The most commonly cited reason for divorce is ‘unreasonable behaviour’ which is a broad term that covers a range of complaints from a lack of communication to adultery. There are many ways for a relationship to break down, whether it’s due to slow-burning resentment or the effect of one unacceptable incident. Unfortunately, many people tolerate an unhealthy marriage for far too long before taking action, by which time both parties are miserable, and resolving their differences becomes difficult and protracted.
Couples often try to keep a failing marriage going for the sake of their children or to retain financial stability, which is completely understandable, but sometimes the reasons are tied up with pride or societal expectations – perhaps they feel guilty for wanting to leave, or don’t want to follow in their divorced parents’ footsteps, or are simply worried about what family and friends might say. No matter the reason, staying in an unhappy relationship is toxic for both members, and particularly for children having to live in an atmosphere of bitterness and frustration.
The symptoms of an unhealthy marriage can be subtle and all too easily become a ‘normal’ part of a relationship after a while. The following list of behaviours raises red flags for relationship breakdown:
- Keeping secrets. It might start out innocently enough, but feeling as if you have to withhold information is a sure sign that something isn’t right between you and your partner. Maybe you’re worried that your partner will disapprove or start a fight if you tell the truth, or perhaps you feel guilty about what you’re doing behind their back. A build-up of secrets can isolate you from your partner and cause paranoia for both of you – and when the truth comes out it’s unlikely to be pretty.
- Walking on eggshells. Constantly feeling anxious that your partner is going to react badly to every little incident can be a symptom of emotional abuse. You shouldn’t have to live in fear of your partner lashing out if you say or do the ‘wrong’ thing. Simply avoiding conflict won’t make the situation go away if your partner has a problem with anger or stress.
- Passive aggression. Every couple bickers, but constant passive aggressive behaviour can be a terrible strain on a relationship. If you are simply unable to communicate without sniping or one-upping each other, then it might be time to consider seeking help from couples counselling to help you resolve the underlying issues. Whether you stay together or separate, it’s important to find a way to communicate without resentment.
- Daydreaming of escape. Do you find yourself thinking about what your life might be like if you’d never met your partner, or dreaming of reasons to leave – perhaps even to the extent of wishing your partner would cheat on you so you’d have a cause to file for divorce? We all daydream about different life choices, but if your current situation is making you miserable enough to think about ways to escape, it’s a bad sign for the strength of your relationship.
- Avoiding intimacy. If the thought of being intimate with your partner makes you uncomfortable or scared, you need to work out why. Many couples go through difficult times when it comes to sex and intimacy, especially after having children, and couples therapy can be an excellent way to work through these issues. However, you should never feel pressured into sexual activity or have to get drunk to feel ‘in the mood’ – just because you’re married doesn’t mean your partner is entitled to sex if you’re not willing.
There’s no one way to define a strong marriage, but if you’re happy in your relationship you should feel safe, valued, and free to express yourself. A healthy marriage doesn’t necessarily mean you never argue – it means when you do argue, you’re able to do so in a positive way, forgive each other and resolve your problems, and move forward.
If you see the symptoms of an unhealthy relationship in your own marriage, ask yourself why you’re putting up with it. You should never have to tolerate toxic behaviour in the one place you should find support. Organisations like Relate can provide advice and couples counselling, while Resolution and your family lawyer can offer information on alternatives to divorce and discuss your individual situation.
Let us take the weight off your shoulders – our team of family law solicitors at Frances Lindsay & Co are here to listen and help you find the best resolution for your family.divorce solicitor Thames Valley, divorce solicitor Windsor, family law solicitor Beaconsfield, family law solicitor Henley, family law solicitor Maidenhead, family law solicitor Marlow