Do You Know The 12 Signs Of A Bad Marriage?

Unhappy couple sitting on a couch contemplating the signs of a bad marriage.

It’s never just one thing. And it’s rarely obvious until it’s too late – or at least until a lot of damage has been done. The signs of a bad marriage aren’t loners. They inevitably run in numbers, overlapping and bleeding into each other, making it difficult to distinguish “normal” from “bad.”

When you start questioning your marriage (as all spouses do at some point), you won’t always be afforded the luxury of clear-cut definitions: This means good. This means not-so-good. This means bad. And this means divorce.

After all, there is always a certain amount of “settling into” marriage. 

Romance isn’t hot and heavy on a debilitating, non-stop basis. You can actually think without the mind-numbing fog of infatuation.

And who doesn’t experience some boredom, fatigue, and irritation in any long-term relationship?

It’s no wonder, really, that couples often don’t realize their marriage is in trouble until they’re trying to save it. It’s like having flashbacks to eating fast food and being a couch potato while you’re in the middle of a heart attack.

But, if you can remain aware of the signs of a bad marriage, you can avoid a lot of that pain.

Recognizing where your marriage registers on a scale from euphoria to euthanasia isn’t a definitive, formulaic process. 

Have we just gotten lazy in our marriage? Am I unhappy in my marriage or unhappy within myself? Is our marriage unhealthy or completely toxic? 

What exactly constitutes “bad”?

And can our marriage be saved?

If you subscribe to the adage that nothing stands still, even relationships, then recognizing the direction in which your marriage is headed becomes easier.

Marriage isn’t a status quo, no-news-is-good-news operation. You’re either moving deeper into love and intimacy or further away from them.

So, with all the ways that your marriage can be imperfect, how do you recognize the signs of a bad marriage?

Here is a list of the 12 “biggies” when it comes to recognizing a bad marriage.

  1. There is little to no sex.


    Sex is never the issue…until it becomes the issue.

    It’s natural for the frequency and duration of sex to decline after the early stages of marriage.

    Life, children, jobs, stress, fatigue, health, satisfaction with other forms of intimacy – they all influence your sex life.

    But, when there is no or very little sex because of disinterest, anger, repulsion, retribution, etc., there’s a problem.

    Sex is that one thing that most distinguishes a platonic relationship from an intimate relationship.

    And the absence of sex in a marriage can lead to other problems and signs of a bad marriage.

  2. You fight constantly.


    If every encounter with your spouse is plagued by quick tempers and the rehashing of unresolved issues, you can bet something bigger is going on.

    Fighting in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. Done in a healthy way, fighting can actually be a means for a relationship to grow and become stronger.

    The question is: Do you resolve your disagreements in a respectful way and move forward? Or do you cling to old stuff as fodder for automated reactions when fighting?

  3. You never fight.

    The absence of fighting can signal a distancing in your marriage.

    It literally delivers the message that one or both of you have stopped caring or don’t believe you have anything worth fighting for.

  4. You go out of your way to avoid one another.


    Intimacy isn’t just about sex. It’s about spending time together — and how you spend that time.

    Think back to your dating days when you couldn’t get enough time with one another.

    While time alone is healthy for any relationship, the deliberate avoidance of a partner is a big clue that there is trouble in paradise.

  5. Your health is suffering for no medical reason.


    What does a bad marriage have to do with a paper cut?

    Everything, actually.

    Living in an unhealthy marriage affects more than just your happiness. It also negatively affects your health.

    From the slowing of wound healing to heightened cardiac risk factors, an unhealthy marriage can make for an unhealthy body.

  6. One or both of you start fantasizing about life without the other.


    Fantasizing or daydreaming provides a temporary escape from the stress of real life.

    If those daydreams don’t include your spouse as one of the two main characters, your marriage could be on a slippery slope.

  7. One or both of you is reaching out to someone outside your marriage for emotional connection.


    Having close friends outside your marriage isn’t the issue.

    Turning to someone other than your spouse for emotional connection that belongs in your marriage is.

    One of the more subtle signs of a bad marriage is making someone else – even “just a friend” – your go-to confidante.

    Ask yourself, “Whom do I want to talk to first when something exciting (or upsetting) happens?”

    If it’s not your spouse, it’s time to examine why.

  8. One or both of you are involved in an affair, whether emotional or sexual.


    Infidelity is survivable in a marriage. But that survival comes with a hefty price tag that many are willing to pay because they are hoping to build a more fulfilling marriage.

    You both have to be willing to put your marriage (even more than the affair) under a microscope.

    Affairs are, in the most hurtful, violating way, messengers of unexamined truths.

    Yes, the cheating spouse is responsible for choosing infidelity as a “solution” to unmet needs.

    But both partners carry responsibility for the marriage and how it arrived at such a vulnerable place.

  9. One of you is very controlling.


    Control goes hand-in-hand with submission and codependency.

    If one spouse is trying to control what the other does, where the other goes, how the other speaks, etc….red flag.

    Inequality within a relationship is one of the top reasons for relationship failure.

    And it needs to be taken seriously. Control in one area insidiously becomes control in others – from social connections to jobs, money, and even sex.

  10. There is addiction.


    Addiction isn’t limited to substance abuse. It can involve gambling, sex, pornography, and even control.

    If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, please reach out for help immediately. Don’t try to do this alone.

  11. There is abuse.

    As with addiction, abuse – physical, mental, emotional, sexual, financial – warrants intervention.

    If you or anyone in your home is being abused, please get help immediately.

  12. Your communication has nosedived into criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.


    The work of John Gottman has had such a profound influence in the area of marriage and relationships.

    Perhaps his biggest contribution to the field of marriage/couples’ therapy has been The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

    While this statistically spot-on predictor of marriage survivability isn’t biblical in nature, it does have biblical impact.

    If your marriage is at the point where your communication is reeking with criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling, it’s in trouble.

    Big trouble.

    Of all the signs of a bad marriage, these four are the real death blow. They signal little to no hope because all respect for the other person has been eroded.

If this list makes you uncomfortable, it should.

If it makes you take a hard look at your marriage, it should.

When you acknowledge that nothing stands still but is always in motion, you can approach your marriage in a new way.

One simple question can help keep you both accountable and your marriage on track:

Will this choice – of thought, word, or action – draw us closer to intimacy…or make us drift a little further apart?

