“I think my marriage is falling apart right in front of my eyes…” my best friend told me the other day.
“My wife goes batshit crazy over superficial things and complains that I don’t help her enough around the house”.
He described her as always being moody, angry controlling, and never wanting to have sex. She was investing all her time into the house and the kids. He was trying to get her to want more sex but she was always “too tired”.
These are all classic symptoms of following a flawed, outdated model for relationships. They slog it out for years, doing the same thing but expecting something to magically change.
The statistics aren’t looking good either. 50% of modern marriages end in divorce. And many of the other 50% stay married even though they’ve felt unhappy and disconnected from their partner for years. So something is obviously wrong with how we do modern relationships.
Here is the thing, western women have bought into a myth. The myth is that they can have it all - a marriage, kids, a home, pets, a career, and a great relationship.
This is a myth. You can't have it all without something being sacrificed. When a woman is in “doing” mode all day, sex and connection with her husband are usually what gets sacrificed.
Most people have never been told how to navigate these modern struggles in marriages. But there is no reason why, with some conscious effort, you can’t reignite the spark in your marriage. When do marriages start to fall apart?
Let’s look at some early signs that indicate a marriage falling apart…
My Marriage Is Falling Apart: The Signs of a Broken Marriage
Women are seen as the experts when it comes to relationships. They buy the books, the magazines, they talk to their girlfriends, they watch the chick flicks and they are the ones dragging you to marriage counseling.
Men tend to take a back seat because they assume she knows how to fix a broken marriage better than he does. Yet after years of following his “better half”, he is still wondering “Why is my marriage falling apart?”
Despite a woman’s best intentions, she cannot lead a marriage. The more she is forced into the drivers’ seat, the more resentful and bitter she is going to be.
The number one problem in most marriages comes down to leadership.
And the first sign of a broken marriage manifesting is…
She will often become more moody, angry, controlling and bitter because she has to constantly step up and lead the relationship. This goes against her feminine nature which is wanting to be led, protected, and nurtured.
The man in the relationship often feels criticized and inadequate. Almost like a boy being told what to do by a domineering mother. He feels like he can’t do anything right. He becomes more defensive and wary of his partner.
These emotional walls make her feel alone and unloved, which makes her accelerate the behaviors that caused him to become distanced in the first place.
Your sex life takes a beating
Both men and women have masculine and feminine parts of themselves. The masculine part generally “does” and the feminine part is “done to”.
Raising kids, hectic work hours and doing household chores is a lot of “doing” and gives little time for herself. So when he husband starts demanding sex, it feels like one more thing she doesn’t want to do.
When she’s always doing something 24/7, there is no polarity in the marriage and sex is the first thing that goes out the window. This is why you need to know how to reignite that missing spark in your relationship.
You don’t enjoy spending time together
You realize you are seeking time apart rather than time together. Spending time apart and pursuing your own individual passions and interests is a crucial part of any healthy relationship. But when you find yourself staying late at work or doing anything else to avoid going home to your wife, it is a sign of a broken marriage.
Even though it might seem like your marriage is falling apart, there is always a chance to turn things around if two people have some desire to stay together.
As Dr. David Schnarch says in his book Passionate Marriage, a marriage can be used as a “people growing machine”, where both you and your partner grow and progress through life together.
What to Do if Your Marriage Is Falling Apart
When my best friend called me saying “My marriage is falling apart…”, he was adamant that he wanted to know how to work on his marriage without going to counseling.
He didn’t want to spend months going back and forth, blaming each other for stuff that happened in the past. He wanted practical and actionable things he could do, to make his marriage better in the future. So here’s what I advised:
I told him, “When a man shows up in his intimate relationship and takes responsibility, leads with love and integrity, he is giving his marriage the greatest opportunity to experience the levels of connection and intimacy they are both craving.”
“But isn’t that controlling?” he asked.
Many men live as if they are under some kind of parental authority from their wife. They look for permission all the time. And when they don’t get what they want they pout, withdraw, give her the silent treatment or throw a fit.
When I say “lead”, I don’t mean becoming a domineering brute. I mean being conscious in your marriage and actively doing things without being told. Suggest a date night, proactively take care of the kids when you get home, or do some chores. Women are tired of being the leaders in their relationships. They are tired of hearing, “What do you want to do tonight?”
Have you defined your marriage?
It is your job to let her know the kind of relationship you want and what you expect from her. Ideally, you’ll discuss this before you even get married.
I know that making plans and discussing the division of labor and expenses is unromantic. But often, this is the key to ensuring a successful marriage. You need to set expectations for major decisions such as:
- Who will be the primary breadwinner?
- Will you both work and hire a carer for your kids?
- Who should do what chores?
- Who handles the finances?
- How much should you save each month?
Talking about this early on helps you both prepare for the reality of marriage.
Tell her what you are thinking, what you are feeling, and what you want. Don’t make her guess or read your mind. Don’t wait for her to bring up problems in the relationship because it’s not her job and it will make her feel like a nag. If there is something in your head, let her in on it. Don’t let resentment fester and build inside you until you blow up or lash out in passive-aggressive ways.
One of the biggest reasons why most men’s marriages are doomed for failure is because they have no life of their own and try to fit in with their wife’s expectations of them.
When you don’t have an interesting, passionate life of your own and you spend every minute of your life trying to please your wife, it is extremely difficult to create a deeply intimate connection.
Even though you are married, you have got to keep some kind of independence. She can’t be your everything. So start building a great life for yourself and let her experience you from that energetic space.
Women are attracted to men who have actually have a life outside the role of “husband”, “provider”, and “father”. So start building a great life for yourself outside of the marriage by:
- Connecting with positive male friends
- Pursuing your passions
- Engaging in regular, strenuous exercise
- Taking on personal challenges
Numerous co-created systems
No single relationship can meet every need an individual has. Beth Berry from the Revolution from Home summed it up well saying, “We hugely underestimate the weight of villagelessness on mothers.''
What she means is an individual (husband or wife) needs to co-create a number of different relationships in which everyone cooperates with each other to help get their needs met. These corporate relationships can include an intimate partner, a friend, family members, hobbies, community organizations, a therapist, etc. This is one of the most crucial things to keep in mind when you want to become a better man.
A sign of a broken marriage is when one or both partners latch on to each other and expect that person to meet all of their needs without asking. They feel resentment when that partner fails to live up to their expectations. So they try to control their partner, get them to change, punish them for their failures or look for someone new.
Recognize that it is impossible for you to meet every need of your wife and vice versa, so create as many of these cooperative relationships as you need in your marriage.
So the moment you think, “My marriage is falling apart”, take a step back and assess the situation. Are you leading in the relationship enough? Are you communicating? Do you both meet your needs outside of the marriage? And are you able to work together? Consider these questions and then start fixing the small issues that build up to the bigger ones.