All marriages go through ups and downs and highs and lows. After all, living with another person, meshing your lives together, is not always easy, no matter how much you love one another. Particularly when you have children, you can get so busy with their activities, your work, and keeping the household running, that you may miss the signs that tell you your spouse is not just in a lull, but has truly checked out of the marriage. In fact, according to many marriage counselors, by the time a couple makes it to therapy, one of them—usually the husband—has already emotionally divorced himself from the marriage.
An emotional divorce occurs when one partner is so fed up, he or she simply disconnects. At this point that spouse will generally be apathetic about their partner as well as about the relationship. There are signs that a spouse has checked out; while some are the same for men or women, others are more specific to gender. If you think your husband has checked out of your marriage, look at the following signs and see how many he has exhibited within the past few months:
- He’s hypercritical. Most of us can remember the beginning of our relationship. Love colored everything, even the personality quirks of our partner. As relationships progress, those rose-colored glasses will naturally begin to fall away, and we will likely experience mild annoyance that our spouse can sink a basketball from twenty feet, but is unable to make it to the clothes hamper with dirty socks. Mild annoyance, yes, but in most instances, you still exhibit some level of generosity to one another when dealing with mistakes. If your husband has grown extremely hypercritical of everything you do—things that were never a problem before—then you likely have a bigger problem.
- Renowned psychology professor and researcher, Dr. John Gottman, believes “stonewalling” is one of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” as far as a predictor of divorce. Stonewalling is basically withdrawing emotionally from your spouse, or, in simpler terms, giving your partner the silent treatment. When a person gets so angry, frustrated and upset that he or she shuts down and disengages from any type of meaningful conversation, stonewalling has occurred. A full 85 percent of all “stonewallers” in a heterosexual relationship are men. When you add criticism, contempt and defensiveness behaviors to stonewalling, Dr. Gottman believes he can predict with 90 percent accuracy the demise of a relationship based on those four issues.
- Your husband exhibits annoyance when you don’t follow through with a request. When one spouse begins to feel like they can’t depend on the other to do their fair share of the work annoyance sets in, leading to a breakdown of the couple’s emotional connection. Both partners have to be equally responsible for the relationship as well as for the seemingly endless list of tasks, particularly when there are children.
- Your husband doesn’t seem to enjoy spending time with you. In the first throes of love, most couples can hardly stand to be apart from one another. Even after years go by, however, you should still enjoy spending time with one another, laughing with one another, and engaging in lighthearted, playful behavior, at least once in a while. If your husband rarely laughs with you, and seems to be indifferent to spending time with you, take that as a red flag for your relationship.
- Your husband is chronically impatient with you. If the verbal language in your relationship has shifted from kindness to impatience, you should be concerned about your relationship. If you don’t even warrant verbal language, rather you are only receiving eye-rolls or grunts, you should be extremely concerned.
- He confides in anybody but you. While it can be perfectly normal—and healthy to have a support network outside the marriage if your spouse begins confiding in anybody but you, you should probably worry. Particularly if he is sharing intimate details of his life and your relationship, then there may be an emotional affair going on. Unfortunately, many men may not notice their spouse has disengaged emotionally—the wife waits, hoping their spouse will notice—and care.
The most revealing signs that a wife has checked out of the marriage include the following:
- It seems she has changed, literally overnight. In fact, it probably was not overnight, rather she was ignored and taken for granted for far too long, finally reaching a point of frustration and disillusionment.
- When you try to talk to her the best you get is “I don’t want to talk about it.” When a woman is not even willing to talk about a problem, it may be too late—she has already become emotionally distant. While arguing may not be very fun, couples who argue still care enough about their relationship to want to change it and make it better. The woman who is apathetic about her relationship has probably already checked out.
- When your wife hardly ever touches you—even to hold your hand, then she may have one foot out the door. Couples who are still in love, even when they are going through a rough patch, will still usually offer a squeeze of the hand, a pat, or a hug. When your wife shows a total lack of physical intimacy (not just in the bedroom, but in everyday life), then the connection you once had may be gone.
- When it feels like your lives never coincide, your wife may have checked out. Of course spouses need more than just one another in their lives, and it is perfectly normal and healthy to have a life outside the marriage. However, if your wife is living a totally separate life from you, warning bells should be going off.