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach. I help people, just like you, who are struggling with an unhappy or even miserable marriage. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know.” And if you want to learn more about working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.

How Divorce Can Actually Help You Gain Self-Awareness

Woman standing confidently in knowing that she's gained self-awareness from her divorce.

Divorce – for all the devastation, grief, anger, shame, and financial loss that fold into its wake – can be a powerful catalyst for growth. It can even help you gain self-awareness when everything you recognize about your life has disappeared. 

Rarely, if ever, do we grow when things are easy. We all know that. But we also all secretly hope there’s a loophole to that hard truth. 

Ironically, more often than not it’s the unexpected events that give you the opportunity to increase self-awareness.

But why? How?

Self-awareness is as simple as it sounds and as challenging as it pretends not to be.

What? All I have to do is “be aware” of what I’m feeling? What I’m thinking? What my values and personality are? Why I think/feel/speak/behave/react the way I do? 

Who doesn’t know those things about him/herself?

Well…possibly you.

What makes self-awareness not as easy as it looks – and an ongoing practice, not a destination – is the fearless self-exploration it asks of you.

And it’s precisely when you don’t want to look at yourself that self-awareness holds up the mirror…and adds a magnifying glass.

When life doesn’t go as expected or something happens that throws you off course, you have no choice but to respond. Even not responding is responding.

Unexpected events force you into unfamiliar territory. They elicit thoughts and feelings that may surprise you.

They also force you to make decisions from a different thought process.

And, in the course of thinking and feeling new things, you discover new things, primarily about yourself.

To gain self-awareness, you must ask yourself who are you.
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Wow! I’ve never reacted that way before. I’m surprised by how emotional I am right now. I wonder why I was so quick to get angry.

I like the way that felt. I don’t like the way that felt. I feel calm and peaceful. My heart is racing and I feel irritable. I feel in control. I feel defensive.

On the topic of knowing yourself and others, Mary Tyler Moore once said: 

Sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realize you’re really strangers.

In the early aftermath of divorce, that little fortune cookie of wisdom may seem to have your ex written all over it.

However, if you are determined that your divorce won’t be in vain, you will recognize that “someone” as yourself.

And therein will be your first step toward gaining self-awareness post-divorce.

But what does it mean to actually “gain” self-awareness? Aren’t you either “aware” or “unaware”?

The reason we speak of self-awareness as a practice and not a destination is that it’s fluid. It’s not stagnant, all-or-nothing, or unchanging.

Emotional self-awareness, for example, may start with the recognition of feelings. You’re aware that you “feel” something – in your body, in your mind, in your spirit.

An infant will cry as a response to the feeling of hunger, but does not have the cognition to identify it.

A toddler may throw a tantrum in response to being denied a desired object. But, again, he does not have the awareness or communication skills to identify the thoughts and feelings fueling his fit. He just “feels” the absence of gratification.

You may think those limitations evolve out of a person with age.

But think again.

If you are starting your post-divorce life, you can surely point to conversations in which you swore your ex had no self-awareness whatsoever. No ability to walk in someone else’s shoes. No empathy. No accountability for the expression of anger. No ability to even go deeper in the explanation of anger.

Nada. Zilch. Just one or two layers deep, then “close the window to the soul.”

But now you’re on your own (at least for now). And at some point you will realize that others care less about what your ex said or did than about your response to it.

Actually, since we’re being honest and aware here…what others really care about is how you step up and take accountability.


Photo credit: Canva

After all, you were half of your marriage. You contributed to the dynamic and the establishment (and following) of rules – spoken and unspoken.

You expressed or didn’t express your thoughts and feelings.

You contributed to arguments, hurts, silent treatment, white lies, withheld affection, blame, and everything else that slowly erodes relationships.

You were only human, of course. 

But so was your ex.

Perhaps you acted out your thoughts and feelings so you didn’t have to take responsibility for them or face them head-on.

Perhaps you stayed in your marriage longer than you should have, but only now understand why.

Perhaps you and your ex never or no longer shared core values essential to holding a marriage together. And suddenly your personal values are rising to the surface. 

You “feel” them, “hear” them, “experience” them in unexpected moments of choice. But you had never given them a voice…or a name.

Now, however, you’re paying attention to those conscience-tugging moments. You’re giving them names and assigning weight to them.

And, in doing so, you notice that your perceptions of other people deepen and have greater acuity. 

You communicate with more authenticity. 

You are able to listen with your heart and ask deepening questions that draw honest self-evaluation out of others.

You begin taking responsibility for shaping the outcomes you want by shaping your own behavior.

This is both how you gain self-awareness and how you live with self-awareness.

Photo credit: Canva

Yes, that’s just another way of saying that self-awareness inspires itself as an ongoing practice. The more you act with self-awareness, the more you work to deepen it.

Accountability becomes the stronghold of your character. 

Having the willingness to look with scrutiny at your own contributions to the failure of your marriage takes courage. Tons of courage. It’s so much easier to simply throw your ex under the why-we-got-divorced bus.

You can’t change what you don’t own. Simply put, if you don’t gain self-awareness as a result of your divorce, you will inevitably carry that limitation into all your relationships going forward.

Divorce certainly isn’t the path you set out to walk when you’re planning your walk down the aisle. But here you are.

The pearl that waits for you is the unforeseen ability to gain self-awareness. 

And that self-awareness can open your life to greater peace and more authentic, intimate relationships.

You just have to be willing to get your hands dirty and do some shucking.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing your self-awareness so you can become more you in every facet of your life.

You can learn more about gaining and benefitting from self-awareness in How To Be More Self-Aware.

How To Live A Happy Life Post-Divorce

Woman with her arms crossed waiting expectantly for the answer to how to live a happy life post-divorce.

Sometimes freedom is a scary thing. It comes with benefits, but it also comes with responsibilities that only you can fulfill. Divorce can be like that – liberating (especially if you wanted the divorce), but also surprisingly limiting. Learning how to live a happy life post-divorce involves balancing your newly acquired independence with the weight of extra responsibility and unforeseen emotions.

Happiness is a broad concept to funnel into a one-size-fits-all definition. Everyone wants it. Our Constitution has engraved the pursuit of it into the inalienable rights of our citizens. And everyone has an innate sense of what happiness is…and isn’t.

A study on happiness has shown that three things are the core elements of happiness: the quality of close relationships, a fulfilling job or hobby, and serving others.

When the closest relationship in your life has just gone “poof,” it’s natural to wonder how to live a happy life. 

