"You know the honeymoon is pretty much over when you start to go out with the boys on Wednesday nights, and so does she."
Once a year I see my doctor for an annual physical. Fortunately, the examination has always been routine because I have not had any medical problems. Regardless, my doctor always asks me a series of questions, such as do I have any chest discomfort or difficulty breathing, any digestion problems, have I gained or lost any weight, or do I have any difficulty with urination. Since I turned 50, the number of questions has increased. But regardless, a doctor is a diagnostician and he is looking for any symptoms that might lead to a diagnosis of a medical condition.
Of course, your doctor is often dependent upon you to tell him of any concerns that you may have. He will have a difficult time discovering an issue on his own without some clues from you.
Likewise, unless you are General Patreus and running the CIA, in a typical marriage, no one knows you better than your spouse. Of course we each have our own individuality. But a wife knows her husband's favorite sweatshirt that he won't throw out no matter what just like a husband knows her favorite restaurant.
Likewise, when a spouse begins to act differently than his normal pattern of behavior, this may be the beginning of very subtle symptoms of a problem. And like the common cold, the sneezing and runny nose may go away after a few days. But a symptom that persists and is left untreated rarely correct itself. To illustrate, a spouse who was always there to pick the kids up after soccer practice on his way home but is now working late every evening is sending a warning sign of a problem. This symptom, if left untreated, could spell problems for the marriage.
In conducting interviews with clients, I have listened to the "symptoms" often given for why one spouse wanted to leave the marriage. The following were the most common:
- "We were spending less and less time together."
- "My life felt unfulfilled, there was so much more I wanted to do."
- "I was feeling depressed or uptight when going home, or not looking forward to going home."
- "We were having less fun when we were together, and time together has become more serious."
- "He was very bossy and always had to be right."
- "My opinion meant nothing!"
- "He had a drinking problem before we married which only got worse."
- "He paid attention to everyone but me."
- "As the years passed, it was evident that we wanted different things and had different needs so we grew further apart."
- "She became emotionally and sexually involved with someone else."
- "She was spending more money on "frivolous" unnecessary things and not caring to save for the future."
- "His worked consumed him and there was no time left for me."
- "Our marriage was never the same after we had kids."
- "When we were arguing, we were verbally attacking each other rather than really listening to each other."
- "I felt put down or taken for granted, or I was doing that to my spouse."
- "There were increased periods of silence between me and my spouse."
- "I had less and less sexual desire."
- "We never seemed to have the money to do things we needed to do."
- "I was making judgments alone or misreading what my spouse wanted to do."
- "I was losing my own identity as an individual"
- "I became confused about where we were going and often talked about 'I' not 'We.'"
When questioned further, many clients were able to offer specific signs or symptoms that something was different or changing in their relationship. Too often, when these symptoms are not addressed or left untreated, they result in irreparable harm to the marriage. As a result, divorce often becomes the only solution. But had these symptoms been recognized earlier, and treated, a marriage may have been saved.
If you or your spouse have any of the above symptoms, it is wise to seek treatment now.