6 Hidden Signs of an Unhealthy Marriage
At Renew.org, we want to encourage faithful, healthy marriages. Although there are signs of marital unhealth which are more obvious than these six, these are six signs which should definitely be taken seriously. If any of these describe your marriage, we encourage you take time to put some serious thought and care into your marriage.
#1 – Lack of Emotional Connection
When God made Adam, He saw that it was not good for him to be alone, so He made a helper (and friend) suitable for him. One of the beautiful gifts of marriage is companionship. If there isn’t an emotional connection in the marriage, there’s probably not going to be much physical connection either.
A relationship without emotional connection starts to feel more like a roommate situation than a marriage. Couples can stop having meaningful conversations and intimacy and instead be reduced to daily communication about family scheduling, logistics and shallow conversation. Somewhere along the way, the emotions get turned off altogether causing emotional distance and apathy.
If you assume that emotional connection isn’t important to pursue with your spouse, think again. A partner’s heart being drawn to another may start off unintentionally. They often begin with an emotional connection being made with someone else. Someone you feel is paying attention to you and makes you feel important and can lead to sexual sin outside the marriage. Unhealthy marriages that ignore the need for connection, attention, and making each other feel important can lead to disaster.
#2 – Little to No Sex
Sexual intimacy in marriage is a gift from God. God created sex to be so much more than just a physical act or solely for the purpose of procreation. The Scriptures describe the union of a husband & wife as becoming “one flesh” and that the union is a “mystery” describing the oneness of Christ & the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).
The implications of sex from a biblical perspective is that there are things learned and experienced through the sexual relationship that are deeply spiritual and unifying for married couples, but also in understanding our oneness with God. When married couples are having little to no sex, they’re not connecting as deeply as they could with their spouse or with God.
It’s no coincidence Paul tells spouses not to “deprive” one another of sex but only by “mutual consent and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer” (I Corinthians 7:5) but to come back together so Satan won’t tempt them because of their lack of self-control. Not having a healthy sex life could lead to the temptation of looking to get that need met through other sources that are detrimental to your marriage.
#3 – Lack of Grace and Forgiveness
Your spouse is possibly the one person whom you will most hurt and be hurt by due to sins against one another. Over time and after many offenses, it can become harder to “overlook an offense” because as humans we tend to keep a record of wrongs in our heads and hearts. Proverbs 17:9 states,
“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”
This showcases the importance of fostering an ongoing love for your spouse that forgives and overlooks offenses, compared to keeping up with the number of repeat actions that leads to hardness of heart.
If you’re not actively striving towards humility and unconditional love, you’re going to slide into selfishness and unforgiveness. This consistent practice in marriages can lead to full-on resentment and bitterness. Instead of focusing on serving the other person, you’re resentful over what your spouse didn’t do for you or how they consistently “wrong you.”
This resentment causes you to draw back your heart by withholding kindness, patience, and even conversation altogether. This lack or grace and forgiveness toward one another eventually becomes a death sentence for your marriage.
#4 – No Intentionality
A lot of couples can be stuck on autopilot or survival mode. They’re not attending to each other. Perhaps they’ve thrown themselves into their children or some other worthy cause. But their marriage has been shoved to the back burner. Often there’s so much busyness that the couples have left no intentionality for each other. Date night becomes a distant memory.
You can pour all your energy into seemingly grander things which make you feel important, while your marriage barely gets any leftovers. You might be together, but being together can give you a false illusion that you’re really with each other.
Intentional engagement in marriage is crucial. It requires a commitment from each spouse that their marriage is the most important relationship on earth and it is shown by the time and energy you spend cultivating the relationship. There’s no one-size-fits-all in how this is done. But making time when you’re engaged and able to bring energy and your best self during this time is the most important. A weekly date night to grab a meal or coffee or even just a walk around the neighborhood to really connect is essential.
#5 – No Marital Peer Friend Groups or Mentors
Having other married friends going through some of the same things you’re going through gives your relationship perspective & camaraderie. It’s important to have friends you can be real with. For example, a gender-specific discipleship group you can open up with about sin and struggles. If there’s no outlet like this, you bury things and feel alone in your struggles.
But another, less obvious type of friendship crucial to healthy marriages is other couples you can be real with. There really needs to be another couple or two who have no illusions that your marriage is perfect. Actual counseling can be great. But a mature couple willing to listen and give advice can serve in the same way as a counselor. It can be amazingly helpful to hear from the perspective of wise observers whom you have given permission to speak wisdom into your marriage. It helps with the blind spots every marriage will have. Also life is more enjoyable when you’re journeying with others in the same season of life with a commitment to see each other flourish in their marriage.
#6 – No Laughter
The fun and newness of the dating years can fade away with time. In its place, you can become complacent and routine. The marriage can become overly serious and joyless. Especially if there is a buildup of resentment, it’s pretty hard to laugh. If you haven’t laughed with your spouse in a while, it’s a sign that the friendship foundational to your marriage is needing work. Or, perhaps even better, it’s needing play. It’s time to get creative and rekindle the friendship.