For years, a friend of mine has been in a dead-end marriage with a man who, on the surface, seems like "a great catch": he has a stable job, is a responsible father to their kids, a charming host when friends would come over.
But we, her friends, know how badly she was being treated: he did not value her opinion, thought himself to be superior than her, and shamed her for liking the things that bring her joy. She is still in that marriage — the only difference is that the bubble has burst and she realizes it now (after a long, long time).
Like this friend of mine, many women do not see that their marriage is bound to fail because they choose to ignore the signs, "to keep the peace."
If you're one of those women, first, you need to know that it is not your fault. You are enough, and you deserve to be heard, valued, and loved. But you also need to stand up for yourself.
If you need a neon sign to tell you that your marriage is going down the drain, here are some of them.
9 relationship red flags
1. Your partner criticizes you frequently.
Be aware that a critique is different from criticism — the former talks about a specific issue ("Why didn't you tell me you were coming home late? I was so worried.") while the latter is an attack to a person's character ("You're so selfish you didn't even consider how worried I would be.")
According to Dr. John Gottman of The Gottman Institute, which offers research-based interventions for couples, criticism is one of the "four horsemen" which signifies the end of times (as in the Bible) in a relationship. Repeated episodes of criticism is not only hurtful, it eventually makes the person feel diminished.
2. You feel contempt for your partner.
When you are mean to or ridicule your partner, you are being contemptuous. The dictionary defines contempt as "the act of despising," indicating a loss or lack of respect for the other. According to The Gottman Institute, "contempt assumes a position of moral superiority over [the other],” and is "the single greatest predictor of divorce."
3. You tend to get on the defensive side.
When someone attacks you, sometimes you have no choice but to put up your defenses. Eventually, it can boil down to finding faults and keeping score of what "wrongs" the other one has committed.
4. You get "stonewalled."
What it means is to block the other as a way to refuse communication. Rather than discussing the problem, your partner ignores you and halts any attempt to bring up the issue. When a person chooses to deal with a problem this way, his partner could feel ignored and left out. Solving issues become near-impossible.
5. Your partner is abusive.
It's a no-brainer: if your partner is abusive there is no way a satisfying relationship can exist. However, when people hear the word "abuse" they automatically think physical abuse. The truth is that abuse can take on many forms: emotional, financial, sexual, verbal.
If your partner withholds money from you knowing you're a stay-at-home mom with no other source of income, that's abuse. If your husband forces himself upon you even when you don't want to have sex, that is abuse. If he calls you names and curses at you, that is abuse. And when he makes you feel indequate and worthless, that is still abuse — even if he never once lifts a finger on you.
6. You hardly ever have sex anymore.
While sex is not the end-all and be-all of a marriage, it is vital to your relationship as husband and wife. Intimacy is an important element to your marriage, and the fact that it is lacking may be indicative of a deeper issue between you and your spouse.
7. You feel disconnected from your spouse.
There's a reason experts say you should love your spouse more than your children: before the kids arrived, remember there was just the two of you. You are each other's best allies. To be that, however, you need to complement each other's dreams, share the same goals, and have similar "frequencies." But if you somehow feel like strangers to each other, which sometimes happens in a marriage, that's a red flag you should address immediately.
8. You or your partner (or both of you) were at one point unfaithful.
Infidelity breeds distrust, and it's difficult to keep a relationship going when the trust has been broken.
9. You or your partner won't give up an addiction.
Whether it be to alcohol, drugs, pornography, or the use of your mobile device, an addiction is that exactly because your compulsion to have it gets in the way of your daily life. As it gets worse, you become unable to put your life in order and the addiction takes over.
The takeaway, of course, is to choose your partner well before you enter into a marriage (because it will be hard to get out of it). This was summed up beautifully by Benjamin Franklin: "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards."