And while that's to be expected, it is worth watching out for signs that serious rot has set in.
In many cases, says Dr Marni Feuerman, a psychotherapist and author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart About Healthy Relationships, couples suffer from communication issues that one partner recognises and the other refuses to acknowledge.
This might happen because one person’s life goals have shifted and no longer align with their partner’s or they feel like their concerns are never taken seriously in the relationship. In other cases, both partners find themselves trapped in unhealthy patterns (constant bickering for example) and detach because they’re just too exhausted to argue anymore.
Since all couples have conflict, some issues are fixable with counselling, Feuerman assures. The tricky part is figuring out whether you’re simply going through an expected rough patch, or if you’re actually in an unhappy pairing.
Luckily, there are signs to help you figure out the latter.
1. You’re not having sex
Sure, everyone’s sex drives are different, but if you and your partner go from getting it on multiple times a week to every few months, you’re upping the chance of one of you feeling rejected and unwanted.
'What makes marriage romantic is the combination of physical and emotional intimacy that’s reserved for just the two of you,' says Feuerman.
Affection like this is rarely duplicated in other relationships making it especially unique, she adds, so when your desire for your partner or their desire for you starts to peter out, it can sting something fierce and lead to resentment that drives you apart.
2. You have separation fantasies
Imagining you’re with someone else or single isn’t always something to worry about. However, routinely fantasising about a life your partner isn’t in or comparing your actual life to an imaginary one in which you’re in an alternative couple is a sign that you’re no longer feeling some or all of the qualities that once attracted you to your spouse.
And if you’re okay with the idea of a life without your spouse, you probably don’t actually want a life with them.
3. You minimise each other’s concerns
Oftentimes, says Feuerman, unhappy marriages are rooted in imbalances where one person thinks they’re superior to their partner and dismisses their spouse’s feelings. This one’s a big no-no because it defeats the whole equal partnership thing—a pretty big deal in relationships.
If you find yourself constantly vying for the upper hand when you’re discussing something with your spouse, you might want to sit down with a therapist one-on-one and figure out why you don’t see value in what your partner has to say (or vice versa) and how this might impact your relationship.
4. All your time feels like alone time
If even when you’re chilling on the couch with your SO, you feel like they're not engaging with you, and instead, seems more interested in the latest on Instagram, it’s a sign you two aren’t on solid ground anymore.
5. The fun’s gone
It might sound simple, but a disconnect in a relationship can be linked to humour, says Feuerman.
With all the run-of-the-mill disagreements and compromises that come with relationships, it’s important for couples to find the lightness when things get heavy because 'laughter is a great healer,' she adds.
If you and your partner can no longer joke and laugh things off, it means the two of you are in a negative rut that you might need help getting out of.
6. They’re no longer your confidant
Relationships of every kind need transparency to last.
Feuerman’s not saying you can never keep certain things private, but you can probably admit sharing deets about the career-changing project you’ve just been assigned at work or sharing the news about your sister’s pregnancy with your SO is kind of a given.
So, if you find yourself offering more detail about your life to your neighbours than him, you might have some trust issues to work out.
7. You feel neglected
If you’re feeling lonely and hurt, lean into that, Feuerman advises. 'Everyone has individualised ways of feeling appreciate and loved,' she adds.
And by digging deeper you’ll be able to identify what’s making you feel abandoned by your partner whether it’s their endless stories about how great their new gym buddy is, or it’s that they routinely dedicate all their time and attention to your kids leaving you in the dust.
Once you pinpoint the source of these feelings, you’ll be able to tell your partner what it is you need from them and explain why their actions make you feel especially vulnerable.
You’ll know you need to reach out for third-party help if your partner doesn’t see a problem with your loneliness or if they outright tell you they’re distancing themselves from the marriage on purpose.
8. Everything they do gets under your skin
Does the sound of them chewing make the hairs on your body stand on end? Are you wondering about whether they've always spoken into the phone so loudly?
When the little things start feeling like big annoyances, says Feuerman, there’s a chance the way you see your spouse is starting to shift. In these cases, she says, 'there’s always something deeper and more individualised going on.' Meaning: This is a 'you' problem.
This is where one-on-one sessions that supplement couples counselling really make a difference.
Maybe you’re feeling taken for granted, maybe they’ve taken on more at work and you’re missing them. Whatever it is, without shaming your husband or wife in front of your therapist, you can use a personal session to get to the bottom of why you’re suddenly rolling your eyes at your spouse's every move.
9. One of you cheated
Even if you and your partner thought you’d moved on after one of you had an affair, you might still be harbouring feelings of resentment that you’ve shoved deep down inside you.
