Marriage can be challenging. Even for couples who seemingly have it all together, the lows can take a toll on any relationship and leave you questioning, is this all worth it? If you’re one of those people looking for red flags that your marriage may not last or signs your marriage will end in divorce, you’re not alone. But read on before you decide that for sure.
According to the CDC, the national average divorce and annulment rate in 2021 was approximately 2.5 people per 1,000 — that’s roughly 689,308 people. And while that divorce rate is down from 2001, which saw four people divorced per 1,000, there’s no denying that some marriages aren’t made to last.
“There’s no definitive list of the catalysts for divorce, as every relationship is different,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, MA, LMFT, in-house relationship expert at Paired, a relationship app for couples. “There are, however, common themes: Recent research from Paired revealed a sharp spike in relationship friction around the five year mark. At Paired, we call this the ‘five-year fizzle.’” Some of the common triggers that may contribute to a ‘fizzle’ around this time period include issues with communication and trust in the relationship, and conflicts around financial and parenting decisions, according to Seeger DeGeare.
And while working through your marital issues is something that many couples do, sometimes there are red flags that cannot be worked through. These are some of the main signs that your marriage may end in divorce.
There is emotional, mental, physical, or financial abuse.
It should go without saying that any form of abuse, whether it’s emotional, physical, financial or sexual, is a severe red flag that should never be ignored. These behaviors are extremely harmful, damaging and have long lasting effects on both partners and the relationship dynamic, says Anastasia Locklin, MA, LMFT.
“Seeking professional help and needed support is crucial if you find yourself in an abusive relationship,” she says. “If you specifically find yourself in a physical or sexually abusive relationship, reach out to a professional who specializes in domestic violence to create a safety plan and explore options for leaving the abusive situation.”
You are no longer intimate.
Intimacy is essential in a relationship because it forms a basis for connection and communication. Physical intimacy only enhances a marriage, but when one or both partners are out of sync, the relationship can start to wear. Although there can be many legitimate reasons for lack of sex, if there are no external factors contributing to this and there is a mismatch in sex drive causing dissatisfaction for at least one person in the relationship, this can be a warning sign, says Seeger DeGeare.
She recommends bringing a schedule into the bedroom. “When it comes to relationships, it’s completely normal for sex to take a backseat at times,” Seeger DeGeare says. “If it’s time that’s stopping you, try setting up a schedule or booking a ‘sex appointment’ with your partner. It might not sound sexy, but I often find it’s just the thing couples need.”
You don’t prioritize spending time together.
Life can be hectic, there’s no denying that, but making time to spend with your spouse and even being spontaneous is really crucial for connection. Seeger DeGeare recommends exercising together, date nights a few times a month, or small gestures like putting your phone away at dinner. These small changes can go a long way in keeping a relationship strong and healthy. Simply spending quality time together doing things you both love makes your bond stronger.
If quality time together is no longer enjoyable and you’re not actively making time for it, the relationship may not survive.
You are consistently unhappy, or you are happier when you are not around your partner due to frequent and intense arguments.
Disagreements and a difference of opinion is a normal part of any relationship, but frequent intense arguments that escalate to personal attacks, contempt, lack of resolution, or an inability to compromise can indicate deeper rooted issues. If conflicts are not resolved in a healthy way, where each individual in the relationship feels heard, seen, valued, and respected, these frequent arguments can erode the foundation of the marriage, Locklin says.
She suggests enrolling in couples’ counseling and really taking the time to improve communication skills by utilizing the tools and skills that are discussed there. “Couples have to be committed and determined to work together in both expressing their thoughts, feelings, and practicing being an active listener to your partner,” she says. “Practice empathy, validation, and love during conversations to foster connection and a safe space to be heard and seen with one another.”
There is a lack of understanding of each other’s culture and upbringing.
While it might seem like a small issue to disregard the significance of your partner’s childhood or cultural background, Seeger DeGeare says she’s observed this in therapy sessions, and that it may indicate a deeper issue within the relationship. “If one partner genuinely expresses that they do not understand why these things are relevant to their present lives, it can make the other partner feel unloved and dismissed,” she says.
Getting to know what shaped your partner and made them into the person they are today is crucial in leading a future life with them. Take the time to ask more questions, be patient, and work to understand why they are the way they are.
There are extramarital affairs and recurring betrayals.
One of the most common reasons for divorce is infidelity or having an affair, and this is because it can severely damage the trust within a marriage. While not all relationships end in divorce after infidelity, it often causes significant emotional distress, disconnection, and challenges.
Repairing a marriage after extramarital affairs takes dedication and can be a difficult and lengthy process, Locklin says. This often looks like intense couples’ therapy, and working together to slowly rebuild the trust that was once there, but also acknowledging that trust might be permanently compromised and working towards small, buildable goals if you want to save the marriage.
You’ve stopped arguing.
It can be a common misconception that arguing is a sign of an unhappy relationship, but actually, disagreements handled well can be beneficial if it’s an opportunity to get curious about your partner’s perspective. Seeger DeGeare says when couples in conflict experience a marked dip in arguments — and therefore communication — this can be a sign they’ve stopped fighting for the relationship.
“Be curious about each other,” Seeger DeGeare says. “Often we feel like we know our partners so well, but people are constantly evolving. Asking your partner questions about what they’re excited about and what they’re looking forward to fosters curiosity and not longing for something of the past.” Questions about future plans could cause friction if you don’t immediately agree on the plans, but working together to resolve a conflict is a sign of good communication, and a sign that the relationship still has some life in it.
There’s no fixed timeline for getting things back on track, but there’s always hope as long as you’re both open about what might have caused you to drift apart and both work on addressing this and rebuilding trust and affection. Don’t get disheartened if there are any setbacks or if change doesn’t happen right away — and remember to keep stock of what is working well and what isn’t. This can help you decide whether to keep fighting for the marriage or when it might be the right time to part ways.
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