The very definition of who you are may still be entangled with your roles as a spouse and parent. But now you’re not a spouse. And your role as a parent will be, at the very least, “restructured.”

But finding joy in life after the great divide is possible. And, believe it or not, it can be richer than you ever thought possible.

Happiness is, in many ways, about balance. And so, after a divorce, you will have to achieve balance between what you draw into your life and what you allow to fall away.

Here are some tips for how to live a happy life post-divorce. Notice the balance between letting go and drawing in.

Photo Credit: Canva
  • Remember why you got divorced.

    You may or may not have wanted your divorce. But here you are.

    You didn’t marry with the expectation of ending up apart. You knew there would be difficult times and plenty of mundane daily-life stuff to put a gray tone on your wedding day bliss. But you said “I do” with the intention to see it all through.

    And yet, life happens. Deep-seeded truths surface. Spouses’ humanness surfaces.

    No matter what led to your parting – a shocking betrayal, an accumulation of countless “little things” – divorce is a reckoning of lessons yet to be learned.

    Remember that as you go forward, and welcome the revelation of life’s lessons along the way.
  • Decide that anger will not guide your life.

    Anger is a natural emotion, so denying it is never the answer. (We can all point to people in our lives who insist, “I’m not angry,” while their faces redden and smoke escapes from their ears.)

    But giving the steering wheel to anger as you try to navigate life after divorce will only lead to a crash course in “How To Ruin Your Life.”

    Seek professional help, if necessary, to get to the truth – and gifts – of anger while learning how to defuse its control in your life.

  • Embrace your grief work as a bridge to a new and amazing life.

    Picture a perfectly rolled ball of yarn, unraveling effortlessly as a knitter stitches away.

    Now picture that same ball of yarn after a catnipped kittycat gets hold of it.

    Yeah, grief is kind of like that. Non-linear, unpredictable, tangled up, and knotted in places.

    When you understand what grief is trying to achieve, there is less cause for fear. In many ways, however unpredictable, disorderly, and uncomfortable, it is your conduit to inner liberation, healing, and happiness.

  • Find “your people.”

    Remember that study about happiness? One of the three primay elements for how to live a happy life is having healthy close relationships.

    Divorce giveth, divorce taketh away. And that applies to friendships (and even some family ties), too.

    Learn to bless departing friends on their way as they live their own journeys and you live yours. Be grateful for time spent and lessons learned while you journeyed together.

    And then move on to the exploration and welcoming of newfound friends and sources of support.

  • Rediscover the heart of you.

    It’s only natural that you lose some of your individuality and sacrifice many of your personal goals and joys in the immersion of marriage.

    Now is the time to revisit what has been dormant.

    Why did you let it go? Do you have unfinished business with favorite hobbies and talents? What have you always wanted to learn, try, create? What unique gifts can be re-explored for their contribution to your new life and relationships that await you?

  • Make your health, fitness, and well-being a top priority.

    Mangia bene, vive bene. The Italians (no surprise here) know the vitality that comes from food and connecting around it.

    Eat well, live well. Grace yourself with the self-care reflected in healthful eating, exercise, and proper sleep.

  • Embark on a new “self-help” phase to enrich and empower your life.

    Call it what you will: self-help, talk-therapy, divorce coaching, O Network, TED Talks.

    Self-enrichment isn’t a one-hour-a-week-in-a-therapist’s-office pursuit. It’s a mindset of accepting that you don’t, in fact, “know everything,” and welcoming wisdom and insight from trusted sources.

  • Sing it loud, sing it clear, “Let it go, let it go…!”

    Truly…let it go. Hold onto the good memories, the lessons, the gratitude, and, of course, your children.

    But let the negative stuff go. No balloon can soar with all that baggage weighing it down.
Photo Credit: Canva

Knowing how to live a happy life post-divorce starts with believing happiness exists post-divorce.

The next step is believing it exists – and is waiting – for you.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation to ask me your questions about how to live a happy life post-divorce.

Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.

7 Things To Consider If You’re Married And Cheating

You probably didn’t set out to cheat. Few cheaters do. But somewhere along the line you got tired of holding up your end of the deal, or you simply let your guard down. And now you’re married and cheating. 

Perhaps you’re half-delirious from the euphoria of newness. Perhaps you’re racked with guilt but in over your head.

Wherever you are, one thing’s for sure: you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. It may be too late to change what you’ve already done. But it’s not too late to decide what you’re going to do going forward.

Here are 7 things to consider if you’re married and cheating:

Photo Credit: Canva
  1. Carrying on two relationships is exhausting.

    Relationships are work. No surprise there.

    Love and commitment involve sacrifice. And their endurance is predicated on devotion to the highest good of one’s partner and the relationship.

    Not always easy, especially when the duties of life become mundane and you’re convinced there are no more corners to examine in your marriage.

    But the lure to infidelity is, at least in part, a forgetting of that.

    New relationships are exciting, energizing, magical. The new relationship energy (NRE) that heralds in longing for a sustained relationship is invigorating for a reason. It allows you to see all the good in a prospect while overlooking the negative.

    This kind of energy, however, isn’t sustainable. In fact, it’s exhausting in its own right.

    If you’re married and cheating, you may have the juxtaposition of “comfortable” and “exciting.” But you will also have the constant work of trying to keep two relationships in play and separate.

    Keeping your stories straight. Covering your lies. Trying to be two places at once. Dealing with inevitable discontent and arguments. Holding down a job. Being a parent. Having no time to yourself.

    You will inevitably reach a breaking point – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, financial. And no amount of NRE will be enough to prevent it.
  2. Having an affair is isolating.

    If you’re married and cheating, your entire life is about secrecy. You’ve built a bubble of fantasy around yourself and your affair partner. And no one else is allowed in.

    That’s the nature of the beast and the price of all that “freedom” you believe you’re experiencing with someone new. You are anything but free.

    You can’t be in the open with “the other person.” Sometimes you can’t be fully in the open with your own spouse, as you might be spotted by someone who has seen you with your affair partner.

    You’re alone with your thoughts, alone with your guilt, alone with your reality. You can’t tell your spouse about this other person, and your affair partner certainly doesn’t want to hear about your spouse.

    The irony? You may have opened yourself to cheating because you felt lonely in your marriage. But the secrecy of infidelity is far more isolating and lonely.
  3. You’re not as good at hiding as you think you are.

