Stop avoiding the truth.
Every marriage has road bumps to get over. In fact, married life can feel like driving a car — you don’t always know which way you’re going unless you pay attention to what is going on.
Some marriages can’t seem to get off a rocky ground and respond the wrong way by not picking up each other’s signals. But, it’s how couples deal with the underlying hurt that can determine whether the relationship can last or if the marriage falls apart.
If your emotional needs get shut down or ignored, you begin to feel unloved, rejected or resentful in your marriage, so you’re left feeling like you’re running on empty.
Love is the fuel for a happy marriage.
According to attachment theorist John Bowlby, it is when our emotional and attachment needs get ignored, individuals can move from protesting to despair and finally shutting down when they become detached from each other. This occurs when you get no emotional response from your partner.
Is your marriage over and falling apart by not having your feelings heard?
When we are not heard for how we feel, this causes us to protect ourselves from getting hurt by giving up on expressing our emotional needs altogether. This can cause us to check out of the marriage.
You just can’t get back into gear. You feel immobilized. You’re not going anywhere.
Perhaps you’ve shut yourself off from how you feel because there is no room for yourself, life has become about everyone else but you. You have not been in the driver’s seat in your marriage, so you don’t know which way to go.
Have you suppressed your feelings because you fear hurting your partner to the point your needs do not get met, so you end up feeling unloved? You let them take the driver’s seat because it feels safer, but they do not have a road map, so you feel stuck.
Suddenly your marriage has fallen apart. That loving feeling has disappeared and you’ve lost that connection or desire for each other. All of a sudden you find you’ve stopped paying each other attention and stopped considering each other.
Just like taking care of your car, healthy relationships need tune-ups and maintenance in order to fuel the longevity of a good marriage, in order to prevent the problems from spiraling downwards.
Are you ignoring the signs your marriage is over or on the brink of falling apart?
It’s like driving a car and not seeing the road ahead of you, so you take the wrong turn and ignore the bump in the road. You ignore the signposts and go the wrong way. Your relationship goes in the wrong direction and you can’t find your way out. You feel stuck in the woods.
It can feel relatively normal to avoid working on your relationships because somehow, it seems that the relationship should sort itself out, without noticing what is really going on.
A broken relationship is like a broken down car. If you do not pay attention to your car then you will find more things wrong with it.
If you don’t service your car, it will break down. Not re-fueling your relationship is like letting your car run on empty and not going anywhere. We don’t let our car break down but we let our relationship fall apart. Somehow we place more value on our car then the person we love.
By ignoring the warning signs that your marriage is falling apart, your relationship wears out and cannot maintain itself on its own. Perhaps it can feel like you’ve taken each other for granted or became complacent until your partner wanted more from life. Sometimes, you can think that everything is fine until your partner tells you they want a divorce.
In fact, some wait until the relationship is almost beyond repair before they notice what is going on and seek couples therapy. Sometimes, this is too late, and other times it can be the right time to pay attention to your relationship, re-build, and repair.
Why is your marriage over and falling apart?
As a marriage counselor, I’ve noticed that the most common reason why marriages fall apart is because they are not being heard nor having their feelings understood by your partner. How couples protect themselves from their feelings that can predict divorce.
According to marriage advice John Gottman, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling are ways that couples end up hurting each other when they react in a manner to protect themselves from feeling hurt.
A marriage falls apart when couples stop responding to each other’s feelings, due to these defensive patterns that build up over time that get in the way of being available for each other in the relationship.
This causes each partner to feel that their needs are being unfulfilled in the marriage leads to them feeling alone, building resentment, pulling away or not considering the other person. It seems like a basic skill to listen. So why is it so difficult to listen and understand each other?
These self-protections defend against underlying pain and hurt, in a way that elicits a defensive reaction in the other. Couples end up hurting each other, instead of understanding the feelings behind the reaction.
If left unaddressed, these 10 signs your marriage is over could cause your broken relationship to fall apart completely.
1. You react in the heat of the moment
One of the obvious signs your marriage is failing is reacting in the heat of the moment or flying off the handle at each other.
Many communicate when they’re angry but are often perceived as being attacking, critical, or blaming. So what they’re really trying to communicate gets lost and misconstrued as a personal attack on the partner.
