“Do you think I should be worried?” Jess asked after she finished explaining her spouse’s recent change in behavior. I’m not a marriage counselor and I don’t have a crystal ball. But after 20 years of seeing people at the end of their marriage, I do know how to spot some of the tell-tale signs.
The biggest one: that feeling in your gut. You know your spouse better than just about anyone. You know their demeanor. You know their schedule, their pattern, their habits. You also know how they treat you. So, if something feels off to you, trust your instincts.
Here are 3 common signs that your marriage could * be in trouble, and 3 things to do about it:
1. Suddenly everything’s a secret.
If your partner is suddenly very protective of what was commonly shared, that might be a red flag. This might include their cell phone, bank records, or even who will be at that business dinner. Whereas once their phone would casually be left on the dining room table, and you were free to look at it, now it feels like it’s glued to your spouse’s body. Or when you ask why your spouse’s AmEx bills aren’t coming to the house anymore, he explains he changed the mailing address to the office (or if he banks online, the password was changed without your knowledge). Maybe this has nothing to do with you, but if your spouse is suddenly being sneaky, there’s likely a reason.
2. It feels like they’re always working.
Working a lot can be totally normal (perhaps not always healthy, but normal). What we’re talking about is a change in work behavior that’s not tied to some obvious reason, like a huge deadline. If your partner is leaving early, coming home late, and pretty unreachable all day, for an extended period of time, and their reasons don’t add up to you, keep paying attention.
3. We’re having sex all the time!
You probably already know that a decreased interest in sex can be a sign that something’s off. But did you know that an increased interest - whether it’s just more frequent or in doing things you haven’t done before - can also indicate that your sex life might not be yours alone? (I’m not talking about one of those “my spouse and I decided to have sex every day for a month and it was amazing” kind of deals, but hey, more power to you!)
*This isn’t to suggest that any of these are a guarantee that there’s a problem. But if your spouse is suddenly doing any of these things, and your gut is telling you something’s not right, trust your intuition.
If you’re recognizing one of these signs, know this:
-You won’t fix the issue by sweeping your feelings under the rug. It’s scary to face what might be a real concern in your relationship. But ignoring a problem - especially if it’s serious - isn’t likely to make it go away. Pay attention to your feelings, and address them with your spouse. Best case, you were worried for nothing and will be reassured by your spouse’s response and subsequent behavior. But if there is something wrong, addressing your concerns early on will give you a better chance of repairing things before they really get out of hand.
-It might take several tries to get to the truth. If that first conversation doesn’t alleviate your worry, you might need to bring it up again. This is especially true if your spouse tries to tell you it’s all in your head or otherwise dismisses your concerns. Let your spouse know that your relationship is important enough to warrant the tough conversations, and also that you deserve to know what’s going on.
-You don’t have to figure this out alone. If you don’t feel you can solve these issues on your own, or even figure out how to speak to your spouse about them, reach out to a counselor for support. Try to get your spouse to go with you, but if they won’t, go anyway. A good counselor can help you process your feelings and strategize how to tackle the issues - whether you do that together or on your own.