signs of a bad marriage

5 Signs of a Bad Marriage

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the sidelines at my daughter’s lacrosse game when I witnessed one of the 5 signs of a bad marriage unfold before me. A mother sitting nearby was cheerfully watching the game too, when a man walked up behind her. Without turning around to look at him, she brusquely said, “You’re late. What’s your excuse this time?” Ouch! After watching them over the next few minutes, I figured out that he was her husband.

Of course, I have no idea what was going on in their marriage, and maybe the wife was just having a bad morning, but it reminded me that couples should never speak that way to each other in public (or in private, for that matter)! If we do see one of the signs of a bad marriage in our own relationship, we can regroup and try to correct the problem before it becomes too destructive. Here are the 5 signs of a bad marriage.

1. You’re rude to each other.

No one can be polite 24/7, but if rude is your default there’s a problem. Rudeness is often a cover for resentment because of something your wife has or has not done. It’s a way to get in nonphysical digs at your wife. It also shows that you don’t find her worth the effort it takes to be courteous.

How to fix it:

First, ask yourself why you’re being rude to her. Is it a passive-aggressive way to get back at her? Is there a bigger issue you need to discuss? After you’ve considered those questions, talk to your wife and say something like this:

“Jessica, I know we’re both nice people, but I admit I haven’t been acting that way toward you. I apologize for being rude and short with you. I’m going to do my best to treat you with kindness.” Then, even if she doesn’t offer to reciprocate, move forward with your resolution.

2. You disrespect each other in front of your children.

It’s one thing to be snippy and disrespectful when no one is around. In that case, you’re only hurting yourselves. But if you act that way in front of your children, you’re hurting them too.

How to fix it:

Children need to see their parents as a team – devoted to each other for the good of the family. When you tear down your wife in front of your kids, you are damaging your children’s sense of security. You want them to see their mom as a great woman. If you treat her disrespectfully, they’ll have negative feelings toward her too. Or, they’ll feel sorry for her and take her side over yours. In other words, your actions will either alienate your children from their father or from you. Either way is not good. So starting today, treat your wife respectfully in front of your children. (She should compliment you in front of the kids as well.)

Children need to see their parents as a team – devoted to each other for the good of the family.

3. You assume the worst about each other.

This is called negative interpretation, or mind reading. For example, if your wife says, “Where’s the dry cleaning?” You hear, “Why didn’t you pick up the dry cleaning? You never get it when it’s your turn.” When you’re in the “assume the worst” mindset, you also focus on your wife’s mistakes. Not only does this foster negative feelings in you toward your wife, it makes her feel pretty worthless in your eyes too.

How to fix it:

The fix is actually simple – assume the best. Don’t read a negative message into what your wife says, how she acts, or what she chooses to do. If in doubt, ask her what she meant and give her a chance to make herself clear.

4. You don’t like spending time together.

When you have spare time—whether it’s a free half hour after the kids have gone to bed or a weekend night when the kids are staying with their grandparents—your wife is not your first choice to be your free time companion. And when you do spend time together, it turns tense.

How to fix it:

The only way you will grow closer to your wife is to spend time with her alone—that’s the first step. When you are together, make that time exempt from serious discussions or hot-button issues. Keep it light, keep it fun. Go in with a good attitude. Prepare yourself to have fun and be fun.

5. You argue instead of discuss.

If every discussion turns into a battle, you need to work on your communication skills with your wife. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s crucial. You both need to feel safe to bring up any topic. You need to be confident that while a discussion might get intense, it will not degenerate into yelling, name calling, or temper tantrums.

How to fix it:

The good news: You can learn to communicate better! Go to your wife and tell her that you want to be able to talk about things with her, but don’t point a finger at her. Then use these ideas to learn to discuss instead of argue.

Let’s talk: What’s a sign of a good marriage?