Marriages and long-term relationships don’t end overnight. They end after years of negligence and indifference on the part of the couple.
Below, marriage therapists share six of the most common issues they’ve seen long-time couples ignore until it’s too late.
1. The couple stops being curious about one another.
Nothing is better for a marriage than continuing to believe that your spouse is an intriguing, mysterious person who ― by some chance of luck ― fell in love with you. When you spend too much time together, you start to lose appreciation for who they are outside your marriage, said Melissa Fritchle, a couples therapist in Santa Cruz, California.
“As I’ve seen with clients, familiarity can breed boredom. More damaging, it can fool people into not making an effort to get to know their partner now,” she said. “That person sitting across from you at the breakfast table for the last six years can still surprise you.”
To keep the mystery alive, “keep asking questions, keep sharing new perspectives and stay intrigued with one another,” Fritchle said.
2. There’s too much communication.
Communication is the key to a healthy relationship ― but some people overdo it. The constant “you OK?” texts and Facebook messages can weigh your spouse down, said Kristin Davin, a psychologist in New York City.
“We live in a society of constant chatter but it really hurts the relationship when one person tends to talk the relationship to death,” Davin said. “If one person always wants to know what the other is doing, thinking and how they feel about the relationship, the other person feels tremendous pressure. It’s a killjoy.”
3. Sex becomes a source of stress.
Sex should be a connection point for couples ― but when issues arise and go unaddressed, what goes on in the bedroom becomes just another frustrating life stressor, Fritchle said.
“If sex leads to misunderstandings and or arguments you find yourself dreading, don’t just ignore it,” she said. “Conversations about sex can be challenging so don’t be afraid to seek out support in a sex therapist. You need to communicate openly so that you can navigate your way to a mutually happy sex life.”
4. Arguments over money become more and more common.
Money matters in a relationship. In fact, a 2013 study found that couples who argued about money early on in their relationships — regardless of their income, debt or net worth — were at a greater risk for divorce than other couples. A difference in philosophy about spending can cause resentment and major arguments, said Lynn Zakeri, a couples therapist in Skokie, Illinois,
“The ability to compromise is crucial, but sometimes it is more than that,” she said. “You have to think about things from your partner’s point of view to gain a genuine understanding.”
5. One partner starts to feel suffocated.
When you wife wants to go on a weekend trip with the girls, let her. Quality time apart is more important than you realize, Davin said.
“I see this happen a lot when one person wants to spend all their time with the other person, to an excessive point,” she said. “In these cases, there’s very little time, if any, spent alone or with friends.”
In the end, one partner’s neediness creates an unhealthy dependence on the other person, Davin added.
“If the other person has to negotiate every little event outside of ‘we’ time, it can make them want to run for the hills. They end up wanting to engage less, not more.”
6. The marriage is no longer a priority.
Allowing everything ― and everyone ― to come before your S.O. and relationship is a recipe for marital disaster, said Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist in Easton, Pennsylvania.
“In my experience, the most common reason that relationships end is because there are so many other commitments competing for attention, whether it’s work, the kids’ sports schedule or separate social lives ― the list goes on.”
Yes, life is a whirlwind but your marriage should never end up on your “to-do” list, Wilke said.
“It’s simple: Be conscious and intentional about making your relationship a priority or run the risk of drifting apart and becoming strangers.”