Photo: Paul Francis Photography
Most people don’t enter a relationship—or marriage, for that matter—with the intention that it won’t work out, but, as anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship of any kind knows, they’re not always easy. The same is true of any relationship, but a romantic one comes with its own set of unique challenges and obstacles that require serious patience and effort to overcome. “When couples avoid the naturally uncomfortable topics that marriage brings to the forefront and magnifies, they find themselves having a tough time staying above water,” says Rudi Rahbar, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist who specializes in couples and families.
The key to solving the very normal issues that may arise in your marriage—be it finances, parenting, family, sex—is addressing them head-on, and not letting them fester. Here, couple’s counselors share the biggest signs of divorce—and how to best avoid this fate.
One or both of you is insanely jealous
Jealousy is a normal human emotion, but when the feeling is irrational or gets out of control, it can cause serious damage to a relationship. “If there are intense jealous feelings that come up often and early in the relationship, and seemingly for no good reason, this should be a big red flag,” says Celeste Holbrook, PhD, sexual health consultant. It’s also worth noting that jealousies don't often get less intense as the relationship matures. This means, if you or your significant other is experiencing strong feelings of jealousy that are not warranted (i.e. one partner is flirting with someone in front of you constantly or, perhaps, cheating on you behind your back), getting help early on is the only way you can try to rectify the relationship. “Without working on the underlying insecurities and the base of the jealously, the couple can be headed toward a breakup.”
There’s no balance of power
It’s not something most couples want to admit, but the balance of power in a relationship is real. As Dr. Holbrook notes, when one partner is always more dominant and the other is always more subservient, the relationship typically cannot thrive. “Healthy couples understand the balance of power and navigate it often and well,” she says. “Couples seeing signs of divorce often find themselves in an imbalance of power, where one individual lacks the assertiveness to ask for their needs and the other partner lacks the empathy to understand other's needs without being told.”
You wipe problems under the rug
All couples argue—every couple’s counselor will tell you that this is perfectly normal—but fighting all of the time is not, nor is never resolving the issues you fight about. As Dawn Michael, Ph.D., clinical sexologist, relationship expert and author, explains, this can cause one or both of you to become resentful. “Try to take your ego out of the argument and realize that winning is not the objective, but, rather, resolving is,” she says. “Listen to what your spouse says and take responsibility for your part and offer solutions rather than be defensive.”
Photo: Eric & Jamie Photography
A total lack of respect
When you begin to lose respect for your spouse, and start looking at them like they are less than you in any way, several additional signs of divorce usually ensue. Some examples include name calling or constant false accusations while ignoring what your partner is trying to say. “Nothing gets resolved when you resort to personal attack,” says Dr. Michael. “If you feel that you do this in your relationship then stop, because you can't take back hurtful words.” She recommends seeking out the help of a counselor who can help you find the core reasons for your feelings and learn to express yourselves in a healthier manner.
Your partner hates your family (or vice versa)
This is a tough one that usually places an intense amount of pressure on the relationship itself—usually enough to break the camel’s back so to speak. If this is something the two of you can discuss and workout, however, Dr. Rahbar says that you may be able to come to a resolution. “Maybe your partner feels disrespected or judged—either way, try to find out why they don't like your family and try to see if reconciliation is possible,” she says. “If it’s the other way around and you cannot stand his or her family, remember that when you marry someone, by proxy, you are marrying his or her family as well.” In other words, your spouse and his or her family is a package deal and you’ll have to learn to accept them if you want your marriage to survive.
One of you is showing signs of addiction
Addiction of any kind, whether it’s to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc., can be difficult on a relationship, especially when it’s going untreated. “If your partner is in recovery or getting help and it's something he or she openly discusses, then you can get through it,” says Dr. Rahbar. “If it's something he or she denies or is hiding, most likely he or she needs to seek out help and will not be the best version of him or herself for the relationship.” She also points out that the addiction will take priority when the relationship should be priority. In these circumstances, most likely the relationship will not survive or you will need to make a lot of sacrifices to keep the relationship afloat.
Your partner likes to party—without you
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a good time, but if your partner’s partying lifestyle takes priority over making your relationship work, you may have a problem. “This could be a sign of insecurity and not wanting to let go of their single days,” explain Dr. Rahbar. “It's perfectly fine if they want to do a guys’ night out or guys’ trip—the problem is when your partner’s spending more time partying than with you.” In these circumstances, she recommends trying to talk to your partner: tell him or her how you feel and ask to spend more time together. “If they agree, but still continue their partying ways, then that's one of the biggest signs of divorce,” she says. “Actions need to support verbal promises.”