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17 Signs Of An Unhappy Marriage (And How To Fix It)

17 Signs Of An Unhappy Marriage (And How To Fix It)

What are the warning signs of an unhappy marriage and what are the ways to fix it?

Marriage is, without a doubt, one of the most complex things to maintain and keep the spark alive, especially after a certain amount of time.

It’s hard to tell for sure how you get there but you know that you’re in an unhappy marriage when the only positive thing about it is a collection of old happy times you had together.

You recall all those sweet moments of your romantic relationship when you hugged and kissed each other with passion,  when you enjoyed every second spent together, when you made an effort, respected and appreciated each other—when things were just right. 

And when you compare it with today’s situation, it’s an entirely different world where you feel like you no longer know each other and that you’re in a marriage with a stranger. 

There’s no real physical affection, you notice a lack of intimacy and you feel like you’re stuck in a rut.

You realize that from being in a healthy relationship, you probably entered the zone of an unhappy and loveless marriage and you have no idea what you’re supposed to do next. 

But you’re not really sure of it or you don’t want to be sure of it because the last thing you need in your life is dealing with all those red flags of a bad marriage

You don’t want to be the only one who is going out of their way to make your marriage work but that’s exactly what you need to do (or at least try to do) if you want to get through this rough patch and prevent an eventual separation, aka going your separate ways

Another reason is your health, both mental and physical, because research claims that people in unhappy marriages have low self-esteem, struggle with anxious and depressive thoughts and risk falling into an emotional affair with another person. 

So, staying in an unhappy marriage will only prolong your pain and seriously influence the quality of your lives and your well-being.

The wisest thing to do is either decide to save your marriage by dealing with all the relationship problems and finding the root of it or break up for good.

As with other things, the first step to establishing a healthy and happy marriage is acknowledging that you have a problem.

That is why it is of the utmost importance that you check the following telltale signs of an unhappy marriage which will tell you whether your marriage needs fixing in the first place

If any of the following signs speak the truth, there’s no need to freak out because below you will find the ways which will help you fix your marriage. ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’.


Lack of intimacy and physical affection

One of the first and often biggest signs of an unhappy marriage is a lack of intimacy or any kind of physical affection.

This includes having sex, hugging, kissing and cuddling. And many people in an unhappy marriage are not even aware of it because over time, a lack of intimacy and physical affection becomes routine.

So, the first step to understanding whether this is happening to you is by comparing the current situation with the initial stages of your marriage, when your love was at its peak.

When you compare it, do you notice a visible lack of attention, warmth and affection today? 

If yes, I’m sorry to tell you but this is a major sign of an unhappy marriage because a lack of intimacy and affection are a basis for every healthy relationship and healthy marriage.

It’s the first sign screaming that something’s drastically changed and it needs fixing!

You no longer enjoy spending time together

Another clear sign of an unhappy marriage is the fact that you no longer enjoy spending time together.

This one is closely connected with the previous one and it’s the main reason why there’s a lack of intimacy and connection in marriage

You know you’re in a loveless and unhappy marriage when you’re constantly alone, doing your own thing on social media or similar and vice versa.

‘Together activities’ no longer exist because you don’t feel that joy when with each other like before.

Your spouse has literally become a stranger whose company you no longer enjoy because of all of that accumulation of negative emotions, arguing and disrespect.

When that happens, it’s totally normal that you will want to stay separated for as long as possible but a happy marriage doesn’t really function that way. 

Lack of meaningful and open communication

Just like intimacy and spending quality time together, meaningful and open communication is also the foundation of a solid and happy marriage.

Why? Because communication means expressing your wishes, desires, appreciation and understanding. 

And when all of that is gone, all that is left is silence, stonewalling or the exchange of a few meaningless words just for the sake of maintaining basic communication.

So, if you can’t remember the last time you and your spouse looked each other deeply in the eyes and had a session of meaningful and open communication, you have a problem.

When something happens at your work or with your friends or family (be it good or bad) and your spouse is not the first person to whom you would go and share it, it means that your connection has disappeared into thin air and your marriage is no longer stable. 

See also: 34 Signs He Doesn’t Love You Anymore (Or Want You Either)

You’re constantly criticizing each other

Occasional arguments are totally normal in every marriage and actually desirable because it is always better to get rid of the negativity than to keep holding grudges and ignoring each other.

