We all know of a friend or family member who has faced separation or divorce. We listen to their heartbreaking stories and think, “Please don't let that happen to my marriage, God.”
Since none of us want to endure the tragedy of divorce, it's important to recognize the signs of a failing marriage.
While every marriage is different (and it would be impossible and arrogant to assume that every marriage follows a particular pattern) many broken marriages share similar trouble spots–certain mindsets or habits that have slowly eroded the marriage bond.
By examining the ways the Bible encourages husbands and wives to act in marriage, we can identify 5 mindsets or habits that are signs of a failing marriage.
In my own marriage, I know that when I start practicing some of these unhealthy mindsets, my marriage suffers and there's a noticeable tension. How about you?
For the health of your marriage, I encourage you to read through this list of troubled marriage warning signs with an open and honest heart.
And if you see some of these signs of a troubled marriage in your relationship, this post will offer honest, heartfelt encouragement and resources that can really help.
A Huge Warning Sign that a Marriage Needs Help
Before we start talking about warning signs of a failing marriage, I want to point out an obvious one: physical or mental abuse of a spouse.
Abuse is never alright. It is not only morally wrong, but in some cases it can be illegal. If nothing else, abuse is a huge signal of a broken marriage.
Seek immediate professional help should you or a loved one face this marriage issue. FOCUS Ministries, a faith-based domestic abuse center for women and children, suggests you call 9-1-1 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) if you are in immediate danger.
Is abuse grounds for divorce? If you are in an abusive relationship, I encourage you to earnestly seek godly counsel about your specific situation; and, most of all, to spend time praying and fasting for answers.
Here's a few posts that offer some biblical perspective for those facing domestic abuse. You are not alone in this situation, and there is hope!
- The Silent Epidemic
- What You Should Say to a Woman in an Abusive Marriage
- Emotional Abuse in the Local Church
5 Signs of a Failing Marriage
Trouble Marriage Sign #1: You don’t desire to serve your spouse or to put them first.
We are called to sacrificially love our spouses (Ephesians 5) everyday, whether that’s physically serving them or allowing their opinions to be as valuable as our own (Philippians 2:3-4) when making decisions.
I know, I hear you. We think, “Why should I serve him when he doesn’t treat me right, or when I know he won’t serve me back in return?”
But here’s the thing: Rending yourself unable to love him “until” (until he treats you correctly, etc) means that you are shortchanging the beautiful example of sacrificial love that God designed for marriage.
If you decide to only love your spouse when he or she is loving to you then you don't understand the fullness of love described in 1 Corinthians 13.
And bottom line, this inability to unconditionally serve your spouse will severely limit the closeness between the two of you and stifle God’s desire to use marriage to grow you in holiness.
Your spouse doesn’t have to “deserve” your unconditional love in order for you to give it. In fact, that’s the very definition of unconditional love and the foundation of grace itself.
These moments are a very real reminder that we aren’t really serving our spouses in marriage but God Himself!
If you see these signs of a troubled marriage, consider these verses:
- Ephesians 5:22, 24-26, 28, 33
- 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, 1 Corinthians 13
Troubled Marriage Sign #2: You care less and less about your spouse’s opinions or desires.
Let’s be frank—sometimes spouses say annoying things! Sometimes we just want a spouse to change and to agree with what we believe.
But if we're not careful, a few signs of a troubled marriage can result:
- We can find ourselves waiting around for a miracle to happen inside of him (instead of listening to his input and accepting him as he is).
- We blurt out every emotion and concern without prayerfully considering what should be shared with a spouse (and what should be possibly left between you and God).
While I’m not advocating that we dismiss our feelings or don’t give validity to our emotions, it’s dangerous to a marriage when we habitually choose to not weigh our spouse’s opinions as important as our own.
Why? Because friendship is the foundation of every marriage. A strong friendship isn’t self-seeking, but seeks to bless and help the other person, which sometimes results in sacrificing our own opinions and desires in order to maintain peace or demonstrate love (1 Corinthians 13).
That’s why when we dismiss our spouse’s feelings as unimportant, we are hurting the friendship with our spouse, and by default, damaging our marriage.
Here are a few scriptures with more insight on this sign of a broken marriage:
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
- 1 Corinthians 10:24
- Philippians 2:3-4
Troubled Marriage Sign #3: Unresolved conflict has built in your marriage and forgiveness seems impossible.
It’s normal for arguments to happen in marriage (psst… here's help on how to set ground rules for fighting fair in marriage). But the real question is, “Do we face those unresolved marital conflicts, or do we simply sweep them under the rug and pretend like they're not there?”
Furthermore, what do we do with those ongoing marriage issues that seem to never go away?
I think of unresolved tension in marriage like a pair of really dirty eyeglasses. Every time we have an argument or issue between us, our glasses (the lens of how we see each other) can get clouded and covered over with smudges, dirt and other debris.
If we don’t remove those “smudges” immediately through forgiveness and reconciliation, it certainly becomes difficult to love and serve them unconditionally.
We must create the habit of dealing with these issues immediately and moving on so that our marriages can operate freely and not be smothered by unresolved conflict.
Consider these verses:
- Ephesians 4:2
- Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32
- Hebrews 12:15
- Proverbs 17:9
- Proverbs 18:19
- 1 Corinthians 13:5
Troubled Marriage Sign #4: Physical intimacy is non-existent or done with a lustful heart.
I’ve found in my marriage that our sex life is a good indicator of our overall marital health.
Sex can be a beautiful balm of reconciliation when couples are going through tough times. Many times, I feel like sexual intimacy “resets” the connection in my marriage.
I share this to say that sex is intended to be an emotional (not just physical) investment in each other. When a couple reduces sex to simply a physical act (or they don’t make love regularly), they are short-changing their marital growth and connection.