Pain from unhealed wounds can manifest themselves in a number of ways including guilting your partner for something you said you’d forgiven them for and struggling to trust them.
Feuerman’s not saying to forget the infidelity ever happened, but if you and your spouse can’t seem to move past it after giving it your best shot you might have to just admit you’re unhappy and discuss getting outside help, taking time apart, or separating altogether.
10. They’re keeping secrets
Maybe you aren’t working through issues of infidelity, but you suspect your partner has a relationship on the side because they’ve stopped offering details about their day or their stories about where they’ve been aren’t adding up.
A spouse being vague in order to cover up an affair or substance abuse struggles is a very common relationship stressor that, if not addressed delicately and head-on, says Feuerman, might push you and your partner towards a split.
11. Most of your conversations turn into arguments…
This one’s a little more obvious, but Feuerman says spouses tend to downplay arguments and disagreements as 'normal couple happenings,' when, in fact, they’re important signals indicating you and your wife, husband, or partner don’t want the same things out of life.
Instead of minimising your spats as common reactions, consider what you’re arguing about, whether you’re picking fights to cover up your hurt, and how often you have the same arguments.
You might find that you and your spouse are simply going through what you think are the healthy motions of a relationship when you actually just might not a good fit for each other anymore.
12. …or you don’t even argue at all anymore
If you and your partner huff and storm off to separate rooms to scowl when you’re upset, you might be so disconnected from each other that fighting to make the other understand your side of things doesn’t even seem worth it anymore.
Sure, a lot of fighting is worrisome, but no fighting at all? That means the two of you don’t think there’s anything left worth fighting for in your relationship.
The fix is for you and your partner to come up with a different method for conflict resolution such as writing down your feelings so that you can better articulate them to your partner instead of stewing in your angry feelings.
When you decide on a method that works best, go back to your spouse and try to hear them out one last time (note: with an open mind), say what you have to say, and then try to come up with a resolution together.
If that doesn’t work, take your problems to a professional who can help you work through it.
13. You can’t do commitment
Though you might have thought it was at first, monogamy isn’t for everyone, and it might not be for you.
It’s common in unhappy couples for one person to feel like they’re missing out on life because they’re 'tied down' to someone or feel like they were rushed and pressured into marriage before they were ready.
Feuerman often works with clients who get married because they didn’t want to be alone and others who do it because they felt like they had to by a certain age and later realise marriage doesn’t actually align with their values.
If this sounds like you, tell your partner how you’re feeling and do what you need to in order to feel happy.
That can mean divorce, separation, an open marriage, polyamory…you have options, you just have to find what’s right for you.
14. You feel like you’re under a microscope
Sure, there’s no avoiding a little feedback from your spouse every now and again, but if non-stop criticism about how you organise the pantry leaves you feeling like you can’t do anything right, there’s a good chance your relationship is lacking in some very crucial TLC.
'Marriage, partnerships, relationships are about being accepted for you are,' so, when that stops happening you’ve got trouble, says Feuerman.
15. They’re always on the defensive...
Talking to someone who’s in denial can feel like repeatedly banging your head against a wall.
And an SO who refuses to attempt to understand your worries about your relationship or apologise for how they’ve made you feel is especially frustrating because their denial is a major roadblock to repairing your relationship.
A successful partnership calls for compromise, shutting up to listen, and making a sincere effort to see things from your partner’s point of view.
All in all, relationships require empathy. If your spouse doesn’t feel for you when you’re hurting and refuses to get help to better your relationship when you express how that affects you, it might be time to move on.
16. ...Or they don't recognise there's a problem at all
'There’s no getting back on track in a marriage if both people don’t want to face their issues head-on,' Feuerman says.
So, if your spouse doesn't see anything that needs repair in your relationship, there's a slim chance you'll be able to get back on track considering only one of you thinks you've derailed.
17. You're increasingly more attracted to other people
When you get married it's not like you suddenly have to wear blinders that keep you from finding other people attractive.
But if thoughts about emotionally cheating on your spouse go through your mind, if you're flirting with other people, or spending time with someone in a way that would bring on a heap of guilt if your partner found out, you're pulling away from your marriage, says Feuerman.
Chances are there's something missing from that you're searching for in relationships with other people.
18. You have different agendas
Say you want children and your spouse doesn't. Say you see marriage as a way to deepen a relationship with a partner and your spouse, who thinks your relationship was deep enough, felt saying 'I do' was only important for tax purposes.
If you're together for different reasons, it's not unusual for these opposing beliefs to drive a wedge between you two.
And if you can't find a middle ground you might have to find other people who's goals mirror yours.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.