7 Signs of a Bad Marriage, According to a Marriage Therapist (2022)

All marriages go through ups and downs, but if yours is beginning to take a toll on your mental and physical health, it may be time to reevaluate if it’s the right one for you. “If a person stays in any long-term relationship in which their needs are being grossly undermet, they will experience some symptoms of anxiety or depression,” says marriage therapist Virginia Williamson.

Meet the Expert

Virginia Williamson is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of Collaborative Counseling Group in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Though Williamson notes that people manifest symptoms differently, anxiety can show up as gastrointestinal issues, heaviness in the chest, or heart palpitations while depression could lead to weight gain or inexplicable lethargy. While all relationships hit rough patches, experiencing these feelings—and their physical symptoms—over a prolonged period of time might be an indication that something bigger is amiss.

(Video) 7 Signs of a Bad Marriage, According to a Marriage Therapist

Read on to learn more about the signs of a bad marriage and what to do if you find yourself in one.

Signs of a Bad Marriage

Every marriage is different, but there are a few telltale signs that a relationship is moving into an unhealthy place.

You Feel Contempt for Your Partner

This extreme feeling of loathing or disgust is different from being annoyed by certain behaviors in certain situations. It often includes eye-rolling and huffing in conversation and dismissing or invalidating almost all of what the other person has to say, regardless of the circumstances. “At its worst, contempt looks like one or both partners are crawling out of their skin having to be in each other’s company, and it’s clear they cannot see a single good thing in the other,” says Williamson.

Though you might feel that contempt is deserved—especially, if, say, your spouse has had an affair—it can be a relationship killer if not eventually addressed. “Couples that show contempt for one another consistently have a low likelihood of successfully repairing their relationship, unless they can begin to recognize it and change the pattern,” Willamson adds. If you cannot acknowledge the good qualities your partner possesses independent of your marital struggles—that they’re a great parent, friend, or professional, for example—then you may have reached the point of no return.

Your Partner Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself

“Researcher John Gottman, who has studied couple interactions for many years, outlines that there should be five positive interactions to every one negative interaction in healthy relationships,” says Williamson. If you’re feeling especially down on yourself within the confines of your marriage, she suggests doing your own work first to determine what of that is caused directly by your partner and what may be the result of outside stressors (i.e. past trauma or ongoing insecurities that you’ve experienced in relationships outside of your current one).

(Video) 7 Signs Your Marriage Is Truly Over | Marriage Expert Dr. Gail Crowder

Confront your partner about the issues caused directly by their behavior, especially if that behavior involves harsh criticism, name-calling, or minimization of your feelings or experiences. “Make a clear and assertive request for it to stop,” says Williamson. If it doesn’t, that is a glaring sign your marriage isn’t a healthy one.

You Feel Controlled by Your Partner

“In a healthy relationship, both partners should have the ability to influence the other’s perspective, and each partner should be open to the other’s influence safely,” says Williamson. “Your partner should be able to help you see things from their point of view and then you should have the freedom to either alter or maintain your position, and vice versa.” If your spouse limits your options or manipulates your choices, that is an indication they don’t view you as an equal.

This control can be overt and come in the form of limiting access to finances or financial information, asking for access to your phone or personal communications, deciding who you can and cannot speak with, and blocking opportunities (like, say, refusing to take on childcare duties during an important job interview). It can also be more subtle, in that they might constantly second-guess you or indicate you’re not equipped to handle new ventures you’d like to take on.

You Stay Only to Minimize Negative Impacts on Your Family

“It’s normal to think about how others will respond to your choice, but it should not be at the top of the list of what’s keeping you there,” says Williamson. If you’re staying in your marriage to minimize negative impacts on your family, your children, or even your partner, you aren’t taking good care of yourself—and that can show up in ways that could be even more painful for those you’re trying to protect down the line. “Bottom line: If over an extended period of time, you have to convince yourself of reasons to stay, it’s time to explore the possibility of what it means to go,” Williamson adds.

You Might Be Having an Emotional Affair

While it’s totally normal (and healthy!) to seek validation and connection outside of your marriage, it’s important to maintain boundaries that are respectful of your spouse. “Some factors that might point to an emotional affair are if you feel you have to repeatedly hide your interactions with the person you are venting to, if you find yourself spending a good amount of time and mental energy on that person, or if you are de-prioritizing your marriage in order to make more room for this person in your life,” says Williamson.

(Video) 7 signs youre in a loveless marriage

When seeking connection outside of your marriage becomes more important than finding it inside your marriage, it can be a sign that the relationship may not be offering the environment you need to fully thrive.

You’ve Stopped Arguing Entirely

Conflict is tough in any relationship and can take a high emotional and physical toll if it’s happening all the time. But it can also be an opportunity to air the frustrations that need mending, and, in its own way, show that both partners are still invested enough to hash things out. If you’re avoiding conflict entirely because you’re afraid of how your partner handles arguments or because you don’t think it’s worth the energy, that can be a sign it’s time to move on.

