I often get emails from folks who suspect that their spouse no longer wants to be married. I’m often asked for a list of signals and signs to watch for. I will generally preface this by saying that everyone is different. Some people can be very unhappy and discontent in their marriage but can also have a strong level of commitment so that it’s going to take a lot to make these people even think about walking away. But, then there are others who will walk (or at least think about it) as soon as the two of you hit a rough patch. It may not yet be clear which of these categories your spouse falls into.
Still, there are generally some signs that you will begin to see as they move away emotionally. The distance may come gradually, but it will generally come. And only time will tell if this distance contributes to their taking this further and leaving the marriage, but it certainly helps to watch for the signs so that you can fix the problems right away before they get any worse. So in the following article, I’ll tell you some things to look for which might signal that your spouse is seeing the marriage in negative terms.
They Look At You (And React To You) Differently: It used to be that your spouse’s eyes would light up when you walked into the room. The sight of you would always bring a smile to their face. They were always happy to see you and to be with you no matter what else was going on in their life.
But, you may be noticing that things today are in direct contrast to that. They don’t even seem to really see you anymore. They may not even glance up anymore when you walk into the room. You may now see a straight line or a scowl instead of a smile. When you ask them about this, they may ask you what you expect after all this time or they may wonder how you can expect the two of you to act like teenagers when you are an old, married couple.
Maybe you could see their point if this was an isolated incident, but it’s not. Their indifference to you has become the norm. It’s not just a few instances scattered here and here on bad days. Not really seeing one another has become your normal. Yes, it’s not unusual for things to calm down and to cool off once you’ve been married for a while, but couples who are still happy will generally be very aware of the other and will respond with spontaneous positive gestures in the presence of the other. A smile, the brush of a hand, or a palm resting on the back doesn’t take any energy or thought at all. They are simply spontaneous reactions that occur when you are deeply connected with someone. If they are not happening, then you have to question the state of the connection.
They’re Avoiding Intimate Contact And Conversation: Often when the connection begins to leave the marriage, you’ll see either opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of behavior. Either this will come out negatively and you’ll see the couple begin to fight, bicker, and “debate” much more. Or, you’ll see them become very busy with other things so that they’re just not around you as much. This is sort of passive aggressive avoidance.
In this phase, when you are together, you’re not fighting. But, you’re not being all that intimate either. This is the phase where you’re perfectly pleasant, but you’re not really talking to him or her as you would a lover. You avoid what’s really important. You busy yourself with work or obligations. You talk about the weather, the kids, the stock market, the neighbors down the street. You talk about everything under the sun but your relationship.
It used to be that you could tie up the phone line for hours giggling and sharing and just letting the conversation flow. Now, there may be awkward lags in the conversation or times when you find that they, or you, aren’t really listening all that intently anymore.
They Are Starting To Live More Independently: When people start to check out of the marriage or to distance themselves emotionally, you’ll typically also see this manifest itself physically. They will begin to spend more time away from home. They’ll suddenly want or need to spend more time with friends or other family members. They may take up a new hobby or take on more responsibilities or projects at work. They will want to create an individual identity rather than just a couple identity. They’ll start to establish individual rather than couple friends.
They may take separate vacations or open their own bank or money accounts. They may be either very open or secretive about this, but the bottom line is that it stops becoming “we” and starts becoming “I” and “you.” They may even encourage you to become more independent so that this process requires less guilt from them. They do this because they want you to begin to establish your own life and interests so when they break comes, it won’t be as devastating to either of you.
Sometimes, these things aren’t conscious on their part. They’re not actually saying to themselves: “well, I know I want to get a divorce next year so I’ll start breaking away now.” It’s more that they are acting on their often unconscious need to start breaking away, even if they’ve yet to even notice this or to admit the reasons for it, even to themselves.
Unfortunately for me, I ignored a lot of these signs until it was almost too late. I just told myself that we were “comfortable” rather than accepting that we were growing apart. This almost cost me my marriage. Luckily, over time (and by taking calculated baby steps), I was able to reestablish intimacy and bring back his love. You can read a very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com