8 Warning Signs of a Troubled Marriage

older couple arguing

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Every marital relationship is unique. However, there are common warning signs and red flags that could indicate there are serious problems in a marriage. If you find yourself with these concerns, do not ignore them and hope that they will simply go away. They usually do not, and left unacknowledged, they could even get worse.

Instead, you need to have an open, honest, and respectful talk with your spouse about the problems in your marriage. It can be a difficult conversation to have, but it is necessary.

Common Warning Signs of a Marriage in Trouble

Every relationship will have its ups and downs, but there are some signs that you will want to look at closely to determine if they are the result of something that is not working well in your marriage. Here are 10 common signs of marriage trouble to look out for.

You're Always Criticizing Each Other

Sure, a little constructive criticism can be a good thing. But if you’re dishing out more criticisms than compliments, you’re headed for trouble. Research shows that you need five (or more) positive interactions to counteract every negative one in order to keep a relationship on good terms.

You Don't Have Sex Anymore

Everyone goes through periods of ups and downs in the bedroom. Not wanting to rip your partner’s clothes off every night is no reason to panic. But if you’re both physically healthy enough to have sex, but go months or even years without it, a deeper issue—like a lack of emotional intimacy or romance—may be the issue.

Sex may not be everything, but it’s an important part of a healthy, romantic relationship. A study published in Social Psychology and Personality Science in 2015 found that on average, happy couples had sex once a week.

You Have the Same Argument Over and Over (and Over)

Arguments happen in every marriage, even healthy ones. In fact, research suggests that couples who argue effectively are 10 times more likely to have a happy relationship than those who sweep difficult issues under the rug.

But if your time together is plagued by endless reruns of the same argument and there is no resolution, chances are there's a major disconnect between the two of you. Before too long you’ll start avoiding each other for fear of sparking another argument.

You Don't Argue Anymore

As opposed to the previous point, a lack of arguing can also signal a huge problem. It might seem like a relief if your high-conflict relationship suddenly turns into a no-conflict relationship. But if the healthy arguments have stopped, it could be a sign that one or both of you has given up.  

Sure, a lot of arguing is worrisome. But no arguing at all could mean that the two of you don’t think there’s anything left worth fighting for in your relationship. Remember, the opposite of love isn't hate—it's indifference.

You Don't Enjoy Spending Time Together

Another red flag: You realize that you would rather spend time with anyone but your partner. Spending time apart is healthy for your relationship. But if you’re constantly making excuses to spend all of your free time away from your partner, you’ve already begun the break-up process. 

You Start Keeping Secrets

It’s completely normal to want to keep some things to yourself. However, deliberately keeping secrets—say, you had dinner alone with a co-worker who finds you attractive, casually hung out with an ex, or bought the expensive shoes you said you wouldn’t— is a clear warning sign that your relationship may be in trouble. 

Keeping secrets only plants seeds of distrust in a relationship. Once that trust is broken, it is hard to repair.

You Think About Having an Affair

It’s 100% perfectly normal to find someone other than your partner attractive from time to time, according to relationship experts. After all, entering a relationship doesn’t switch off your normal biological functioning.

What’s not ok? Fantasizing about being with that person. If your thoughts are constantly consumed by someone you find attractive other than your partner, then you’re clearly missing something in your current relationship.

They're Not The First Person You Call

In a healthy marriage, you see your partner as the go-to person for emotional support, in good times and in bad. Though you may confide in your family and friends, it's usually not to the same extent as with your partner. Your partner is, after all, your "person."

If your partner isn’t the first person you reach out to when you're down—or to celebrate your successes—it may be a sign that something has gone wrong.

Don't Wait to Seek Help

If you feel that the problems in your marriage are unsolvable, it's time to enlist the help of a professional. That said, to get the most from marriage counseling, don't wait until your marriage is beyond repair.

A marriage therapist can be an ally to your marriage. Rather than taking sides, they will help you and your partner gain perspective and develop the communication skills needed to change the patterns that have kept you stuck. With their help, you and your partner can identify and change unhealthy patterns and rediscover the love you once felt toward each other.

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