Sometimes, cold feet are a sign of something far more serious than a case of pre-wedding jitters.
What doubts are particularly foreboding prior to marriage? Below, experts weigh in with nine signs that your relationship may have been doomed from the start.
1. You were just too different.
He’s a Republican, she’s left of Al Franken. Her weekends and evenings are filled with CrossFit and adult kickball, his life is centered around League of Legend tournaments. Everyone likes to idealize the opposites-attract relationship, but when push comes to shove, those differences oftentimes get the best of a couple, especially when there are also communication problems, said divorce attorney Morghan Richardson.
“In real life, the dynamic that made the dating relationship exciting can eventually erode the marriage if the couple doesn’t learn how to grow their communication skills,” she said. “As you may have learned firsthand, some clashes -- especially those related to religious beliefs -- are nearly impossible to find middle ground on."
2. Your partner monopolized all of your time.
It's completely understandable that you wanted to spend every waking moment with your S.O. when you first got together. But if your partner got jealous when you spent time with friends and family, that's when you should have taken a big step back, said Jim Walkup, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
"You may now remember your partner's jealous and suspicious interrogations about anything you did without him or her, and if you sought to reassure your partner, you were met with distrust," Walkup said. "Today you probably recognize that as a need to control. Unfortunately, that's a deep-seated character flaw that all too often goes unaddressed in relationships."
3. Waitstaff were treated like second-class citizens.
What's the best way to get a quick read of a partner's character early on? Watch how he or she treats waitstaff at a restaurant. If a date is rude, it's in your best interest to say "check, please" and run, advises Karyl McBride, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author.
"If your ex treated others badly in public -- like being unkind to waitstaff -- or generally seemed to think they were deserving of having their needs met immediately, it should have set off alarms," McBride said. "Typically how a person treats others is how they will end up treating you and your children in the long run."
4. You never discussed your future.
It's not necessarily exciting to map out plans for your financial future as a couple. But a baseline understanding of your partner’s hopes for the years to come could have helped you stave off divorce, said Florida divorce attorney Krista Barth.
“From the beginning, you should have known if your spouse was drowning in consumer debt or was more about keeping up the appearance of having money than actually earning,” Barth said. "That's vital information."
5. The sex was mediocre at best.
The sex isn’t going to be mind-blowing at every stage of your relationship. Still, if it wasn’t anything to write home about to begin with, you may have made a major mistake in getting married, said Abby Rodman, a psychotherapist and author of Should You Marry Him?: A No-Nonsense, Therapist-Tested Guide to Not Screwing Up the Biggest Decision of Your Life.
“Making a lifelong commitment to someone you have a blah sex life with is rarely good idea,” she said. “Perhaps you thought your partner's good qualities would make up for a less-than-great sex life.”
Eventually, she said, you and your libido probably realized that compromise wasn't for the best.
6. There was verbal abuse.
It’s not easy to identify a verbally abusive partner in the beginning stages of a relationship -- he or she is too busy trying to charm and win you over, said dating expert and author Marina Sbrochi. That said, there are warning signs to be more cognizant of in the future.
“Your partner might have insulted you and quickly claimed they were joking when you protested," Sbrochi said. "But slowly, the need for control ramped up and so did the insults."
No relationship is perfect and sometimes people say things they don't mean, Sbrochi admitted. "But normal people apologize and don't do it again. Little by little, verbal abusers will bring you under control until you have lost yours."
7. Friends and family weren't supportive of the relationship.
Your S.O was never going to be universally loved by everyone in your life. Still, it should have given you pause if there was a general consensus among friends and family that your partner wasn't right for you, Walkup said.
"Those close to you may have said that you were becoming a person they no longer recognized and personally, you may have started to dread their feedback," the marriage therapist explained. "Whenever your partner starts to take you away from the values others know are important to you, you should be concerned."
8. You didn't make career decisions together.
Even the best laid career plans can be interrupted by the ups-and-downs of the job market. If you never had a discussion about your career ambitions -- or how you’d react if things didn’t go as planned -- you were already at a severe disadvantage, said Richardson.
“We’ve had several cases where a husband or wife seemed ambitious: studying for an advanced degree or making efforts to get U.S. credentials for foreign studies,” the divorce attorney explained. “When those efforts failed, they gave up, which left the other spouse feeling betrayed. Planning for the best and the worst needs to happen."
9. You felt compelled to change for your partner.
You want to be the best version of yourself when you're in a relationship. If your partner subtly or not-so-subtly suggested you needed to change, it should have been a red flag, Rodman said.
“That change may have been a small one that's always rankled you or a life-changing one that left you wondering how you'd be able to commit to it,” the psychotherapist said. “It goes without saying that any relationship based on you not being your authentic self will find itself in rocky straits before long.”