Is your marriage healthy and happy? If you’re not paying close attention, it’s easy to miss the signs that your partner is secretly dissatisfied or unhappy in your marriage. Relationship experts and marriage counsellors can offer insight into how to tell if your loved one is hiding feelings of sadness or discontent from you.
They’re always negative
When you talk to your partner, do they respond negatively most or all of the time? Marriage counsellor Donna M. White says negative communication “can include anything that leaves one partner feeling depressed, insecure, disregarded, or wanting to withdraw from the conversation.” If you feel like your partner never says anything positive, dig deeper.
They act like your roommate
You and your partner never fight—in fact, you don’t really interact a lot. If your partner seems more like your roommate, if “there is a lack of communication, conversation and intimacy or any other elements the couple feels are important and they feel they just ‘co-exist,’” it might be time for counselling.
They flirt with others
Has your partner recently become a huge flirt? If you notice an increase in flirtatious behaviour with other people, be concerned, says family therapist Cloe Madanes. It means they’re seeking closeness elsewhere instead of from you.
They’re so sarcastic
Sarcasm can be a form of indirect criticism. If your partner often responds sarcastically to you, ask yourself if this is just part of their personality or a new development. Sarcasm can indicate they’re feeling annoyed or angry but don’t want to say so.
They never get personal
When you and your partner talk, is it about personal things—your dreams, emotions, hopes, and fears—or about whose turn it is to do the dishes or take out the trash? If you’re not connecting about personal things, it can be a sign of an imminent breakup, says therapist Elly Prior.
They’re not quite right
Maybe things seem mostly fine, but your partner just isn’t quite themselves lately. Not responding to inside jokes, not wanting to do things you generally do together: these could be signs of unhappiness.
They avoid relationship talks
If you try to talk to your partner about your relationship, do they always avoid or try to get out of the discussion? Honest and open communication is key to a healthy relationship, but if they’re not happy, they might not want to talk about it.
They seem happier when they’re away from you
Does it seem like your partner no longer really enjoys the fun activities you do together, but always comes home beaming from a night out with friends or a pickup basketball game? If they’re happier without you than they are with you, then your relationship might be the source of their unhappiness.
They stop being appreciative
Dr. Michael McNulty, a relationship trainer, says successful couples “regularly share the fondness and admiration they have for one another.” If your partner used to tell you things they loved or admired about you, but have stopped doing so, they may not be paying attention to the positives in your relationship anymore.
Their desires have changed
While less sex may be a sign that your partner is unhappy, a major change in what they want can also signify unhappiness, or even a problem with porn or cybersex. If they suddenly want sex every night when your usual is once a week, or they want totally different things, it’s time for a chat.
They skip date night
When was the last time you went on a fun, enjoyable date with your partner? If it’s been a long time, and they don’t seem interested in reviving the practice, find out why.
They perform a disappearing act
Is your partner suddenly gone a lot more than they used to be? Are their absences explainable (a new job, a new hobby) or a bit odd? Do they seem reluctant to spend time with you one on one? All are cause for concern.
They stonewall you
If you feel like something isn’t right, and you ask your partner about it, but they just say “I’m fine” or “there’s nothing wrong,” there probably is. In fact, a recent study says this behaviour is incredibly damaging to relationships.
They want less sex
Sex is a huge component of most healthy marriages, and couples tend to get into a routine that works for them. If you notice your partner seems less interested in having sex, that could be a sign they’re unhappy with the relationship, says Megan Fleming, a relationship therapist.
They keep picking the same fight
If your partner keeps picking the same fight with you, whether it’s about money, your sex life, or what’s for dinner, they may be looking for ways to express frustration without actually addressing it. According to the American Psychological Association, if your fights feel like reruns, it’s time for counselling.
They’re on the defensive
In minor conflicts or discussions with your partner, are they defensive about their behaviour or response? For example, if you ask why they didn’t do something, do they make excuses or get angry at you for nagging them? This behaviour is toxic to a relationship’s well-being, according to Psychology Today.
Hand-holding, cuddling, and hugs are all part of healthy physical relationships. If your partner stops touching you, or seems reluctant to do so, they may also be pulling away from you emotionally.
They hold grudges
It’s normal and even healthy to fight with your partner, but it’s a bad sign if your partner chooses to hold a grudge against you. Practising forgiveness allows couples to move forward, says relationship expert Dr. John Gottman.
They won’t accept your influence
In a relationship, a spouse will often ask their significant other to accept their influence, like changing what time they come home or helping with a family event. If your partner refuses to change anything in their life to accommodate you, they’re probably not fully invested in your partnership.
They turn to others for support
A couple should anchor one another when they need emotional support and connection. If your partner turns to a friend or family member instead of you, they might be displaying a lack of trust or emotional connection with you.