As a divorce lawyer, I have learned that no two marriages are the same—the stressors and triggers that lead to conflict and tension can be unique. However, there are some common themes that I hear and see when people visit my office.

Here are 5 signs that your marriage might be heading off-track and what you can do to intervene to get help.

1. Deterioration in the communication about individual needs

Effective communication with your partner is core to a healthy relationship. Over time however, communication in marriages may decline due to busyness and the assumption that partners should intuitively understand each other’s needs. Couples often become complacent, expecting their spouse to know their desires without explicit expression. This erosion of communication can lead to emotional distance and discord within the relationship.

To counteract this, couples must prioritise open dialogue, fostering an environment of mutual respect and vulnerability. By actively listening and expressing needs without assumption, partners can sustain a strong connection and navigate challenges together effectively.

2. Unmanaged mental health issues

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorders are widespread in Australia, affecting roughly one-fifth of the population within the past year. When one or both parties within a relationship confront issues related to poor mental health or substance abuse, strain in a relationship can quickly present.

The ripple effects of mental health disorders within relationships can manifest in various forms: Communication breakdowns, emotional distance, diminished intimacy and heightened conflict are among the common consequences observed when navigating the complexities of mental illness in a relationship.

Furthermore, the burden of supporting a partner or family member dealing with mental health issues can exact a toll on the caregiver’s own mental and emotional wellbeing. The stress of providing care, managing household responsibilities and grappling with uncertainties about the future can contribute to feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion.

Read: Do you think your spouse is suffering from a mental health issue? Here’s how you can help

3. Lack of common interests outside of kids

Beyond the shared experience of raising children, spouses may find that their joint interests and hobbies waned over time, potentially leading to a sense of disconnection. While the initial stages of a relationship often involve discovering commonalities and shared hobbies, as the relationship progresses, time for shared interest may decline or disparities in individual interests may become more pronounced, especially if couples fail to actively engage in each other’s worlds.

Without shared interests, spouses may struggle to find common ground for meaningful interactions, leading to feelings of isolation or neglect. In the absence of mutual activities or interests, couples may drift apart emotionally, fostering a sense of detachment within the relationship.

4. Tech disconnect

Technology, while offering numerous conveniences and opportunities for connectivity, can also introduce challenges that contribute to disconnect within marriages. The pervasive presence of screens can monopolise attention and detract from quality time spent together. Excessive use of smartphones, tablets or computers may lead to feelings of neglect or disinterest, as partners prioritise virtual interactions over meaningful engagement with each other.

In some cases, social media platforms can exacerbate insecurities and comparisons within relationships. Constant exposure to curated versions of other people’s lives may foster unrealistic expectations, breeding jealousy between couples.

With its easy access, technology and in particular social media can facilitate secretive behaviour such as engaging in online relationships or hidden activities from your partner. The anonymity and accessibility offered by smart devices can blur boundaries in a marriage and enable deceptive behaviour, undermining the foundation of trust, which we know is essential to a healthy marriage. It is important to set aside tech-free time as a couple.

5. Conflicting financial values

In today’s current economy, many couples may be experiencing the financial squeeze due to the escalating cost of living. Negotiating divergent financial priorities or spending habits can place considerable strain on a relationship. Having an agreed budget and common financial goals can be one way of alleviating this source of stress.

Instances where one partner clandestinely makes significant financial decisions without consulting the other can also erode the trust and transparency essential for a healthy partnership. Hidden debts, undisclosed expenditures or secret investments undermine the principles of openness and accountability, fostering an environment of suspicion and resentment.

What can you do?

If you sense a growing emotional divide between you and your spouse, it’s crucial to recognise that it’s never too late to address any underlying issues. Ignoring or downplaying the distance can exacerbate feelings of isolation and frustration, ultimately jeopardising the health of the relationship.

Initiating an open and honest conversation with your spouse can serve as a pivotal step toward bridging the gap and restoring connection. Setting aside dedicated time to communicate without distractions allows both partners to express their concerns, fears and aspirations in a safe and supportive environment.

Approaching the conversation with empathy and a willingness to listen fosters mutual understanding and validation of each other’s experiences. It’s essential to acknowledge and validate your spouse’s feelings, even if they differ from your own, fostering a sense of emotional safety and trust.

Seeking professional guidance from a couples therapist or counsellor can provide valuable insights and tools for navigating the complexities of marital discord. A skilled therapist can facilitate constructive dialogue, identify underlying patterns of communication, and offer strategies for fostering intimacy and connection.

Addressing issues within your marriage requires courage, vulnerability and a commitment to mutual growth and understanding. By confronting challenges head-on and actively engaging in the process of healing and reconciliation, you and your spouse can cultivate a deeper, more fulfilling relationship grounded in trust, respect and shared resilience.

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