Many of us let this aspect of marriage slowly erode, and quite frankly, it’s easy to do so!
Besides being “too busy” or “too tired,” here are some other potential reasons why physical intimacy may be lacking:
- We ignore sex because we are no longer attracted to our spouse because of physical changes they’ve undergone.
- We’ve been emotionally wounded in other areas (by our spouse or others) and sex seems unthinkable.
- Pornography or affairs have invaded the marriage and broken trust.
- We have sex with our spouse, but the intimacy is gone and sex simply has become a physical release devoid of relational connection.
We can’t allow the enemy to use our busy-ness or our emotional scars to keep our marriage from this most vital form of connection.
Troubled Marriage Sign #5: You’re no longer making regular, intentional investments in your marriage.
We enter marriage with hearts full of hope and excitement because we’ve spent hours investing in our relationship (think date nights, time alone to talk, etc).
Then we get married, and suddenly as the years go by (and we become distracted by other good things like a career, kids or even ministry), our marriage may not seem as bright and shiny with optimism anymore. In fact, it may seem lackluster and simply limp along as we focus the bulk of our emotional energies toward other pursuits.
That’s why date nights and regular scheduled time alone together are so important! We must make intentional investments in our relationship should we want them to stay vibrant and growing.
It’s so easy to let this happen! And we can come up with a thousand excuses, but we must find creative ways to intentionally invest in our marriages.
Here are four ideas:
- Take 15 minutes to chat each day (here’s what my husband and I do)
- Read through a couples devotional (I highly recommend this one: Consecrated Conversations)
- Plan regular date nights
- Plan weekends away/vacations
- Invest in other intentional time together (such as participating in a hobby or home improvement projects together)
Help! I See These Warning Signs of a Failing Marriage in My Home
Your marriage matters and is worth saving!
If you notice these signs of a troubled marriage in your home, I encourage you take a few steps.
- First, meditate on the Bible verses about troubled marriage signs in this post. As you read through the verses, process them and apply them to your life, pray for God to speak to you with insight into your situation. Be patient as you listen and wait for God to answer.
- Seek out a pastor, trusted friend or professional counselor for biblical wisdom on how you and your spouse can work through these marriage difficulties.
- Recognize that you're not alone in your hurt, and that every marriage can go through seasons of pain and trouble.
- Consider practical marriage resources like this devotional to bring new life back to your marriage.
- If your spouse is open to it, consider talking through your tough marriage issues and setting marriage goals together.
I'm praying for you today, and for your marriage!
This list is an adapted excerpt of a post I wrote for Crosswalk.com.
Posts About Divorce or Troubled Marriages for Christian Couples
- 5 Things to Learn from Christian Marriages That Ended in Divorce
- 5 Warning Signs of an Emotional Affair
- 4 Questions to Ask When Facing Tough Marital Issues
- How Ongoing Marriage Issues Can Grow Your Relationship (with God + Your Spouse)
- Divorce Isn’t the Only Way to End a Marriage
- Waiting for the Miracle in Your Marriage
Top Posts that Deal with Marriage Issues
- When Chronic Illness Invades Your Marriage
- How to Make a Couples Devotional a Regular Part of Your Marriage
- Real Help For Ongoing Marriage Issues (That Drive You Crazy!)
- The Surprising Secret to Better Sex in Christian Marriage
- Are Unrealistic Expectations Ruining Your Marriage?
- When You're Waiting for the Miracle in Your Marriage
- 10 Ground Rules for Fighting Fair in Marriage
- 8 Conversation Starters for Couples
- The 15 Minute Habit That Will Change Your Marriage
- How to Make SMART Marriage Goals with Your Spouse
Create Your Action Plan for Healing in Your Marriage
I get it–you're hurting and you need to make changes in your marriage. But what can you do when you're ready to take actionable change together to improve your marriage?
Maybe you've received wise counsel from a pastor or a friend about what needs to change in your marriage, but you're not sure where to start or how to make it happen.
Or maybe you have some goals in mind, but you need proven strategies to follow through with your marriage goals to make these changes in your marriage last for the long term.
Working on marriage communication is a great place to start. After all, when we can learn how to communicate better with our spouses, we can see the areas where our marriage needs ongoing maintenance or a little TLC.
If learning how to have better communication with your spouse is one of your marriage goals, I highly encourage you to pick up a great marriage devotional (here's my favorite, Consecrated Conversations, written by my dear friends, Mike and Carlie Kercheval).
This awesome couples devotional from my dear friends (and marriage coaches) Mike + Carlie Kercheval goes deep on important topics that matter to Christian couples (everything from forgiveness to communication issues to sex). I love that it's goal is to help you create the healthy habit of better marriage communication in 30 days or less!
This best-selling couples devotional has helped over 16,000 couples build a better marriage!
The Kerchevals, certified marriage coaches, Bible teachers and an awesome married couple of over 21 years, will introduce you to a 30 day, step-by-step proven process for learning:
- how to pray together as a couple
- how to read the Bible as a couple
- how to better communicate about important marriage issues
With three sections in each devotion (including a Bible verse, “Converse & Reflect” questions, and a sample prayer), this marriage resource encourages couples to discover intimacy in marriage like never before.
Marriage devotionals give us great insight, perspective and wisdom. Best of all, reading couples devotions together get us in God's word together (which always changes us for the better!).
Maybe you need a little extra help in determining which marriage goals are important to focus on.
Or maybe you need proven strategies to follow through with your marriage goals to make these changes in your marriage last for the long term.
Either way, if you're serious about creating powerful marriage goals that transform your marriage, I highly recommend you check out Consecrated Conversations. It's a wonderful resource to help you explore some of the areas of your marriage that God may want you to address.