You may not have had a big blowup in ages, but just because you and your guy are not having knock-down-drag-out arguments all the time doesn't necessarily mean that you're happily married (when you do fight, follow these 5 rules to keep things from getting out of hand.) In fact, most marriages don't fall apart because of big things, like cheating. "Often, it's the buildup of years of resentment over lots of little annoyances that suck the love out of a marriage," says Melissa Cohen, LCSW, a relationship therapist in private practice in Westfield, NJ.
And while it's totally normal for the excitement, newness, and passion to fade a bit as your relationship wears on, your marriage still needs to be nourished if you want to see it succeed. Some of the following behaviors might not seem like a big deal, but they can be insidious—and your marriage might be a little worse-for-the-wear. "These signs speak loud and clear," says Ana Weber, relationship expert and author of Passion Spirit Purpose. "Bottom line: You and your partner have to start putting more effort and engagement into your relationship to get it back on track." And while the happiness quotient in your marriage won't change overnight if you just ditch these habits, the transition to a lasting and loving marriage will come in time if you start prioritizing your relationship today. (Sign up to get free relationship advice, healthy living tips, and more delivered straight to your inbox!)
Your spouse is not your go-to person anymore.
Got big news? Something stressing you out that you really need to get off your chest? If you don't think to share it with your spouse first, then there is something amiss in your connection. "Couples obviously need to share the minutiae of day-to-day life to keep their home functioning," says Cohen, "but what really strengthens the relationship is the deeper conversations about what's happening in their lives." Couples in thriving relationships engage in emotional self-disclosure and want to remain intimately connected to each other's inner worlds.
You're overly focused on yourself.
"A marriage starts to weaken when both people start to become so centrally focused on just their family, home, and work life," says Marni Kinrys, a relationship coach in Los Angeles, founder of The Wing Girl Method and author of e-book That's Not How Men Work. When we couple up with someone, we typically combine our individual, interesting worlds to create a whole other, potentially more interesting world that helps us grow. "As we get deeper into marriage and into our families, those extras can start to dwindle due to lack of time, energy, and obligations," she says. (Check out these 9 Ways Therapist Can Tell If Your Relationship Won’t Work.)
As a result of years of self-neglect, we begin to over compensate: "You might start to exercise a lot, work longer hours, or spend more time with your friends—which becomes the priority and takes away time from the relationship," says Weber. Try to take the focus off of yourself and support your partner in also doing things that help him or her grow. Even better: Find some activities that you can share outside of being parents or spouses. If we allow our partners time to do the things that help them grow, then they will allow the same for us. And you won't feel the need to be greedy with your me-time.
You're comparing your partner to others—and not in a good way.
Do you ever think, "I wish my husband was more like Susie's husband" or "I deserve someone who would bring me flowers every day?" "When you start comparing your partner or relationship to others, you've got one foot out the door," says Cohen. "Maybe you won't actually act on it and leave, but it's a sign that you're mentally checked out."
Cohen says that pop culture supports this negative thinking—drinking wine every night and complaining about what's not great in your life is a common thread on social media and reality TV shows. But it's a hidden marriage killer. "If you're annoyed all the time, you are sour on the inside and just swimming in negativity," says Cohen, who says to amp up the positivity, quit complaining, and do a self-check on whether your contrary feelings toward your partner are actually valid.
You're not fighting, but you're not loving either.
Remember how we said that just because you're not arguing doesn't mean you're actually happy? "This usually means the person is so disengaged that they won't even fight anymore," says Cohen, who points out that arguing is a good indicator of investment in the relationship. Ask yourself: Is a happy marriage worth fighting for? (This is what it’s really like to be in a sexless marriage.)
Hopefully, the answer is yes, and all you have to do is up the positivity factor—immensely. "Start by being grateful and noticing how great your life is with your partner," says Cohen. Take a step back and look at the routine things that you've taken for advantage. And start creating a culture of gratitude by saying thank you for everything." Thank your partner for taking out the trash, for looking hot on date night, or even for folding the laundry. "It feeds their ego—and they will probably start being more appreciative of you," says Cohen.
You're leading separate lives.
Do you go to bed at separate times? Watch TV in different rooms? Go out with your friends without each other? If so, you're lacking in intimacy, and not just the physical kind. "Intimacy is a strongly knit personal bond that exists in the bedroom and beyond, and it affects nearly every aspect of our lives," says Ginnie Love, PhD, a psychotherapist in private practice in South Florida. The more you isolate yourself from one another, the more you will feel a sense of disconnection. Love suggests taking the time to have a monthly check-in with your partner to purposely reconnect and establish a balance of where you are in your relationship and in life. "It's vital to take the time to set goals and develop action plans as a couple for your emotional lives just as you would planning a vacation or purchasing a house," says Love. Choosing to spend time with your partner instead of isolating yourself will go a long way in deepening your intimacy and communication with your partner—and preventing the end of your relationship. (If your marriage is struggling, here are 10 Things That Need To Happen If You Want To Save It.)