- When the only thing she talks to you about is the kids or keeping the household running, there may not be a real connection between the two of you anymore. Of course, parents have to talk about the children, and, unfortunately, bills and meals, and grocery shopping also have to be regular topics of conversation. If these things are all you talk about, the bond between the two of you may be broken. When there is absolutely no time set aside for the two of you to be partners, friends, and lovers, your relationship is in trouble.
- She aims sarcastic remarks at you on a regular basis. Couples who truly care about one another may say things occasionally they regret, but, all in all, they choose their words carefully. When your wife looks for any opportunity to point out your mistakes, aim sarcastic barbs at you, or belittle you, your marriage is in trouble.
When You Spend More Time with Your Phone Than Your Partner—Your Relationship is in Trouble
With the advent of smartphones, it is hardly unusual to see a couple together, having dinner or otherwise spending time together, yet both of them are totally engrossed in their phone. If this is a common scenario with your spouse, you may be in the same area, but you are not spending quality time together. Far too many people have formed what psychologists call an “emotional attachment” to their phones. Those in relationships—even long-term relationships—find themselves having to compete with their partner’s smartphone for attention. In fact, one survey found that:
- 75 percent of women in committed relationships feel smartphones reduce the amount of time they spend with their partner and generally interfere with their love life.
- About 33 percent of the women surveyed claimed their significant other had looked at his phone on numerous occasions—while the two were in a serious conversation.
- Twenty-five percent of the women surveyed said their boyfriend or husband even composed texts while they were in the middle of an important conversation.
When one or both partners allow their phones to interfere with or interrupt time spent together, including activities and conversations, the message being sent is that the technology is valued more than the partner. While smartphones are certainly useful tools, understand that this particular form of technology can be a major contributor to the breakdown of communication between partners. Learn to put your phone in silent mode when spending time with or having a conversation with your partner. And if you have the choice between spending time with your partner or spending time on Facebook—make sure you do the former. Becoming excessively dependent on your smartphone can result in the following:
- Impersonal communications with your partner;
- Lack of bonding and intimacy;
- Becoming non-empathetic human beings;
- Becoming indifferent to the real world and real people;
- Becoming too attached to the online approval of strangers;
- Finding yourself seeking validation from strangers, and
- Losing connections to loved ones.
If your relationship is in trouble, and you feel your spouse has checked out, conduct your own personal reality check to find out how much time you spend with your smartphone or computer—and away from your spouse.
When You Realize You Couldn’t Care Less What Your Spouse is Up to, The Relationship is in Trouble
Couples who still have a connection want to hear about their partner’s day, and are truly interested in the things their partner has to say. This is not to say you are still as fascinated by every single word which comes out of his or her mouth as you were in the early days of your relationship, but you are still invested in your conversations and your life together. If, on the other hand, you totally check out when your partner begins telling you about his or her day, this signals their life is no longer of any interest to you. You may feel as though your path in life is far removed from your partner’s life, if not physically, then emotionally.
When it Seems Like All You Do is Argue, Your Relationship is in Trouble
There’s nothing wrong with having an argument from time to time to clear the air, so long as you fight fair by not aiming any particularly low blows at your partner. Communication—not arguing—is the backbone of any healthy relationship, and when your daily communication is lacking, one or both partners may begin to resent the other. When the words “never” and “always” are thrown into the arguments (“you never listen to me”), the partner using those words may have emotionally given up on the relationship. Particularly when your arguments are the same, time and time again, without any resolution to the issues, frequent arguments are a serious warning sign.
When You Realize Your Plans Almost Never Involve Your Partner—or Vice-Versa—Your Relationship is in Trouble
At the beginning of your relationship, you probably couldn’t bear to go anywhere without your partner. As time passed and children came into the relationship, it became more natural that you both do things without the other, at least from time to time. When your plans virtually never involve your partner or his or her plans virtually never involve you, there is a lack of connection in your relationship. You may have heard other couples proudly proclaim that “We do our own thing.” While having some alone time with your friends or family is fine, if you are always doing your own thing, you could be on the downhill side of a very slippery slope.
It can be extremely difficult to regain intimacy in a relationship once it is gone, therefore making an effort to involve your partner in your life is certainly the better option. If there is simply no joy in being together, your partner makes you feel bad about yourself when you are together, you feel sad much of the time, or you have no trouble seeing a future without your partner, it’s time to sit up and take notice. If it turns out that your relationship is beyond repair, consider speaking to an experienced Ayo and Iken family law attorney sooner, rather than later.