4 Signs Your Marriage is Stuck in a Rut
Now being a married woman I have come to understand how easily the lows can feel deeper and wider the more children and more responsibilities that we pack into our lives. Early on in the marriage, our ruts were usually short and there long stretches between ruts and typically could be fixed by reconnecting over a date night (aka the honeymoon phase). As the years progressed I find it much easier to talk with friends and families about work struggles, stresses of raising children and struggling with self-care than it is about marriage struggles. I am a pretty open person, but it can be difficult to be open about struggles within a marriage because it is such a personal topic and very difficult to share with others in fear of being judged, shame, or being too vulnerable.
Now I am not suggesting telling everyone your issues and turning it into a gossip and man-bashing session with your girlfriends, but marriage is too important to just let these feelings consume you to the point of not reaching out for help, support or guidance. I also find that when I do open up with a close friend or family member my concerns they do not judge and rather they empathize, listen and are very supportive of what is going on in my relationship.
So, if you look at this list of signs below and find you are agreeing to more of the list than you would prefer don’t avoid the issues as they will only create bigger gaps between you and your spouse and inevitably create more issues down the road within the relationship.
1. Envious of Other Marriages
We all have been there and seen the beautiful snapshots of a family vacation, or a couple on a date night laughing, or talking with a friend and them sharing how great they are doing, or even seeing someone on social media having the time of their life with their spouse and you think to yourself if only that could be me. It is natural to be envious of others from time to time, but when it starts to consume your thoughts and you start to live through other people’s stories and not your own that could be a sign that you are not happy with your own relationship.
Warning Sign: If you are envious of those who are not in a relationship (divorced, single, etc) and you wish you were them so that you could be free.
2. Decrease in Intimacy with your Spouse
The biggest jokes that are told at parties are the ones about the husband not getting any sex in the marriage now that they are either married or that they have kids. Now I will agree that the frequency does change once children are involved, but it shouldn’t be to the point where your spouse is making jokes about not having sex. This is a clear sign (even if it is a joking sign) that the spouse saying they would want to increase intimacy in the marriage. Take it seriously even if they are joking. Everyone has a different threshold of the length of time starts to go into the “too long” between sex and that should be talked about within a marriage. Being open and talking about the long stretches or what is creating this intimacy rut (i.e. stress, gained weight and self-conscious, lack of sleep, etc) can help your spouse understand more and possibly even help with your confidence to increase intimacy again. Intimacy is so important to a marriage and without the intimacy, you start to just become roommates living in a house raising children together rather than partners.
Warning Sign: If you can’t remember the last time you were intimate with your spouse, if you have no desire to be intimate with your spouse, or if your spouse doesn’t care that you are not intimate with them are signs that a marriage rut could be occurring.
3. Use your Phone/Technology as a Barrier
Technology is now part of society (whether we like it or not) and even some of the individuals that I know who fought the smartphone and technology at the beginning have infused this into their lifestyle. I find that when I am drained from the day or stressed I utilize my smart phone and technology as a barrier to shut down from the world. Everyone has these days and moments and pretty typical for most relationships. When it starts to be used as a mechanism to avoid conversations with your spouse, when you prefer to communicate with others through the smartphone more than with your spouse or utilize a computer, Ipad, or smartphone as a physical barrier to avoid any intimate moments with your spouse. For many, they don’t even recognize they are giving off these signals when glued to their technology, but it is important to try and recognize that technology may be impacting your relationship with your spouse.
Warning Sign: When you set aside the time for a date night and you (or both of you) spend more time on your smartphone than in conversation with each other. Another big sign is if your smartphone is interrupting your intimate moments (i.e. answering a text or browsing FaceBook before, during or after sex.).
4. Communication has Become Negative
Arguing can be very positive and healthy within a marriage. It can mean that people are open to sharing their ideas and want to engage with their spouse and not just placate and nod and smile through their marriage. It starts to become an issue when there is no communication or if the majority of communication becomes negative. Communication can really kill a marriage and can elongate a rut for an extended time period. Typically, negative communication is referred to as The Four Horsemen that comes in the form of criticism, stonewalling, defensiveness, and contempt. If you find you are speaking to one another in these ways more often than not it can be a sign of being a rut. Changing communication patterns can be very difficult within a relationship, but communication is the cornerstone to all healthy and positive relationships. It may be the hardest sign to fix within a marriage, but it is the most crucial in having a happy lifelong marriage.
Warning Sign: If the negative communication continues for long extended times within the marriage. If the negative communication starts to make you walk on eggshells, starts to feel controlling, or you feel you never can discuss problems within the relationship it can be signs of issues that are beyond a rut within a marriage.
Overall, if you find yourself in a marriage rut you are not alone. Life does get busy and it is common for marriages to have its ups and down. Make sure you are looking for the signs so that you reflect on what changes you want to make to reverse the rut, share your feelings with your spouse, share possible solutions that could help you feel better in the relationship, and continue to find ways to keep marriage ruts at bay within your relationship.