    You may think you can pull it off. Get through this one-night tryst, then figure things out as you go.

    But no one can be two places at once or fulfill two relationships at once.

    Covering your lies also means you will have to be evasive and/or passive-aggressive. Your spouse will eventually pick up on the signs of your cheating, if not by full discovery, then by the accumulation of “a thousand little things.”
  4. Your children will suffer…possibly forever.

    Who does infidelity affect? may sound like a rhetorical question. However, while the initial impulse is to focus on the betrayed spouse, there are other victims who suffer greatly from infidelity. Children pick up on everything. They don’t have the cognitive or communicative skills to communicate complex, adult issues. But they sense everything at a deep level and build neural connections that define their perception of the world as they mature.

    The anchor in a child’s life is the nuclear family. And any disruption in the family, even if the family remains intact, can lead to immediate and long-term consequences for the child.

    Anger, aggression, outbursts, academic decline, depression, trust issues, confusion over the meaning of family, even self-blame and difficulty in future relationships. Your children will be a stark reflection of the consequences of your cheating.
  5. The chances of you and your affair partner ending up together are very low.

    Some statistics say only about 25% of cheaters leave their spouses for affair partners. If both affair partners are married, that number is even lower.

    Even if you do end up divorcing as the result of your affair, the likelihood that you will end up marrying your affair partner is only about 3-5%.

    Not only are second marriages up against discouraging odds of survival, but those that start as affairs have even more odds stacked against them.

    First of all, you will no longer be tucked away in your “fantasy bubble.” You will be out in the open, exposed to the world around you, with all its temptations, vulnerabilities, and judgments.

    Sound familiar?

    Yes, you will be back into the “work” of relationship and the mundaneness of “real life.” The success of your marriage, just like that of your first marriage, will be dependent on what you give, not just on what you get.

    And the two of you will always know that your relationship started as an affair. The trust that is the cornerstone of commitment will come at a higher price this time around…assuming you are able to achieve it.
  6. You may cause lasting damage to your self-esteem and self-worth.

    Concern for a person recovering from infidelity is usually reserved for the betrayed spouse.

    But what about how cheating affects the cheater?

    Your marriage may survive. It may not. Your spouse may even move on from the affair (probably with a lot of help).

    But you will have to live with the knowledge that you violated your own values and your own integrity.

    Even if your marriage survives and you learn from your mistakes, you may always feel the denigrating reminder of not living up to who you claim to be.
  7. If you divorce because of your infidelity, you could be held accountable for money spent on your affair.

    No-fault divorce may be the norm in the US. But that doesn’t mean your cheating can’t affect you at divorce time if your marriage doesn’t survive.

    In Texas, for example, the judge in your divorce case can choose to lower your alimony (if otherwise warranted) or mandate the return of money spent on the affair.

The consequences of infidelity are pervasive. Even a singular departure from conscience can drop like a stone in still water, creating ripples through generations of lives.

If you’re married and cheating, the time to consider the repercussions of your choice is now. 

Where will your next choice lead you?

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with how to get over resentment after an affair. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

Looking for more information about the repercussions of being married and cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.

How To Survive A Bad Marriage Without Divorce

Sad man wondering how to survive a bad marriage without divorce.

Pre-marriage 101 may give you a hefty toolkit for building a healthy marriage from the outset. Do everything correctly, and you won’t be wondering how to survive a bad marriage. Without divorce as an option, however, every couple needs to learn skills for sticking it out when the relationship loses its luster.

There are times and circumstances that warrant the end of a marriage. No one should resolve to tough things out when there is abuse, for example – whether physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual. Safety is a non-negotiable. 

(*If you or someone in your home is a victim of domestic abuse, please do not wait to get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE [7233] and keep this number in your phone and on-hand at all times.)

But knowing whether or not an unhappy marriage is best resolved with a divorce is rarely so cut-and-dry. And, even in marriages threatened by behaviors like addiction and infidelity, those determined to survive together do have options.

Descriptors like good, bad, happy, unhappy are subjective qualifiers that reflect the people involved as much as their circumstances.

There are, however, characteristics and dynamics that will set a relationship up for success…or failure. And no one has been more instrumental in defining these prognosticators than John Gottman.

Knowing how to survive a bad marriage without divorce first requires a fearless examination of your marriage and what makes it “bad.”

It’s not uncommon, for example, for couples to lose their emotional connection. 

They may not even be able to point to a specific time or event that caused the disconnect. After all, the undercurrent of “life” and responsibility is deceptively powerful.

As is the way with currents, couples often wake up one day and wonder not only where they are, but how they got there.

And, before they know it, they have lost their hold on those qualities whose merit lies in the vow to uphold them. 

Unkindness creeps in. Sexual desire creeps out. Resentment, anger, and a mortar of other negative feelings fill the cracks opened by neglect, fatigue, and boredom.

And suddenly allies have become enemies.

The casual reader may wonder why anyone would bother trying to stay in a marriage at that point. But the truth is always that we never really know what we would do until we are in someone else’s shoes.

Some of the most common reasons for trying to make even a bad marriage work include:

  • keeping the family unit intact for the children
  • religious convictions
  • social status that is based on the couple as a “couple”
  • fear of financial insecurity
  • large and complex marital assets that would prolong and complicate a divorce
  • insufficient financial assets to support two homes, especially with children
  • fear of being alone
  • worry about disapproval from family and/or friends
  • health issues with a partner, child, or dependent senior
  • codependency

For all the reasons to leave, there are just as many reasons to stay. And, if you are serious about learning how to survive a bad marriage without divorce, you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

The first step is to stop. Right where you are, mid-sentence, mid-negativity, mid-argument. Just. Stop.

Image credit: Canva

You don’t have to have a cheery vision for reconciliation down the road. You simply have to stop the behaviors that are giving negativity the reins to your marriage.

Stop the sarcasm. Stop the circular arguing. Stop the nasty remarks and body language.

If the silence that fills the space makes you uncomfortable, let it be. It’s a neutral, safe space. And you will have the opportunity to fill it with positivity as you learn more about surviving an unhappy marriage.

Putting the brakes on the negativity is also an essential step to the practice of detachment.

Obviously the pendulum isn’t going to swing from miserable to happy just because you decide to stay in your marriage. 

By practicing detachment, however, you can restore a sense of calm in your home.

And that calm can provide a healthy space in which to re-evaluate your situation going forward.

