Warning Signs of Marital Distress

Warning Signs of Marital DistressWarning Signs of Marital Distress

Marital distress is one of the most frequently encountered and disturbing human problems. Everyone who is married experiences difficulties, but for some, these troubles reach a point that couples become profoundly disappointed and upset about their marriages and may even come to question whether they want to remain married. Marital distress is very unsettling and the ways marital problems often progress make it easy for things to go from bad to worse.

However, in most situations, this flow in a negative direction can be altered. Sometimes people can make these changes themselves but often need help from a therapist.

No one has a perfect marriage, and almost every couple can benefit from some help at times. Many people seek couple counseling with a trained therapist to improve their marriages even when they are not unduly distressed, says an article in the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy website.

Experiencing marital distress, however, represents a different state from the ups and downs of life that most people experience. In distressed marriages, people feel fundamentally dissatisfied. Disappointment in the relationship doesn’t just come and go; it is a constant companion. Most frequently, couples with high levels of marital distress fight a good deal and their fights don’t lead to resolution, but simply a sense of being worn out, reports


Or they may not fight, but simply feel completely disconnected and stop communicating. Other signs, such as contempt, withdrawal, violence and a complete loss of connection, signal that a marriage is in desperate trouble and is at high risk for divorce.

Sometimes marital problems are purely about problems in the relationship such as communication, solving problems, arguing and intimacy. They often begin with partners simply not having a good sense of how to be married and how to communicate and provide support. Studies of couples’ show that while the risks for marital distress and divorce are highest early in marriage, these risks also grow just after the transitions that occur when couples begin to have children.

Other times, marital problems are directly the result of individual problems, such as substance abuse. Marital distress has powerful effects on partners; often leading to great sadness and worry, a high level of tension and problems such as depression. If prolonged, it has been shown to have direct effect on physical health. The effect on families is also profound, especially when conflict is high. Children raised in high conflict homes tend to have many more problems than other children. And once marriages are distressed, a progression begins that easily becomes a cascade downward, ultimately leading to the ending of a marriage.

The good news is that there are effective treatments. Given a willingness to work on a marriage, most people can make their marriages satisfying again.

Treatment is in part building or rebuilding the skills that work in marriage, such as learning to communicate and problem solve, and how to fight without engaging in too much hurt. Partly, marital therapy is about partners working to see each other as people, to understand where they are coming from, and to negotiate those differences that can be negotiated and accept those differences that cannot. Couples all have issues that stay with them; the key is to build a process that can help find a way to talk about those issues, to find solutions.