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  • Writer's pictureKate Campbell, PhD, LMFT

5 Warning Signs of a Doomed Marriage

A previous supervisor and I used to have a running joke whenever we felt like something was about to go wrong. He loved the TV show “Lost in Space” and whenever he felt like there was about to be a missed deadline, a long meeting, or just a tough day at work, he’d say, “Danger, Will Robinson!” It became our office code word, sort of like “batten down the hatches” except our difficult days often included a sea of paperwork, not rough waves.

My work as a couple’s counselor gives me the wonderful opportunity to work with couples who are looking to not only strengthen the relationship but sometimes save it. If you notice you and your partner beginning to see the warning signs below, don't hesitate to reach out for help.

1. Physical Disconnection. The first warning sign of things amiss in a marriage or long-term relationship is physical disconnection such as sleeping in separate rooms. The Wall Street Journal published a 2014 article, Couples on Different Sleep Schedules Can Expect Conflict - And Adapt, and more recently in 2015 Romantic reminded us Why The Happiest Couples Go to Bed at the Same Time. It might not always be possible for couples to go to bed at the same time, yet it’s almost always possible to sleep in the same bed. Couples who sleep in separate beds every night run the risk of physical, emotional, and sexual disconnect.

2. Criticism. It's normal that you don't agree with everything your spouse does; it's NOT normal to criticize your spouse every chance you get. I'm speaking directly to ladies here, as I've witnessed first hand that unhappily married women can find solace in talking about (their partners) but men, you're not exempt for this behavior either.

Criticism is so much more than disagreeing with your partner and his/her behaviors. Criticism is an attack at a very personal level. Phrases like, “You're lazy” are just one example of criticism that can pop up in relationships. These personal attacks also result in blaming your partner for anything going wrong, in life or the relationship.

3. Emotional Disconnection or Avoidance. Just like a physical disconnection, emotional disconnection occurs in relationships, too. You may have heard about when individuals have “emotional affairs”, when one person steps outside of the relationship to meet emotional needs of feeling accepted, heard, understood, even loved. It may seem harmless, to open up emotionally to someone other than your spouse, but in actuality, it's not.

Your spouse is your teammate, your better half, and when you begin to rely on another person to meet your emotional needs, you and your partner are denied a deep emotional connection. A shared vision of a life together, thoughts and dreams, and communicating honestly about issues within the relationship only make the relationship stronger.

4. Stonewalling. This behavior is listed as one of Dr. John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for relationships. A tactic so hurtful in relationships, it's likened to the end of the world, which can be the end of your relationship. When stonewalling is used in a relationship, it shuts down the line of communication between the two individuals, with no chance of reopening.

The act of shutting down and shutting out your partner in the middle of the conversation or argument leaves him or her voiceless and powerless. It may seem like a positive technique when arguing, “I’m going to walk away until I feel calm enjoy discussing this” or “I’m going to end this argument and pretend it didn’t happen.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In the long run, stonewalling leads to neither a resolution, nor a compromise and leave both individuals feeling emotionally and psychologically checked out of the argument, and maybe even the relationship.

5. Lack of Romance. While the initial spark of romance may dwindle from a long-term relationship, a lack of romance or passion for the other person can be the nail in the coffin for a marriage. Marriage takes work and when your marriage isn’t prioritized, it allows for so many other things in life to take priority over your spouse.

Quality time together is important, because it allows you to remember why you fell in love with your spouse, as well as show you the continued personal growth, and relationship growth. When you’re not paying attention, it can be akin to missing a child take his or her first steps, or say his or her first word. Schedule weekly date nights and leave your phones on silent to really connect with your partner.

If after reading this list you find yourself worried your relationship may be heading in the wrong direction, there is hope. You and your partner may see some of the warning signs of a doomed marriage, yet that doesn’t mean you can’t take action now to turn your marriage around. Dr. Kate Campbell, LMFT is just a phone call at 954-391-5305 or click away to discuss your options and how we can work together to get you the life and relationship you want. Dr. Kate provides couples counseling, marriage therapy, and pre-marital counseling in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


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