So what does detachment look like?

As the word implies, detachment means disconnecting from the behaviors and engagements – and their outcomes – that fuel the negativity in your marriage.

You shift your focus from the maddening habits and behaviors of your spouse to your own self-care. I’m not going to focus on his socks lying on the floor because I don’t have a “stake” in the outcome. I’m not going to respond to her remarks because I am disengaging from the consequences.

Does that to survive your bad marriage without divorce you go about life as if your spouse isn’t even there?

Absolutely not.

It does mean that you turn your focus inward onto your own self-awareness and self-care.

It also means that you and your spouse maintain a “How-would-I-treat-a-stranger?” politeness with one another. You avoid personal, intimate, vulnerable conversations and focus on “civil discourse.” 

How was your day? Would you like to meet at Jimmy’s baseball game? Tonight’s my night to cook, so I’ll have dinner ready at 6:30. Tonight’s your night with the kids, so I will be gone until 10.

It means you “pull back” enough that civility can fill the space that has been clouded by fights, blame, criticism, disrespect, and general lack of love.

You return to those taken-for-granted niceties of “please” and “thank you.”

You look for opportunities to be kind, gracious, polite, respectful.

In a few words, you “mind your manners.”

And, perhaps the key to all of the detachment behaviors, you forego your expectations of your spouse. 

Socks on the floor may have crazy-making history for you.

But, when you detach from all the implications you normally read into the behavior, you learn not to see it. At least you don’t read into it and make assumptions about its hidden meanings. His socks? His business. You have other things to worry about.

One of the greatest benefits of detachment is that, if you have children, they get to witness respectful behavior between their parents. 

They may be well aware of the discontent at home. But observing your commitment to civility is a powerful lesson for them. It also helps to preserve (and deepen) their trust in both of you.

Detachment doesn’t mean you don’t do anything together. It’s in the best interest of everyone if you decide on at least one or two things to do together – as a couple or family – daily or weekly.

Watch a movie together with the kids. Have one meal together every day. Sit together at your children’s sporting events. 

The criteria for spending time together, however, is to avoid emotion-ridden engagements. 

This isn’t “casual dating.” It’s pragmatic, “just the facts,” spend-time-with-the-kids, no-sex-inside-or-outside-the-marriage engagement.

These are all ways to “engage without really engaging.” You get to “practice” being in one another’s presence without finding fault, being triggered into an argument, or even stirring up a blip of amorous inclination.

Depending on the severity of your circumstances, you and your spouse may benefit from a mini-separation. Even a couple days apart can let tempers diffuse and rational thinking flow back in.

Image credit: Canva

It can also give you both time to reflect on the good that does exist in your marriage and how you can revitalize it. (Yes, an occasional case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” can be good medicine.)

Especially if one or both of you are unsure about staying together, time apart can help you decide if your unhappy marriage can be saved.

Bad marriages don’t flip to good on a dime of good intention. But two simple actions can leave you a civil, safe space. It’s in this space that you’ll be able to work on yourself while preserving hope for your marriage.

  1. Stop the behaviors that fuel the negativity and discontent.
  2. And start to focus on yourself, your self-care, and how you can infuse positivity into a relationship best served – for now – with detachment.

You can learn more about navigating and surviving a bad marriage without divorce here.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach. I help people, just like you, who are struggling with an unhappy or even miserable marriage. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know.” And if you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more ideas about how to survive your bad marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.

5 Reasons The Importance Of Self-Awareness Can’t Be Over-Emphasized When You’re Struggling With Infidelity

An unhappy couple looking into one another’s eyes.

The struggle to recover from infidelity is real. And, believe it or not, the struggle isn’t limited to the betrayed partner. It may look different for the cheating partner than for the betrayed partner, but it is real nonetheless. And the importance of self-awareness in this process can’t be over-emphasized, no matter which side of the betrayal you’re on.

Regardless of the destiny of your marriage after infidelity, how you survive the struggle will be determined, in large part, by your self-awareness. And that is true whether you are the spouse who was betrayed or the spouse who cheated.

Let’s look at 5 reasons the importance of self-awareness can’t be over-emphasized when you’re struggling with infidelity.

  1. Self-awareness is the foundation for accepting responsibility.

    When it comes to the issue of “responsibility” in relation to infidelity, it’s natural, if not impulsive, to demonize the cheater and glorify the betrayed.

    Responsibility, however, is broader than “Who’s at fault for the affair?”

    No one would debate that responsibility for the choice to have an affair belongs with the spouse who cheated. After all, no one forced him or her to go the route of infidelity, no matter what problems may have existed in the marriage.

    The importance of self-awareness in this context is that each partner has responsibility to and within the marriage, especially if it’s going to survive.

    And only through the ability and willingness to introspect can each person be honest about his or her contribution to problems within the marriage.

    On a more detailed level, self-awareness leads each person to accountability in the process of communication.

    Am I speaking my truth? Am I staying in integrity or lashing out in anger? Am I paying attention to my body’s signals? Am I throwing out blame to blanket how awful (or guilty) I feel?

    Am I listening with the intention to understand? Am I confident and strong enough to handle what I hear?

    Am I doing my part to contribute to a healing dialogue? If not, what am I avoiding? Is there something I don’t want to examine within myself?

    There is no self-responsibility without self-awareness. And that goes for everyone involved – in the marriage and in the affair.

  2. Self-awareness helps the betrayed partner quiet the self-sabotaging voice of blame.

    The importance of self-awareness for the betrayed spouse may not be as obvious as the importance of self-awareness for the cheater. It’s natural to want (and expect) the person who cheats to feel the lashings of perpetual remorse.

    But the betrayed spouse can fall into the trap of self-blame, too. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t want to face it. How could I be so naive? I must not be good enough, pretty enough, successful enough. I didn’t do xyz, and this is what happens….

    Self-awareness/mindfulness is a component of self-compassion. By recognizing the negative thinking as just that – negative thinking – the betrayed spouse can better control the self-sabotage.

    If you are the spouse in this position, developing self-awareness will give you the ability to create a healthy dialogue with yourself. You may not believe all the “truths” you say to yourself (yet), but knowing they are true is what matters.

  3. Self-awareness is essential for recognizing feelings and allowing them to come up.

    Struggling with infidelity, regardless of your intended outcome, is a brutal process. Every aspect of your being becomes fair game for punishment – emotional, spiritual, even physical.