Your Body Language Shows Disinterest

The way we speak without words can also contain multitudes. In her counseling sessions, Williamson looks for physical cues to indicate that couples are still capable of tenderness toward one another, even when difficult matters are being discussed. “If couples still turn toward each other on their own, sit in close proximity, or turn to talk to one another without being directed to, that can indicate that there is still a desire for connection,” she says. “Similarly, if one person becomes tearful and the other reaches for their hand, knee, or shoulder to provide comfort, it shows that they are still affected by their partner’s feelings.” If, however, a couple turns their bodies away from one another when speaking or they do not reach out when their partner is experiencing a difficult moment, it can be a sign that they are no longer invested in the relationship.

What to Do If You’re in a Bad Marriage

It can be overwhelming to realize your marriage is no longer what used to be. Here are a few ways to begin moving forward.

(Video) 7 Signs You Might Need Marriage Counseling

Work With Your Partner to Right the Course

More often than not, the biggest difference between a rough patch and an end point is a couple’s willingness to work through their problems. Drastic changes in a relationship are often the result of many small changes—like, say, greeting each other with eye contact at the beginning and end of each day instead avoiding each other. These changes can make a world of difference, but they require concerted effort. If one or both members of the couple isn’t interested in doing the work, then they likely aren’t interested in salvaging the relationship.

Seek an Outside Perspective

The good news: You don’t have to go it alone! Couples counseling can help partners communicate better and work through issues. “Always seek help, which can be through a number of avenues: therapist, mentor, spiritual leader, life coach, and family or friends in relationships you view as strong,” says Williamson. “Do your own work as well, so you understand what emotional wounds you are coming to the table with, and, if you are in a safe relationship, offer love even when you don’t feel like it.” By continuing to talk to each other, with and without the help of an outside perspective, you’ll continue to create opportunities for real impactful change.

Or Start Taking the Steps Necessary to Move On

By the time you’ve reached the point where you’re considering divorce, your partner should not be surprised by your dissatisfaction, so you do not have to spend hours justifying your decision. “Speak openly and genuinely about where you are in the relationship, and give yourself permission to leave the conversation if it becomes significantly unproductive, hostile, or abusive,” says Williamson, who often advises individual clients who have reached this stage to set up an informational consultation with an attorney or mediator, so they don’t put off the decision because they are intimidated or overwhelmed. “Speaking to someone with expertise helps you to better understand the process as well as what is likely and unlikely to occur,” she explains.

From there, do your best to unwind yourself from the relationship in intentional, planned ways, and be respectful of how you share the news with the outside world. (Though it seems de rigueur for celeb couples to announce their separation on social media, you by no means have to—and especially shouldn’t do so before your partner has fully grasped what’s happening.) Also important is creating a consistent self-care routine during what will inevitably be a stressful time and seeking help from trusted sources, of both the professional and personal varieties, when necessary.

How to Save a Failing Marriage, According to an Expert

(Video) 7 Signs You’re in a Healthy Marriage Pt. 2 | A Message from Dr. Conway Edwards


7 Signs of a Bad Marriage, According to a Marriage Therapist? ›

7 Signs Your Marriage Is Over, According to Experts
  • Lack of Sexual Intimacy. In every marriage, sexual desire will change over time. ...
  • Frequently Feeling Angry with Your Spouse. ...
  • Dreading Spending Alone-Time Together. ...
  • Lack of Respect. ...
  • Lack of Trust. ...
  • Disliking Your Spouse. ...
  • Visions of the Future Do Not Include Your Spouse.
Dec 7, 2019

How do you know your marriage is suffering? ›

Here are 10 common signs of marriage trouble to look out for.
  • You're Always Criticizing Each Other.
  • You Don't Have Sex Anymore.
  • You Have the Same Argument Over and Over (and Over)
  • You Don't Argue Anymore.
  • You Don't Enjoy Spending Time Together.
  • You Start Keeping Secrets.
  • You Think About Having an Affair.
Oct 7, 2020

How do you know your marriage is not worth saving? ›

“A marriage may not be worth saving if your partner refuses to work on anything or take responsibility for creating a joint life,” Sherman says. “If they call all the shots and none of your needs are ever heeded, you may decide that the only way to create a healthy relationship is by yourself or with someone new.”

How do you know you have a failed marriage? ›

"If you're no longer spending any time together, if one or both partners is spending all their time at work, with friends, online — and if feels like a relief not to be with each other — it's a sign that you've already disengaged from the marriage." You don't support or listen to each other.

How do you know if your husband wants to save your marriage? ›

7 signs your spouse wants to save the marriage
  1. They make repeated attempts to talk to you, even if it doesn't go well.
  2. They fall over backwards to please you.
  3. They're more attentive than they've been in the past.
  4. Your physical relationship has suddenly improved.
Nov 18, 2019

What are red flags in a marriage? ›

Red flags in a relationship include excessive jealousy and frequent lying. You should also be wary of a partner who frequently criticizes you or puts you down. Another major red flag is an unwillingness to compromise — relationships shouldn't be one-sided.

