’s a reason for it.
Learn to separate life’s events (job, parenting, etc.) from the foundational relationship with your spouse.
Chances are you’ll already know if you’re stressed out due to your marriage. Another indicator is how you view things when you know your spouse will be coming home soon from their day’s activities. Do you look forward to it? Or does the thought fill you will a certain amount of dread? Dread is bad, as you probably already know.
Red Flag #27: You feel controlled.
When your thoughts and opinions are not validated, it undermines your self-esteem.
Without a say in some things or having your point of view dismissed on a regular basis, resentment will build, and you will feel like you don’t have control.
This can manifest itself in small ways (no say in what’s for dinner) or in big ways (you have no say in the kind of car that will be bought).
Money in general is always one of the most overarching ways to exert control on someone.
If you don’t have your own credit card or have limited access to banking, that is also a sign of a problem.
Red Flag #28: You’re not ready to take a big step in your marriage.
There’s always some uncertainty when it comes to making a big decision in a marriage.
Should you buy a home? Move to another part of the country? Change jobs? Go back to school?
That ambiguity is normal, but when it happens again and again, and you can’t make a decision after weighing all the facts, you could be in trouble because your inner voice is talking to you and holding you back from investing more in the relationship.
That’s not always the case, but when you combine it with other factors, it can be an indicator of the health of your relationship.
Conversely, conflict can arise when you’re ready to make a big change and it feels like your spouse is holding you back.
Some people want to chase big dreams while others are happy with the white picket fenced house in the suburbs.
Red Flag #29: You ignored a deal-breaker at the beginning of your relationship.
Sometimes, love conquers all. At other times, you’ll “just figure out later.”
You move ahead in your relationship and get married, not fully exploring the values and type of life you want to have in the future.
Deal breakers that you ignore can include the decision about whether or not to have kids, where you will live, how you view money, religion, and a few other big-ticket items that eventually come back to challenge a relationship.
The deal breakers may be buried for a while, especially in the heat and passion when you first get married, but sooner or later, they will need to be revisited.
You owe it to yourself to get the emotional support you need. Take care of your mental health. Talk to a therapist before making any major decisions. If you don’t have a therapist, I recommend checking out BetterHelp. It’s a great online therapy option for unlimited counseling anytime from anywhere. You can visit BetterHelp here to get started.
If you’ve decided that your marriage can’t be saved but aren’t sure what to do next, you may want to read these tips on how to tell your spouse that you want a divorce.
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