    One of the most instinctive protections is to either deny your feelings or to let them run rampant with no monitoring or controlled expression.

    Let’s face it – affairs are laden with emotions across the spectrum: anger, sadness, disappointment, passion, fear, exhilaration, hurt, self-doubt, shame, embarrassment, guilt.

    There are feelings that lead to the choice to cheat, the choice to confess, the choice to fight for the marriage or leave it. And, without self-awareness, those feelings will “run the show” in any given moment.

    They can also be so powerful that all you want to do is slam the door on them. Don’t examine them, just act them out or spew them out as off-leash vectives and blame.

    But self-awareness inspires self-control and self-accountability. It allows each of you to own your feelings, your story, and your choices.

    It allows the crippling, nauseating, numbing feelings to present themselves for inspection. And, while they all present with crucial information and insight, they don’t have to be given license to control you.

    For the betrayed, this is essential to working through the understandable agony of having trust and dreams annihilated. It’s also essential to reaching a place of genuine forgiveness.

    For the unfaithful, this is essential for making the link between feelings of unfulfillment and the choice to seek gratification elsewhere.

    The resolve to look your feelings in the eye and listen to them is also an imperative step to self-forgiveness and healing from guilt.

  4. Relational self-awareness allows the cheating partner to recognize the gravity of his/her actions and take action to understand them.

    As tempting as it is to brand a cheater as non-rehabilitative, reality presents a very different truth.

    That truth – that someone who has cheated in the past can, in fact, “convert” from the inclination to do so again – has conditions.

    Relational self-awareness, in reference to one who has cheated, means the person takes responsibility for his or her actions and learns valuable lessons from them.

    That same self-awareness will lead the unfaithful to seek answers and guidance in order to understand what “script” was actually justifying the affair.

    Without self-awareness, history is likely to repeat itself. There also can be no empathy. And without empathy, there can be no healing.

  5. Self-awareness is essential for allowing the grieving process.

    Anytime a source of deep emotional connection is ended or dramatically changed, there will be grief. Sometimes it comes as high tide and sometimes more as an undercurrent. But it comes.

    The importance of self-awareness in dealing with infidelity-related grief lies in its identification of the feelings specific to grief.

    Without self-awareness, neither spouse is likely to recognize, let alone accept, the predictably unpredictable stages of grief when they hit. Denial, anger, guilt, bargaining – these are all powerful emotions en route to acceptance.

    Who can argue with the anger of the betrayed spouse?

    But what about the spouse who was unfaithful? Is s/he entitled to any anger?

    What if anger was the underlying emotion that led to the affair, however unjustified the straying was?

    What if the cheating partner truly loved the affair partner and is angry about having to give up that relationship? What if s/he feels responsibility for the affair partner and is paralyzed by the necessity to make another – and permanent – choice?

    Even if the marriage survives, both partners will experience the full realm of grief, each in his/her own way.

    There will be inevitable denial – perhaps that the affair was as damaging as it was.

    There will be inevitable anger – at one another (and each at him/herself), for things one and for things not done. There will be anger over the loss of the purity of the marriage as it once was, anger over the loss of trust, and anger over the loss of dreams.

    There may even be bargaining within the relationship in order to preserve it.

    What matters is that both spouses are self-aware enough to recognize those emotions for exactly what they are.

    The emotions are there to relay messages and inspire deeper reflection. They are not there to dictate impulsive decisions or unguarded behaviors.

Post-infidelity may seem like a hopelessly late-in-the-game time to think about self-awareness. But it’s never too late to develop it.

Self-awareness is the most direct way to improve your relationship because it begins and ends with the only person you can control…

yourself.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life and divorce coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing your self-awareness so you can become more you even as you deal with difficult issues like infidelity.

Looking for more information on improving your relationship through self-awareness? You’ll find what you’re looking for in How To Be More Self-Aware.

5 Encouraging Happy Life Quotes And Sayings To Support You Through The Tough Times

Happy man standing in an autumn meadow.

Where do you turn when life throws you a curveball, dashes your dreams, and leaves you empty-handed and brokenhearted? Are there any encouraging, happy life quotes and sayings that have more substance than a greeting card?

Tough times almost beg the indulgence of self-pity and a dismal life forecast. Leave the falls and immediate rebounds to the professional athletes making millions of dollars. They’re trained to be good sports and get back into the game.

You, on the other hand, have real-life issues to deal with, and they don’t pay well.

You know, as everyone does, that life is what you make of it. It comes with predictable and unpredictable ups and downs, but it always offers you freedom to choose your response.

Being happy isn’t a destination. It’s also not only about what you “do.”

Happiness depends on not doing certain things as much as it depends on doing others.

And, more than anything else, it depends on the attitude you choose.

So let’s look at 5 “happy life” quotes and sayings you’ll probably never read in the card aisle.

  1. We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.  – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Life is full of disappointments. No secret there. They come in micro, macro, and mega forms. And there is no “catching up” on them so you can check them off your list and be done with them.

    The big disappointments – betrayals, loss of relationships, unexpected defeat – can cut deeply and leave you believing you will never recover.

    But who better than Martin Luther King, Jr. to remind us of the chasm of difference between finite disappointment and infinite hope?

    Every disappointment is finite in its endurance and its power to hold you down.

    But hope? Hope is infinite in its endurance and its power to lift you up.

    The bridge over that chasm is built by choice. Will you choose resignation or will you choose hope?
  2. Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.  – Thich Nhat Hanh

    In keeping with the spirit of MLK’s call to hope, this example of happy life quotes and sayings is a reminder of hope’s power in the moment.

    The inherent gift of this life perspective isn’t limited to “Sigh…I wish…I hope…if only…What if?” Its magic lies in its transformation of the moment at hand.

    When you are experiencing the pain of loss or disappointment, you can, of course, choose to accept it as your destiny. “I will always feel this way.” “My life is a failure.” “I can’t bear the heartache.”

    And so goes the dirge of despair.

    But hope, though not a crystal ball or prognosticator with detailed assurances, allows you to rise above the negative frequency of despair. It delivers your mind’s attention over to a higher frequency of thinking, feeling, and choosing present and future action.

    This isn’t just philosophizing from a goodwill pulpit. It’s scientific.

    A feeling of hopefulness elicits physiological effects.It causes your brain to release feel-good endorphins and enkephalins, thereby accelerating healing and recovery.

