Humans may well be complex individuals, but one thing that us warm-blooded beings share is our evolutionary urge to form bonds. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that so many of us crave and seek out the partnership and stability that marriage affords. And, if we’re really lucky, we form these marital bonds out of friendship and love.
However, even in these wonderful instances, intimacy can be weaponised.
Falling in love can be instantaneous - thrilling, even. Falling out of it can be quite the opposite, a damp firework display of unresolved arguments, unfulfilled needs and uninspiring courtship.
But not all relationships fizzle out in this way, and the dying relationship can instead become a battlefield of conflict and heated arguments in an attempt to find mutual agreement.
Either way, encountering these first red flags of marital breakdown can leave you feeling vulnerable and confused. Romance is no longer on the menu and that dreaded divorce conversation simmers ready on the stove.
There lies no room for sugar-coating here: one third of marriages ultimately end in divorce. It is yet another characteristic of the human condition that in our efforts to create and sustain partnerships, we can also be the catalysts of their undoing. However, it is important to appreciate that breakdowns in partnerships do not equate to failure. Sometimes our relationships with other humans carry unspoken expiration dates far beyond our initial well-meaning intentions and control.
So, what are the key flags that indicate your relationship may be in difficulty? Here we look at some of the common issues that people may start to notice showing that their relationship could be on the rocks:
An unfortunate consequence of growing up with your partner is that you can sometimes grow apart. It can happen: the person we once planned our future with, is now planning their own very different one to the path previously imagined. Obviously, relationships are as much about the present as they are about the future, and a perfect alignment of life goals is near impossible for any of us in relationship. Of course, it is important to have different interests and individual quirks, but to disagree on matters of a more fundamental nature is a whole other kettle of fish. Unfortunately, life isn’t always so kind, and sometimes the people we love are only meant to play a chapter in our lives – not, as you might have hoped, to stick around until the final page.
It doesn’t require a divorce document for the path walked by a married couple to diverge. As such, the case may well be that you and your spouse are already treading separate and unfamiliar terrains. This situation may be flagged by the sudden, or eventual, formation of distinct social circles. While it is certainly possible, and healthy, to sustain one’s independence
within a marriage, this should come with a degree of communication, acceptance and understanding. However, if it feels like your partner’s life and affairs are completely foreign to your own - such that you feel isolated, or disconnected from, your partner - this is a likely to be another red flag.
It is normal for there to be periods of strife and disagreement during any relationship. However,
where a red flag may arise is these periods persist, owing perhaps to your partner’s failure to address or appreciate your concerns or feelings. Of course, this assumes that there has been clarity of communication at the first instance. If you are relying on the presumption that your spouse can suspect your discontent without actually relaying this, it might be time to have that conversation. Where this conversation has been had, and efforts have not been made on your spouse’s behalf, this is another likely red flag.
Physical intimacy often plays a significant role in forming, and preserving, the emotional bonds that lie at the centre of a marital relationship. It is important to remember that physical intimacy not only relates to intercourse but to close contact of all forms. Further, intimacy can be shared and explored in other ways - intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.
A lack of physical intimacy in your relationship may nonetheless form the first sure-fire sign of problems within your marriage. Of course, this lack of connection may be caused by other issues - busy or unaligned work schedules, difficulties with children, illness, grief over a deceased family member. You should first consider, and perhaps try to rectify, the reason why you and your partner are longer physically intimate. Where this runs for a significant amount of time, and remains despite no other or obvious cause, this may well be a red flag you ought to address.
Last, but definitely not least, is a loss of trust. Trust forms a major part of the foundations of a relationship, without which, cracks can form, and the stability of a relationship can wither. A loss of trust usually has its reasons - perhaps your partner appears suddenly distant, overly protective of their phone, or arrives home later from work. It is natural to have suspicions and jump to conclusions, but make sure not to jump too far. There might be entirely innocent explanations for these behavioural changes, and so it is important that you communicate your thoughts and feelings to your spouse in a non-accusatory nature. Trusting one’s gut instinct is important, though, and so if your suspicions continue and your spouse fails to address - or even makes you feel guilty - about having such suspicions, this is a definite red flag.