2. You avoid Issues
Instead of addressing issues along the way, many let the issues fester and build up until the problem is out of control in the relationship. It is therefore too late to do something about it. The partner who gets infuriated at your behavior becomes the person who constantly tells you off or controls you.
After all, no one wants to be told what to do. Otherwise, they will resist that person.
3. You play the blame game
Many point the finger and blame their partner, rather than communicate how they feel, so they do not get understood for how they’re feeling but perceived as being moody, nagging or always complaining. No one wants to be around someone who is constantly cross or mad at them.
Many couples stop listening and understanding each other’s feelings when unresolved issues or unexpressed needs lead to bitter resentment. It’s hard to have empathy for each other if you feel resentment towards them.
Many protect themselves to avoid feeling hurt or vulnerable, by ignoring how they feel until they end up reacting by being nit-picky or attacking. By this stage, your partner sees you as being critical and not understanding your pain, which underlies your reaction.
4. You try to avoid conflict
Avoiding conflict can cause marriage breakdown. If you keep your feelings inside to keep the peace, then you might be giving up yourself or lose yourself in unhealthy relationships.
This can lead to distancing or not caring how your partner feels by disengaging from them or not considering them anymore.
5. You play tit for tat
They’ve hurt you, so you hurt them back to get even. You’ve stopped caring about how they feel and build ammunition for them to fire back at you.
Hurting each other to defend against pain is a strong indicator that your marriage is failing.
6. You accuse and have been wrongly accused
When you constantly feel wrongly accused or taken the wrong way this creates a massive sign your marriage is breaking down. Perhaps you accuse your partner of things, without being curious and checking it out with them.
This causes you to draw your own conclusion, often taking their behavior in the wrong way. You let your mind run wild with fantasies, causing mistrust, jealousy and controlling behaviors. You look for evidence to support your perception without hearing them.
7. You make others responsible for your feelings
When unwanted feelings get stirred up, we can think others have caused us to feel this way, simply because they’re the person who triggers them. So, you want them to do something about it. Putting our feelings onto our partner and expecting them to make us feel better about ourselves stops us from building our own self-confidence, by relying on them for validation.
You make your partner accountable for how you feel, rather than dealing with the feelings within yourself. As long as they become the person who causes you to feel bad about yourself, you do not have to address these feelings within yourself. When we need others to feel good enough, we stop feeling good about ourselves and this causes relationships to fail.
8. You can’t take ownership of your problems
You cannot own your mistakes or part of the problem because it causes you to admit fault. So you blame others, make excuses, or justify your actions.
You may brush away the problem and pretend it does not exist. You want your partner to let go of bringing up the problem, without acknowledging the problem and taking responsibility for addressing it.
9. You hold on to resentment
You hold onto anger and bitter resentment and let your partner pay for it, so you become stuck in the problem rather than move forward. It’s hard to listen when you want them to suffer for the pain they caused you.
You put up with things that you shouldn’t, and cannot set limits or boundaries on how others treat you. So you end up letting others walk over you because they do not take you seriously. When you finally stand up for yourself they disregard you because you’ve let them get away with their actions for so long.
Another reason marriages fail is because one person hears constructive feedback as criticism and feel judged or attacked, so they stonewall to avoid creating a negative reaction.
10. You let issues build up
Sometimes, it is easier to avoid the issues rather than deal with them along the way since they can bring up our feelings. The most difficult challenge can be acknowledging that a marriage problem exists.
By detecting these early signs your marriage is over or on the verge of a breakdown, you can change the track of your relationship, before it breaks down completely. When the road ahead is clear, you can move forward.
If your emotions are not responded to, then you run on empty and can’t refuel your marriage. There’s nothing left in the tank. But when you can read each other’s signals, you can tune into each other and refuel the love tank so your relationship can take off.
When you can see what is going on and read the signals, you can learn how to fix a broken relationship by dealing with your emotions, instead of reacting in ways to protect yourself. You can stop hurting each other and learn how to express your feelings in a way that refuels your marriage.
Originally published on YourTango.com. Republished with permission
Nancy Carbone is a relationship therapist and psychodynamic psychotherapist. If your noticing signs that your marriage is falling apart then marriage guidance can help. You can find out more or contact Nancy on her website.