    The expectation of good possibilities (probabilities?), however far in the future, can be life-saving in the wake of heartbreak, fear, loss, and disappointment.
  3. Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want. – Jim Rohn

    Learning how to be happy with what you have can sound like a mantra for those with no ambition.

    But there is a fine line between donning a laissez faire attitude toward life and choosing to be happy and grateful in the moment.

    One posture is a slouching “Whatever. Que sera, sera.” And the other is an upright, shoulders-back, eyes-forward greeting of life, both in the present moment and in pursuit of the next.

    Why is this relevant to being happy and feeling supported during tough times?

    Because your dreams will almost always be bigger than your reality. That’s what dreams are for.

    They keep you moving forward – exploring, discovering, learning, contributing, connecting, believing, striving.

    But dreaming should never be a disregard of the blessings of the moment.

    Just as feelings of hopefulness bring about chemical changes in the brain, newly divorced singles, especially women, are often shocked by the change in finances and lifestyle.

    If you have gone through a similar experience, you know what an adjustment it can be.

    But you always have the option of focusing on what you do have – perhaps things that had lost your attention in the past. Your health, your sanity, your children, your own space and schedule, the opportunity to rediscover yourself and pursue your own interests….

    There really is so much for which to be grateful and happy right here, right now. And happy people make positive choices with enlightened awareness.

    If you can bask in gratitude for having all you need today, you will find yourself invigorated to strive for the possibilities of tomorrow.
  4. The happiest people don’t bother about whether life is unfair. They just concentrate on wha they have. – Andrew Matthews, Happiness in Hard Times

    Disappointment is rooted in expectation and a sense of what should and shouldn’t be. “I have all the credentials and should have gotten that promotion.” “How could he walk out on me when I have been faithful and devoted?”

    Sometimes it’s rooted more in what we want and don’t want than in what we honestly believe should and shouldn’t be.

    Regardless of its reason, disappointment can get confused with justice. “It’s not fair! I did all the work and she got all the money!” “Why do I always get the short end of the stick?”

    Focusing on the (perceived) unfairness of life, let alone on the futility of trying to correct it, will suck all the joy out of an otherwise happy life. Quotes and sayings could be taped on every mirror in your home; but if your focus is on how unfair life is, you will never be happy.
  5. You’re never fully dressed without a smile. Annie (the musical)

    Your clothes may be Beau Brummelly
    They stand out a mile –
    But Brother,
    You’re never fully dressed
    Without a smile!
    Who cares what they’re wearing
    On Main Street,
    Or Saville Row,
    It’s what you wear from ear to ear
    And not from head to toe
    (That matters)…

Life is, in large part, an organic, unscripted process of gracefully co-existing with hardship and disappointment. It’s a balancing act that, in its finest expression, speaks to your commitment to equilibrium, regardless of what seeks to shake it.

Hope, gratitude, and being present to the gifts of the moment are all miracle workers when it comes to getting through tough times.

And, of course, you really are never fully dressed without a smile.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life and divorce coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself.

Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.

How Hard Is Life After Divorce? What You Must Know Before Calling It Quits

Man sitting at a table outside wondering how hard life would be after divorce.

Hindsight, we all know, is 20/20. Sometimes it comes with regret – “If only I could do it over.” And sometimes there’s the realization that you had no other healthy choice. Sometimes you have the time and resources to prepare. And other times you have to take a leap of faith. Divorce, like other major life changes, is no different. Knowledge is power, and acquiring it means asking the right questions. How hard is life after divorce? What do I need to know before calling it quits? This is just a starting point for choosing your path at that unanticipated fork in the road.

In the long run, how easy/difficult, hopeful/defeating, encouraging/frightening, relieving/stressful a situation is depends more on you than it does on the situation.

But that doesn’t mean the situation can’t or won’t stack the deck against you. And, if and when it does, it will force you to choose – not only your next move, but your attitude toward its outcome, as well.

Getting used to life after divorce, no matter how easy or difficult, is a journey. The divorce process itself may be a loaded list of time-sensitive must-do’s. But, once your divorce is final, all those calendarized imperatives will take a back seat to changes that have their own timelines. (Or no timelines at all.)

How hard is life after divorce? Well, let’s take a look at some of the unavoidable changes that will inevitably challenge your sense of normalcy and test your perseverance.

  • Life as you know it no longer exists.

    You are no longer a husband or wife. You no longer share a home, life, or dream-for-the-future with a spouse.

    You no longer sleep next to another heartbeat or have a sexual partner.

    If you have children, holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations will now be more complicated and potentially divided and lonely.

    You will no longer be making joint decisions, except when it comes to your children (assuming you will be co-parenting).

    If you are a woman, you may have that awkward decision of whether or not to change your last name. And do you now have to check the “Ms.” box on forms? (Men really do have it much easier in the name department.)
  • You are going to lose more connections than just your spouse.

    It’s just the way life goes when there is major change. Some friends stay true, some choose sides, and some move on.

    Even some relationships with family members can become awkward.

    You will be struck by the different reasons that people come (and stay) together. Some friends connect only as couples. Others form their alliances by gender or common interests or experiences. Some connect with other adults only because their children are friends or schoolmates.

    And some friends may transfer lingering emotions from their own divorces (or current marriages) onto you.
  • Your finances and lifestyle will likely take a hit.

    When you ask How hard is life after divorce?, chances are you have money at the forefront of your mind. How much money am I going to get in this divorce? How long will I be able to survive on it? Will I have to work until I die just to survive?

    The reality is that both you and your spouse will face financial and material losses. You will be splitting your assets, paying for two domiciles, and, if you have children, providing “two lives” for them.

    You will also have the cost of divorce to consider. And, if your divorce is going to be complicated or contested, it could get quite costly. (And that means less for you in your settlement.)

    Finally, if you are a woman, you may have a harsh reality to face. Women, in general, suffer up to twice the financial hardship that men do after divorce.

    If you have sacrificed your career to have and raise children, you will have lost years in the workforce.

    You may not have the skills necessary to start a career with the earning potential you need to maintain even a fairly recognizable lifestyle. And you may never be able to earn at the rate your husband now does.
  • Grief is going to be along for the ride. It just is.

    You may have an attitude of “good riddance” toward your future ex. But you are still going to be flooded with emotions surrounding the loss of your marriage.

    Even if you know in your heart that your marriage was unsalvageable, you will still grieve the loss of what you once believed would last forever.

