4 Warning Signs Your Marriage Might Be Breaking Down

Anyone trying to portray that they have the perfect relationship at all times isn’t being truthful. On social media, every couple may seem like the perfect match. But in real life, couples have their differences and disagreements.

However, when the conflict reaches a certain level, it’s time to examine what’s happening and whether it can be fixed.

I’m a divorce lawyer, which puts me in a unique position of listening regularly to the different reasons why marriages break down.

What follows is a list of the most common issues raised as to why marriages didn’t work out. You’ll notice that abuse isn’t listed below. It’s a serious and terrible issue that requires its own analysis. If you’re in an abusive relationship, get help asap.

Here are the issues that come up most frequently as reasons for marriages breaking down. If any of them apply to you, your marriage may be at risk.

1. Breach of Trust

Breaking trust strikes at the core of a person’s heart. And it’s not easy to fix.

First, step back. Before jumping to a conclusion that your spouse was dishonest, you should first examine that there’s an actual trust issue and that it’s not just your own irrational fear or unreasonably high standards. Sometimes, we carry person issues that warp our perception. And if that’s the case with you, you should address that.

You should also consider whether what happened is an isolated event or instead a pattern. Anyone can make a bad decision that’s not indicative of a deeper character issue. That said, the magnitude of the breach is of course important, even if it happened just once. A perfect example is infidelity, which is difficult to work though.

Breach of trust can happen when secrets are kept, lies or infidelity are exposed, and other issues. If there’s been a breach of trust, hoping it’ll just go away with time is relationship suicide. It may go on the back-burner for awhile. But the next time there’s a disagreement, it’s likely to resurface.

If there was a breach of trust, it needs to be tackled head-on. The earlier the better. If the parties can’t come to a mutual agreement on why it happened and whether they can move past it and commit to their relationship moving forward, the strain from the broken trust eats away at the fabric of the relationship until there’s nothing but contempt and distrust left.

2. Lack of Communication/Growing Apart

When people “grow apart,” it usually means that there wasn’t a single event you can point to that killed the relationship. But the couple simply wasn’t investing in their relationship. They don’t communicate much. They talk here and there, but there’s really no coordination or mutual planning or interest in the other.

People meet, they fall in love, they spend a lot of time together, and have common interests, and make a genuine effort to please the other. Then some time goes by, and they get “comfortable” and spend less time together, and give less attention to each other. And inevitably and gradually and subtly, they turn into roommates: living together, but essentially living separate lives.

It’s easy as time goes on to take your relationship for granted. Especially when children are involved. Who has time for regular date nights? You have to work, to take the kids to this practice and that activity, and a million other things to do!

Your spouse is locked in anyway, right? That’s why you got married, so you don’t have to worry about this stuff anymore. Till death do you part.

You can skip physical activity for a few years and still have six-pack abs, right? No. And the same principle applies to relationships.

The reality is that marriage is like almost anything else in life. Invest in it regularly, and you’ll reap the rewards. Neglect it, and it suffers.

Your relationship with your spouse is the foundation of your family life. Kids and other responsibilities are important of course. But know that if you fail to invest regularly in your marriage, the foundation of your marital life is at risk.

Pretend your relationship is new. Schedule regular date nights. Listen. Don’t take your marriage for granted, or it may die.

3. Financial Issues

Differences in financial philosophy are less important when a relationship is fresh. The novelty and excitement put dollars and cents on the back burner. But as time goes on and financial responsibilities increase, the importance of financial compatibility increases.

If people aren’t on the same page about finances, that inevitably causes problems. One is a go-getter, and the other is lazy. One is a saver and the other a spender.

This issue can be hidden for awhile in a marriage. This happens when people who are married maintain “separate accounts.” This arrangement makes the parties feel like they are still financially independent of one another.

The problem is that whether you use one account, or two, or fifteen, you’re still financially interdependent when you’re married. One spouse wasting money and running up debt inevitably affects the other.

This is an area that requires discussion and compromise. Ignore it at your own risk.

4. Untreated Mental Health and/or Substance Abuse Issues

Unless you’re living under a rock, you understand how widespread mental health and substance abuse issues are. We’re in the midst of an opiate epidemic that’s claiming lives regularly. An increasing number of people are battling anxiety, depression, and even more significant mental health issues.

Mental health issues lead to substance abuse and vice versa. And left untreated, the intensity and damage snowballs.

These issues inevitably take their toll on a relationship. Patience has its limits.

These issues are so difficult to detect early on. You’re bummed out? Me too! Work sucked today? Yeah, mine too. You’re always worried? Me too. You’re getting a little buzz regularly to take off the edge?

When does it become a problem? When the person’s getting wasted every day? When the anxiety or depression is incapacitating and the person doesn’t want to socialize? When it’s interfering with work?

If you wait until it’s a full-blown “problem,” it’s more difficult to fix.

When do you say something and what do you say? How do you present it in a way that your spouse doesn’t feel attacked?

The important thing to remember when dealing with these issues is that marital counseling won’t help. If it’s one person who’s primarily struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse, that person has to commit to treatment. That person has to WANT to commit to treatment.

And without that person doing the individual work necessary to stabilize, no amount of marital counseling will save the relationship.

People don’t like to be blamed, and they don’t like feeling responsible for problems in the marriage. But if these issues aren’t addressed, the marriage will suffer. Support and compassion are essential. But if the individual is unwilling to consistently work on the core issue, the marriage may continue to deteriorate.


These are the issues that come up most frequently as the root causes of divorce. Hopefully, people can recognize them and work on addressing them before significant harm is done to their relationships. And whether it’s an individual issue or a marital issue or both, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Feeling like you can do it all yourself is not brave, it’s dishonest and in some cases unrealistic.

If any of these issues sound familiar, summon the courage and compassion to address it. You may save your marriage.

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