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Subtle Signs Your Marriage Might Be in Trouble….and What to Do about It

Dr. Nikki Martinez, Lead Contributor

We all know the big flashing red signs, that our marriage is headed down a bad path and for divorce. But do we know the more subtle signs that many often miss?

These are marriage problems that people either miss completely, or take for granted because they are not important enough to amount to a serious issue in your relationship. If we don’t learn to be cognizant of the small issues, they can grow to become big issues quickly – and possibly – until it’s too late.

So, recognizing and addressing these marriage problems early might be the intervention that saves the relationship. Also, solving these issues would hopefully keep problems that ultimately lead to divorce.


Subtle Signs Your Marriage Might Be in Trouble….and What to Do about It

Here Are 5 Common But Subtle Marriage Problems To Watch Out For

Marriage Problems #1: Communication

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Communication is of course, a major issue in marriage.

Subtle shifts in the way that you talk to each other should be a warning sign. Do you each make assumptions about what the other person will think or say, so you do not have a conversation, but get upset with them about their perceived reaction?

I call this “mind-reading”. It is unhealthy and leads to bigger resentments and communication issues. If the couple actually has the conversation, they are often surprised by their partner’s reaction.

Do you become automatically defensive when you partner asks or says something? You are actually mind-reading again. You are attributing the worst possible connotation to what they are saying, when it actually might be harmless.

Ask for clarification before becoming defensive and upset. Also, if you notice that more and more of your conversations end in bickering, it is time to take a step back and think about how you speak to each other. Understand what it means to be a good listener, and learn to be an effective communicator.


Marriage Problems #2: Lack of Appreciation

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I almost always have couples do an exercise for a week, where they have to tell each other something they appreciate about the other person once a day. It can be face to face, in a note, an e-mail, or even through SMS.

People grumble at first. But most times, they come back and say they loved the exercise and want to make it a part of their lives. Typically during the week, things came out that each partner had NO idea that the other person appreciated about them. Then it starts to create warm feelings toward each other again.

I bring up this exercise because NOT feeling loved and appreciated is another common warning sign that things are headed down a troubled path. When we do not feel appreciated, we feel taken for granted, frustrated, and even angry.

A simple thank you and acknowledgement goes a long way. Also, never stop saying “thank you” for the small things your partner does for you. Appreciation and gratitude never go out of style, and can never be assumed.

I don’t care if your partner has made your to-go cup of coffee for you everyday for seven years – thank them each time. It is not their job. They do it because they care about you and are trying to make your day easier.


Marriage Problems #3: Unequal Distribution of Work

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If you feel like the marriage is one –sided, and you are the only one doing all the heavy lifting, this needs to be addressed. Don’t just sit and stew in resentment and anger.

If you feel like you take care of all the household needs, make all the plans for you and your family’s lives, and that you take the brunt of responsibilities on yourself without the offer of help, you need to be talking about this in a productive way. 

In this type of conversation, focus on the solution, NOT the problem. By this I mean, come to the table knowing WHAT you need help with. Know what things that you are doing are heated issues for you, and that you could use help with. Let them know when and how they can offer assistance.

This helps them see what they are doing in a non-defensive way, and lays a clear path for what they could be doing to make things better. This conversation can have a profoundly positive impact on how you feel towards your partner and your relationship.


Marriage Problems #4: You Don’t Feel Like a Priority

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You feel that you are NOT as high up on your partner’s priority list as a number of other things.

No one wants to feel like this, and no one handles this feeling very well. The belief that you are low on the priority list is one that can lead toward a path of divorce or separation. The partner may even believe they don’t matter, as they are low on the list of what matters most.

The fact is, hopefully, your perception is far from the truth. Your partner may not realize they have lost that vital balance on work, your relationship, friends, and personal interests. They need to know how you are feeling, and again, what they can do to remedy the situation that will make you feel as if you are a priority in their lives.

These feelings are very real and very strong, and addressing them is essential. Each of us needs to know that we are loved. That we matter to the person we are with. Sometimes a few subtle changes can make a world of difference.


Marriage Problems #5: Past Issues

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If you and your partner are not able to leave the past IN the past, this can lead to trouble.

If you want a future with someone, you need to work through old issues, and then genuinely leave them there. Do NOT say that things are settled and resolved, but really be adding it to your arsenal of issues you pull out every time you have a disagreement.

If you have agreed a matter is settled, be a person who is worth their word. Leave it in your past and move forward, as the alternative is extremely unhealthy. Also, you are adding to the subtle trouble sign of arguing about things that are off-topic.

If you are going to have a disagreement, disagree about THAT issue and nothing else. Stay on-topic. Don’t dredge up the past, or other non-related things to build your “defense.” Also, never resort to name-calling and personal attacks. This only serves to create hurt feelings and resentments between you. It also doesn’t help in finding a resolution to the issue that started the disagreement.

Staying on topic helps to resolve marriage problems, and avoids further damage to the relationship that was unneeded or unwarranted. If you care about this person, why would you want to hurt them JUST to win an argument? It does not seem worth it in the big picture.



While this is not an exhaustive list of subtle warning signs, it does cover the most common complaints and marriage problems that I see.

Addressing them and being mindful of which exist now, or will start to exist in the future, gives you a much needed advantage to cut these issues off before they become larger obstacles. It also serves a means of strengthening your relationship.

Learn the tools and skills that you should be using throughout your life with your partner. Putting these tools and techniques into practice, just might be the key to a strong and lasting relationship – over one that ends up headed down the path of divorce.

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