Every couple fights. Most of the time these fights don't last too long, and you get back to a happy relationship soon enough. But sometimes these fights last longer. A lot longer. It can last for so long that it even seems like you fight more than you actually get along.
When these bad times happen in your marriage, it's easy to question whether you made the right choice in marrying your spouse or not. And you question whether you should stay together or breakup. After all, you've been fighting for a long time and you have the right to be happy. But then again, maybe you can hold out a little longer. After all, your spouse might change soon and then you won't have to go through all the hassle and heartache of a divorce.
If only there were some telltale way for you to know if your relationship is in real trouble or whether these are just normal ups and downs every couple goes through. If only there was some way to help you know when enough is enough and there are poor chances of salvaging your relationship. Below are 4 signs that will help you do just that.
1) Is there abuse or neglect?
In my experience as a marriage counselor, when there is any kind of abuse in a relationship, it is one of the most hurtful and most difficult things to repair in marriage. If your spouse is continually abusive (either verbally or physically) it violates so many rules of a relationship that it makes it really difficult to repair — especially without outside help.
Cases where there is domestic violence are some of my toughest cases as a therapist. Unfortunately, I can't say there's a high success rate. The success statistics become even worse if the batterer is not willing to take responsibility for the abuse and get help for themselves. In cases of violence or abuse, it may be time to say enough is enough so you can move on to a healthier relationship.
2) Are you or your partner withdrawing from the relationship?
After so long of fighting it's common to become calloused. After all, you don't want to try and make amends just to have the same fight happen again in a couple weeks. So you don't. In fact, you don't say much at all. You even try to avoid your spouse so you don't talk. And when he tries to talk to you, you keep it short and sweet and to the point.
Famous researcher John Gottman of the University of Washington identified withdrawal as one of the most serious "4 Horsemen of The Apocalypse" in marriage. When withdrawal happens, one or both spouses begins checking out and the success rate for repair becomes lower and lower.
3) You're always apologizing, but your spouse doesn't
When you apologize you acknowledge your fault in the situation. You try to make amends and fix things. Apologies are good in a relationship. But if you're doing all the apologizing and your spouse isn't, it means that your spouse doesn't see what they're doing wrong. And they can't change what they don't see.
This usually means that they'll continue in their behavior whether you like it or not. And it usually means that you're being bulldozed as a result. A lot of couples come to me complaining of "difficulties communicating." After some talk, they discover there were no difficulties communicating after all. Their spouse heard them loud and clear — their spouse just didn't want to change anything.
When your spouse hears you loud and clear but just doesn't want to change that's a good sign that you have some hard decisions to make. You need to decide whether you can live with the behavior or whether enough is enough and you need to make a change — with or without your spouse.
4) Your partner has an addiction
I still remember one of the first couples I ever saw for counseling. She was heavily alcoholic. She had lost several jobs and her drivers license as a result of her alcoholism. Her children told her she had a problem as did her husband, parents and several friends. Even her doctor told her that her drinking was shortening her life and she may need a liver transplant soon. Despite all that, she wasn't coming to counseling to work on her alcohol problems. She was convinced that the relationship problems were because her "jerk" husband kept telling her she was alcoholic. She told me that if he'd just shut up already and quit nagging her about her alcohol that they'd get along better.
Like the woman above, too many times a spouses' addictions interfere with their marriage but they don't see or are unwilling to do anything about it. When this happens, you have some tough decisions to make.
Ultimately, the decision to divorce or not is up to you. Nobody can tell you whether you've had enough or not. That's your decision to make. However, these examples of common problems causing low success rates can help you as you make your decision of whether your marriage is salvageable or not.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.