But the problem arises when these conflicts and criticizing each other become routine. 

It means that there is a huge gap between the spouses and all of their energy is directed to the negative.

Constantly criticizing each other basically means that you’re constantly telling each other that you’re doing everything wrong, that you’re not worthy and that you don’t accept each other for who you really are.

Criticism arises from a huge amount of dissatisfaction with yourself and the quality of your marriage because being constantly irritated by your partner’s actions means subtly asking for changes but in the wrong way.

It’s your subconscious telling you that something’s wrong but you’re not quite sure what exactly.

See also: The Top 7 Things Men Do That Destroy Their Marriage

You have physical symptoms

Some people live for years in an unhappy marriage with severe physical symptoms without even knowing that the main culprit for it is their marriage.

They visit tons of online sites looking for symptoms and a diagnosis, when the main problem has been right under their nose this whole time.

The Signs of an unhappy marriage are not only psychological, as they can even be physical or a combination of both. An unhappy marriage makes you feel lonely, drained, vulnerable and angry.

When combined, all of these emotions have the power to create serious physical symptoms like severe headaches, diarrhea, constipation, nausea or neck or back pain. 

All of the unsaid words, accumulated disappointments and the feelings of helplessness contribute to creating a series of psychological symptoms like anxious and depressive thoughts and the afore-mentioned physical symptoms as well.

Usually, when the root of the problem (your marriage) is fixed, all of these symptoms just disappear like they never even existed. 

You’re always in defensive mode

When you or your partner acknowledge some issues regarding your marriage or anything else, do you have a tendency to immediately make excuses for it and not accept any guilt or consequences?

If yes, this is another big sign that you might be in an unhappy marriage

Happy marriages consist of mutual trust, making an effort and taking responsibility for each other’s actions.

When some of that disappears, marriage becomes a place of frustration and a place where both spouses are playing their own game instead of being partners in their together game called marriage.

Making mistakes is our birthright but acknowledging them and taking responsibility for them is also something we should take into consideration if we want to make the best of our relationship with someone we care about. 

Related: Dominant Husband: 10 Ways To Be The Alpha In Your Marriage

You’re avoiding each other

Even though this one’s similar to the above sign ‘You no longer enjoy spending time together’, still there’s a significant difference between the two.

Not enjoying time together means that it comes naturally to you to spend your time with your friends, family and others who are not your spouse.

But avoiding each other means deliberately doing everything in your power to prevent seeing your spouse, let alone spending some quality time together as a couple.

This includes constant lying about staying late at work, changing your route just to avoid seeing or picking up your spouse or constantly having someone at your place just to avoid spending alone time with your partner.

Avoidance stems from all the negativities in marriage because after some time, couples associate spending time with their partner as something unpleasant that will probably turn into a fight or an argument and that is why they choose to keep it from happening by avoiding each other.

You fantasize about a life without your partner

When dissatisfied with their love life, many people switch to ‘fantasy mode’ and start imagining how their life would look without their partner or think about their great life before marriage.

Fantasizing is an escape from reality and marriage problems. 

It happens when you no longer feel comfortable with living in reality because of all the problems, negativity, lack of intimacy and trust in the marriage.

You’re no longer happy with how things are in your life and that is why you’re subconsciously testing alternatives to feel better, even for a moment.

If this sounds familiar to you, deep down in your heart you already know that you’re in an unhappy marriage but you’re just scared or refusing to admit it, thinking that it’s not a big deal but unfortunately, it is.

You dismiss each other’s feelings

One of the most frequent destroyers of marriage is the imbalance created by one of the partners who see themselves as superior.

Sometimes the problem lies in both partners who, by trying to dominate, dismiss their partner’s feelings.

You know that this is happening in your marriage if your reaction to every partner’s action is ‘It’s not a big deal and you’re just overreacting’.

You know that this is happening in your marriage when you’re not giving space to one another to say what you really mean, show vulnerability, acknowledge problems or seek solutions and comfort.

When you deprive each other of these essential things, your marriage becomes lifeless, loveless and unhappy because marriage is all about mutual effort, mutual affection, partnership. 

