We all know the big flashing red signs, that our marriage is headed down a bad path and for divorce, but do we know the more subtle signs that many often miss. These are the signs that people either miss completely, or take for granted that they are not important enough to amount to a serious issue in your relationship. If we don’t learn to be cognizant of the small issues, they can grow to become big issues quickly, and possibly too late. So, recognizing and addressing these issues early might be the intervention that saves the relationship, and keeps it from having problems that lead to divorce. Fixing these issues and forming the foundation of a healthy relationship can be one of the greatest successes we ever achieve..
Communication is of course also a major issue in marriage, but subtle shifts in the way that you talk to each other should be a warning sign. Do you each make assumptions about what the other person will think or say, so you do not have a conversation, but get upset with them about their perceived reaction? I call this “Mind-Reading,” and it is unhealthy and leads to bigger resentments and communication issues. If the couple actually has the conversation, they are often surprised by their partner’s reaction. Do you become automatically defensive when you partner asks or says something? You are actually mind-reading again.
You are attributing the worst possible connotation to what they are saying, when it actually might be harmless. Ask for clarification before becoming defensive and upset. Also, if you notice that more and more of your conversations end in bickering, it is time to take a step back and think about how you speak to each other, and what it means to be a good listener, and an effective communicator.
I almost always have couples do an exercise for a week, where they have to tell each other once per day something they appreciate about the other person. It can be face to face, in a note, an e-mail or even a text. People grumble at first, but most times come back and say they loved the exercise and want to make it a part of their lives. Typically during the week things came out that each partner had no idea that the other person appreciated about them, and it starts to create warm feelings toward each other again. I bring up this exercise, as not feeling loved and appreciated is another common warning sign that things are headed down a troubled path. When we do not feel appreciated, we feel taken for granted, frustrated, and even angry.
A simple thank you and acknowledgment goes a long way. Also, never stop saying “Thank you,” for the small things your partner does for you. Appreciation and gratitude never go out of style, and can never be assumed. I don’t care if your partner has made your to go cup of coffee for you every day for 7 years, thank them each time. It is not their job, they do it because they care about you and are trying to make your day easier.
If you feel like the marriage is one -sided, and you are the only one doing all the heavy lifting, this needs to be addressed, instead of sitting and stewing in resentment and anger. If you feel like you take care of all the household needs, make all the plans for yours and your family’s lives, and that you take the brunt of responsibilities on yourself without the offer of help, you need to be talking about this in a productive way. In this type of conversation, be solution, and not problem focused. By this I mean, come to the table knowing what you need and want help with. Know what things that you are doing are heated issues for you, and that you could use help with them. Let them know when and how they can offer their help.
This helps them see what they are doing in a non-defensive way, and lays a clear path for what they could be doing to make things better. This conversation can have a profoundly positive impact on how you feel towards your partner and your relationship.
You feel that you are not as high up on your partner’s priority list as a number of other things. No one wants to feel like this, and no one handles this feeling well. The belief that you are low priority is one that can lead toward a path of divorce or separation. The partner may even believe that would not matter to their significant other, as they are low on their list of what matters most. The fact of the matter is that, hopefully, your perception is far from the truth. Your partner may not realize they have lost that vital balance between work, your relationship, and other friends and interests.
They need to know how you are feeling, and again, what they can do to remedy the situation that will make you feel as if you are a priority in their lives. These feelings are very real and very strong, and addressing them is essential. Each of us needs to know that we are loved, and that we matter to the person we are with. Sometimes a few subtle changes can make a world of difference.
If you and your partner are not able to leave the past IN the past, this can lead to trouble. If you want a future with someone, you need to work through the issues of the past, and then genuinely leave them there. Do not say that things are settled and resolved, but really be adding it to your arsenal of issues you pull out every time you have a disagreement. If you have agreed a matter if settled, be a person who is worth their word. Leave it in your past and move forward, as the alternative is extremely unhealthy. Also, you are adding to the subtle trouble sign of arguing about things that are off topic. If you are going to have a disagreement, disagree about THAT issue and nothing else.
Stay on topic, and don’t dredge up the past, or other non-related things to build your “defense.” Also, never resort to name calling and personal attacks. This only serves to create hurt feelings and resentments between you, and does not help find a resolution to the issue that started this disagreement. Staying on topic helps to resolve issues, and avoids further damage to the relationship that was unneeded, and unwarranted. If you care about this person, why would you want to hurt them JUST to win an argument? It does not seem worth it in the big picture.
While this is not an exhaustive list of subtle warning signs, it does cover the most common complaints and issues that I see. Addressing the issues on this list, and being mindful of which exist now, or will start to exist in the future, gives you a much needed advantage to cut these issues off before they become larger obstacles. It also serves a means strengthening your relationship, and learning the tools and skills that you should be using throughout your life with your partner. Putting these tools and techniques into practice, just might be the key to a strong and lasting relationship, over one that ends up headed down the path of divorce.
I can’t think of anything that a person could take more pride in than recognizing that there is an issue, doing the hard work to fix it, and ending up with a lasting and healthy relationship for it.
Author Bio :
Dr. Nikki Martinez received her Masters and her Doctorate from Illinois School of Professional Psychology, and completed her pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship at Gateway Foundation in Lake Villa, Illinois. Head of Clinical Development for www.drnikkimartinez.com/. She is an Adjunct Professor for a graduate programs, a Blogger for the Huffington Post, lead contributor to Everyday Power Blog, Older Dating, Success Stories, All Love Women’s Talk, Sivana Spirit, Proud Stories, and a Contributor to the Chicago Tribune. She just published her 8th book through Amazon.com.
Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC
Website: www. DrNikkiMartinez.com