What are the first signs your marriage is over? ›

7 Signs Your Marriage Is Over, According to Experts
  • Lack of Sexual Intimacy. In every marriage, sexual desire will change over time. ...
  • Frequently Feeling Angry with Your Spouse. ...
  • Dreading Spending Alone-Time Together. ...
  • Lack of Respect. ...
  • Lack of Trust. ...
  • Disliking Your Spouse. ...
  • Visions of the Future Do Not Include Your Spouse.
Dec 7, 2019

At what point do I give up on my marriage? ›

5 Signs It's Time To Give Up on Your Marriage or Relationship
  • You Are Not Equally Committed to Moving Forward. ...
  • Spending Time Together Feels Awkward and Forced. ...
  • You've Started Searching For A Different Partner. ...
  • Abuse of Any Kind. ...
  • You've Read 15 Articles on When It's Time to Give Up.
Nov 2, 2021

When to call it quits in a marriage? ›

One of the most prominent signs of when to call it quits in a marriage is unwillingness to communicate. No matter how hard you try to engage your partner, it doesn't seem to work. You try the nice voice and the sweet thoughts. You try the yelling and the threatening.

What do you do when love is gone in a marriage? ›

How to Revive a Relationship
  1. Take a Step Backward to Go Forward.
  2. Remember the Things You Love About Your Partner.
  3. Maintain and Support You and Your Partner's Interests.
  4. Build a Culture of Appreciation and Respect.
  5. Strengthen Your Emotional Intelligence.
  6. Talk to Them.
  7. Date Your Partner Again.
Nov 9, 2021

What are the three danger signs not to wreck your marriage? ›

  • Make me aware of something negative – often painful – that she had experienced or was experiencing. ...
  • Recruit me to cooperate with her moving forward or to help her stop hurting right in that moment. ...
  • My wife's thoughts were wrong. ...
  • My wife's feelings were wrong. ...
  • The justifiable defence.
Mar 26, 2022

What are the things that can destroy marriage? ›

8 Things That Can Ruin a Marriage
  • Not putting each other first. Once you marry, make each other a priority. ...
  • Weak communication. ...
  • Keeping secrets. ...
  • Poor boundaries with family or friends. ...
  • Never apologizing or admitting that you are wrong. ...
  • Not showing gratitude. ...
  • Exerting jealousy. ...
  • Shirking professional help.
Jan 13, 2016

What does an unhappy marriage look like? ›

“An unhappy marriage chronically feels bad. It's like a cold that lingers, leaving you drained and vulnerable,” explains Paul Hokemeyer, J.D., Ph. D. "Symptoms can include severe headaches, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, neck, and back pain.

What are the signs you want a divorce? ›

Warning signs include emotional disconnection, loss of romance, and living like roommates. Once contempt enters a relationship, it may be too late to save the marriage. To fix an ailing marriage, partners will need to confront the issues together—or end the relationship respectfully to avoid further damage.

What is Gaslighting in a relationship? ›

In this Article

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in relationships. It happens when one person convinces their target that they're remembering things wrong or that they're misinterpreting events. The gaslighter is trying to manipulate the other person and presents their own thoughts and feelings as the truth.

How do you know when a relationship is really over? ›

Signs your relationship may be ending or over
  1. Communication breakdown. ...
  2. Lack of physical intimacy. ...
  3. Aggressive or confrontational communication style. ...
  4. You or your partner are spending extended periods of time with other people, like family and friends, at the expense of time you might usually spend together.

When to call it quits in a relationship? ›

If there is no more active investment in your relationship, it could be a sign that one or both of you have already subconsciously made the decision to call it quits. Interviewing divorce lawyers or speaking to real estate agents to “keep your options open” likely means that you don't really want your options open.

How do I know if I'm still in love with my husband? ›

I Don't Love My Husband Anymore: 19 Signs You No Longer Love Him
  • You tend not to initiate conversations with him. ...
  • There's more criticism going on between you than connecting. ...
  • You feel more like yourself when he's not around. ...
  • You use technology to distance yourself from him. ...
  • You use physical distance, too.
Jan 8, 2022

What are the signs when a relationship is over? ›

One of the key signs your relationship is ending is that you are no longer vulnerable and open with your partner. A cornerstone of happy, healthy ​relationships is that both partners feel comfortable being truly open to sharing thoughts and opinions with one another.

What are the things that can destroy marriage? ›

8 Things That Can Ruin a Marriage
  • Not putting each other first. Once you marry, make each other a priority. ...
  • Weak communication. ...
  • Keeping secrets. ...
  • Poor boundaries with family or friends. ...
  • Never apologizing or admitting that you are wrong. ...
  • Not showing gratitude. ...
  • Exerting jealousy. ...
  • Shirking professional help.
Jan 13, 2016

What does an unhealthy marriage look like? ›

You stop spending meaningful time together.

Spending time talking, planning, going on dates, and trying new things together are all ways to build and secure intimacy. If you notice that you've become more like avoidant roommates than a happily married couple, you may have a sign that your marriage is unhealthy.


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