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Five Cues to Trouble in Marriage

We are often alert to different trouble cues in our lives, aren’t we? When our car struggles to start or brakes begin to squeal, we know there’s a problem. If there’s a lump or bump on our body where it used to be smooth, we hurry in to get it checked out. When our normally bouncy healthy child turns listless and loses their appetite we can be sure they aren’t well.

But in our marriages we can often miss the cues to trouble in our relationship. We get busy, take the relationship for granted and grind our way through another day, week and month.

Here are five cues to trouble in marriage that every couple needs to guard against:

1. Secrecy

Secrecy in marriage can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Vague answers for where one has been; passwords to social media or email that remain unshared; undisclosed purchases that are discovered are all indicators that a bigger issue may be lurking beneath the surface.

Secrecy is dishonesty in marriage. It can have a variety of motivators, but ultimately it erodes trust. Secrecy has no place in a truly intimate marriage (other than agreed on romantic surprises or gifts!).

2. Shutting Down

When a spouse withdraws from relational engagement they may be physically present, but have become emotionally distant. Shutting down can manifest itself sexually, romantically, or conversationally. Over time it can lead to apathy, depression, and vulnerability to an extra-marital relationship.

3. Over-busy

We are all busy. But over-busy is a spouse who chooses to take on more and more into their calendar. Their involvements can appear altruistic with extreme serving through the church, a non-profit, or with one’s own children. But ultimately its purpose is avoidance and anesthetizing against the pain of a less than ideal marriage. The result is to create a buffer in the relationship and to find affirmation and energy elsewhere.

4. Contempt

Marriage expert, Dr. John Gottman, identifies contempt as one of the most destructive attitudes in marriage. It includes frequently challenging one’s spouse, sarcasm, eye-rolling, name-calling, mockery, sneering and hostile humor. As Gottman writes, “Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner.”

5. Scorekeeping

This is an effort to keep everything equal: chores, purchases, visits to parents, putting kids to bed, going out with friends, etc. The list can go on and on—which is the problem—there is no marital “win.” Scorekeeping establishes a loser every time and reinforces an adversarial relationship in the marriage.

Can you list some that we missed? Can you identify any of these cues in your marriage?

Be encouraged! Next week we will give a list of ideas you can capitalize on that will empower you and your spouse to take the needed steps for redirection and healing. There is hope as you identify the cues for trouble and trust God as you build your marriage.


Comments (2)


Thank you, Chris!

Great post!

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