It’s all about giving your best to be there for your partner, listening to their problems and helping to find a together solution but when one partner is or both partners are simply unwilling to do so, a toxic imbalance is created. 

You feel lonely and hurt

The majority of people in unhappy marriages have a tendency to blame other things and everyone around them for the state they’re in.

They connect the feelings of loneliness and hurt with their work and other issues that have nothing to do with the real source of their misery.

If you’re constantly feeling lonely and hurt, the real source of your misery could be being in an unhappy marriage but mostly we’re preoccupied with other things that bother us and that’s the main reason why we tend to mistake the real root of our unhappiness. 

If the rest of the signs speak the truth, then you can be sure that you’re feeling lonely and hurt because your marriage is making you feel that way.

You know very little or nothing about what’s going on in your spouse’s life

You no longer talk about your day, your feelings or hobbies or anything else related to your routine and lifestyle.

And that is why you know very little or nothing about what’s really going on in your spouse’s life, right?

You feel like you’re living on different planets and it would take an eternity to reach one another and establish an honest conversation.

The only thing you do is greet each other with a smile (often a fake one), have a short chat and then leave home to go to work or somewhere else.

You no longer tell each other your plans or give each other updates on certain situations because you don’t feel like either of you two is actually interested in any of it and that is why you often reach out to your friends and family instead of each other. 

All of this leads to an even bigger problem and that is a total lack of trust and thinking that your spouse is doing something behind your back but that is a topic for the next sign.

You suspect your partner is cheating on you

So, the main reason why you suspect that your partner is cheating on you is because of a lack of trust, connection and communication.

But truth be told, most of the time, our suspicion is based on our intuition and if I have learned one thing, it’s that your gut never lies.

But we’ll focus here on suspicion instead of collecting evidence of infidelity and similar.

So, if you’re convinced that your partner is doing something behind your back, it’s because their behavior and being in an unhappy marriage have made you think so.

You know that something’s terribly wrong when you can’t help but overthink their every action and word.

You know that you’re marriage needs some fixing when you trust a stranger more than your own spouse.

One of you had an affair

This one is connected with the previous sign and it’s the biggest destroyer of trust in marriage.

If one of you had an affair and you still managed to deal with it somehow and have stayed together, this doesn’t mean that the act of infidelity has been erased from the face of the earth.

If one of you had an affair, the consequences of it will always remain present and it will take lots of time to reestablish destroyed confidence and trust.

A spouse who has been cheated on can choose to forgive an affair but forgetting it and going through an affair recovery is not that easy.

A marriage that is shaken by a former affair becomes an unhappy marriage where one partner becomes overly controlling and all of that because of trust issues due to an act of infidelity. 

Date nights are no longer existent

When was the last time you or your partner organized a date night for the sake of chilling and reminding yourself how much you mean to each other? If you can’t remember, chances are your marriage has become an unhappy place. 

Many people think that dating is reserved only for the initial stages of a relationship and that once you enter a marriage, all of that simply stops because Netflix becomes a ten times more appealing alternative.

But the truth is that many couples stop trying in their marriage over time and by doing that, they create a toxic volcano that needs to erupt somehow.

Making each other feel special, organizing romantic date nights and similar help you maintain that initial spark you once had in your relationship.

So, until one of you wakes up and realizes the importance of the little things, your marriage will continue suffering and you will have no idea why exactly.

The laughter’s gone

You know you’re in an unhappy marriage when you can’t remember the last time you had a good laugh together.

Where the laughter’s gone, the darkness resides. When the laughter’s gone, it means your marriage has become a sad place where you no longer enjoy being.

As already said, the main ingredients of a happy marriage are trust, mutual appreciation and affection and when all of that vanishes, you’re left with emptiness and you simply can’t find the strength to laugh even if your life depended on it. 

When the laughter’s gone, you know it’s time to question the silence and admit that things are not like they used to be.

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and have an open conversation about your feelings and perception of your marriage.

You’ve stopped fighting

Constant fighting is a huge red flag that there’s something seriously wrong in your marriage but no fights is perhaps an even more serious red flag that you need to pay special attention to. Why?

Because fights are a natural occurrence in every relationship and marriage and the only difference is the way in which you’re dealing with them.

Some people scream at each other and later on apologize, some people retreat and others deal in their own way.

The bottom line is that every healthy and happy marriage will have a certain amount of fights that are dealt with in a healthy way. But when you’ve totally stopped fighting, it means you have given up.

You no longer have a need to argue with your partner because you don’t really care about what they will say and you don’t really care about your marriage.

Do you now see the connection? Unhappy marriages become unhappy when two people decide that they will no longer make an effort or invest their time and energy because they no longer think it’s something worthy of fighting for.

But that’s exactly what you need to do if you want to fix it. 

You hold on to grudges forever

Constantly holding grudges against your partner means being unwilling to accept the fact that they’re only an imperfect human being who will make mistakes but who will also apologize for them.

Holding grudges forever is a form of controlling behavior where one partner is being superior over the other one.

It’s a situation where one partner is extra mad (or pretends to be) and ignores their spouse for an eternity because of something trivial.

Now, if the only reason why a partner doesn’t accept apologies is because they secretly want to be the one in control, it’s a huge problem that can destroy even the strongest of marriages.

All of this stems from a lack of attention, connection or intimacy and that’s why many partners subconsciously decide to hold grudges forever because they’re convinced that by doing so, they will motivate their partner to try harder to treat them right and with care.

But often, the real effect is the opposite. 

It’s an endless cycle that needs to be destroyed for a marriage to flourish again!


If you’ve just realized that you’re marriage is a resemblance of unhappiness, guilt, trust issues, disrespect and, ultimately, pain, there is no need to instantly abandon it and discard the option of fixing it instead.

Of course, this depends on you and your partner and your mutual willingness to save your marriage and fight for your love. 

When you’re both ready to make big changes in your life and restore the initial spark of your love, here are 5 ways that will help you on your journey to saving your marriage:

Communicate with each other

Communicate, communicate and communicate some more. Communication is the basis of every healthy relationship and without it, people wouldn’t be able to function properly.

If your communication pattern is severely damaged, first try by prolonging your small talk and turning it into meaningful sessions. 

Another step is making a list of the issues that need to be talked about and dealt with.

Both of you need to write some issues that you noticed in your relationship and talk about them face-to-face, with understanding, compassion and respect.

After you’ve addressed the issues, the next step is proposing possible solutions that will solve them.

See also: 5 Effective Ways To Put The Old Spark Back Into Your Marriage

Take a break from each other

If you’re still having difficulties communicating with each other no matter what you have tried, maybe it’s time to take a break from each other for a while.

This will let you think about your marriage more clearly and it will help you understand what is really going on. 

Taking a break from each other means taking some time to question the important things and work on yourself as well and after you’ve reunited again, you will have a chance to apply it to your marriage as well.

Make decisions cooperatively

When something’s bothering you and when it’s obvious that you don’t agree on certain matters, it’s important to learn to make decisions cooperatively instead of pushing your own agenda and deciding for both of you. 

You need to learn to express your concerns in a healthy way and always be specific about the reasons for your worrying and similar.

Once you learn to make decisions cooperatively instead of competitively, you will notice significant improvements and your marriage will flourish.

Smile more, touch more and hug more

Smile even when nothing’s really funny, just for the sake of creating positive vibes in your marriage. Use the power of subtle touch and hug whenever you have a chance.

All of these will wake up the warmth that’s been sleeping for some time and the more you practice it, the more you’ll feel closer to each other.

Get counseling

If you’re not sure how to deal with all of this on your own and you want to get a third opinion, consider visiting a family therapist or a relationship therapist who will give you plenty of helpful relationship tips and marriage advice that will improve your union. 

Now, according to relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman, couples usually spend around six years in an unhappy marriage before seeking help.

You have a choice to make wiser decisions and deal with them in time, so use this opportunity to make the best of it!

See also: 10 Questions To Ask Your Spouse Before Going To Marriage Counseling

Final Thoughts

Being in an unhappy marriage can seriously damage both your mental and physical health and that is why it is important to notice all of the above signs of an unhappy marriage in time so that you can prevent any further damage.

The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem, accepting it and dealing with it.

If you think that your initial affection is still there and all it needs is a little wake-up call, you should definitely fight for what you have but only if both of you are willing to make an effort and fight for your marriage reciprocally.

“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are but how you deal with incompatibility.” – Leo Tolstoy