    And that can be a shock when you are trying your best to be strong and move forward with your life.
  • Your kids are going to go through a major adjustment and may demonstrate behavioral changes.

    It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to realize that children whose parents are divorcing are going to suffer. Even if the divorce will put an end to a toxic home environment, children will experience it as an implosion of all they have known.

    Your relationship with your children is going to change, too. Depending on your final custody arrangement, you may see them only half-time after the divorce.

    As resilient as kids are, they also thrive on consistency, dependability, and safety. They will now have to navigate two homes and potentially other changes like new schools and new rules.

    It stands to reason that your own journey through grief will be accompanied by theirs.

When your focus is (understandably) How hard is life after divorce?, you can easily overlook all the potential good in your new life.

You may not believe you have control over the outcomes of divorce. But you have more control – at least more influence – than you would imagine.

Life as you know it may no longer exist. But divorces don’t happen unless “life as you know it” isn’t serving you. 

You may have to say good-bye to many things you loved. But you will now have the opportunity to create life on your terms.

People may exit your life – suddenly or over time. But that choice is about them. It’s about where they are in their lives, just as your divorce is about where you are in yours.

When you learn to thank people for their roles in your life and then bless them on their way – even if only in your heart – your life opens to receiving. You will be amazed by the friends who come into your life – at just the right time, in just the right way.

Your finances and lifestyle may seem like hardships in your post-divorce life. But you always have the option to embrace a perspective of both appreciation and opportunity.

What feels like a step backward may actually be an opportunity to “step back” – to focus on what matters most in your life. It may also be an opportunity to take chances toward your personal dreams that you may have otherwise deferred to your marriage.

Grief, as unwelcome a companion as it may seem, actually has your highest good at heart. It is, for all its complexity and predictable unpredictability, an agent of cleansing, clarity, and resurrection. 

It gives you a safe place to engage the struggle of loss and come out the other side, miraculously resilient and resolute.

And your children, for all they add to your decision-making and worry, will prove to be your greatest gift. They will be your mirror, your compass, your motivation, and your inspiration for new and enduring rituals.

Life after divorce may be hard. But its promise is always waiting to be embraced.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a divorce and life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can begin living your happy life.

Looking for more information about rebuilding your life after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life after Divorce.

Can An Unhappy Marriage Be Saved? This Is How You Can Tell

Gray cement trashcan with a red heart painted on it.

When the color in your marriage fades to shades of gray, is your marriage lost forever? When you and your spouse can’t even agree to disagree, can you ever find your way back to the same vision? Can an unhappy marriage be saved when the memory of happiness seems to have evaporated?

If all you want is a yes-or-no answer to the question of an unhappy marriage’s salvageability, you can stop reading here. The answer, of course, is yes.

But that assumes a black-and-white definition of “saving a marriage.”

If your goal is to keep your marriage certificate in one piece and your assets under one roof, you can “save” your marriage on sheer determination alone.

But marriage, like life expectancy, has evolved over the years. 

There was a time when roles were clear-cut and families were built around survival functionality. And most people didn’t live long enough to reap the benefits of a 401(k) or dream about a four-decade retirement.

Today, however, the expectations for marriage have evolved, deepened, and become more complex. People in love with love want the whole enchilada.

Lifestyle, children, security – those are just the basics. People want intimacy. Not just the obvious physical intimacy, but emotional intimacy, too.

They not only want, but expect, marriage to be a source of happiness. If nothing else, it shouldn’t threaten or diminish their happiness.

So asking the question Can an unhappy marriage be saved? has to take into consideration the very concept – and expectation – of happiness.

It also has to take into consideration the concept of unhappiness, both personal and relational. After all, being in a committed relationship can cause a lot of blurring of lines. What belongs to you? What belongs to your spouse? What belongs to the marriage? 

Unblurring the lines is an important part of evaluating the salvageability of your marriage. Otherwise, healthy boundaries bleed into blame and an inability to effect change. 

Accepting “yes” as a short-read answer to a question like Can an unhappy marriage be saved? will leave you none the wiser. So many factors play into the final verdict, including two very important questions: 

  • Should an unhappy marriage be saved?
  • Should this unhappy marriage be saved?

There are, for example, signs that a marriage can’t be saved. Things like physical/emotional/sexual/financial abuse, untreated addiction, constant criticism, financial irresponsibility, infidelity, and lack of intimacy top the list.

However, we all know of people who have stayed in marriages riddled with one or some of these examples. So it’s probably better to call them “signs that a marriage shouldn’t be saved.”

After all, sometimes people “don’t know any differently.” Either they have never been happy, and they perpetuated their norm by marrying someone equally unhappy…or the emergence into discontent was so slow they never recognized it.

Of course, if you embrace the broader meaning of marriage, then saving that marriage under these circumstances will most likely prove impossible.

The relationship between marriage and happiness is more far-reaching and determinative than simply being married and either happy or unhappy. Marital happiness has a direct relationship with the physical and mental health of those in the marriage.

This is one pragmatic reason that some people may believe an unhappy marriage is best resolved with a divorce. Is it worth the progressive deterioration in quality of life to stay in an unhappy marriage?

But what if you’re not so sure? What if you’re asking about the potential to save your marriage because you haven’t yet done the work to try and save it? 

What if, perhaps, what registers as unhappiness is the result of both of you getting lazy in your marriage? What if you feel the absence of joy in your life, but don’t know what an unhappy marriage looks like?

Knowing that something isn’t right but not knowing how to fix it isn’t in and of itself a failure. And it’s not an indication that you should throw in the towel.

When it comes to marriage, however, you’re dealing with three deciding entities: you, your spouse, and your marriage. And the third entity needs both the others to show up in order to survive.

Feeling unhappy is a difficult state in which to put forth your best effort, especially when your spouse may not be so motivated.

But, if your marriage hasn’t fallen into the death trap of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling, there’s hope.

Perhaps your sex life has faded into memory. Perhaps your communication is awkward, agitated, or barely existent. Perhaps the two of you are working through an infidelity, or one of you fantasizes about a life without the other.

These are all typical players in an unhappy marriage.

But they don’t have to drop the final curtain on your marriage.

As difficult as it is when you’re “just not feeling it,” this is the moment for a fearless, honest reality check.

Do you believe there’s still love between the two of you? Do you both still want what’s best for one another, even if you don’t know how to make it happen?

Are you willing to look at yourself and your own contributions to the unhappiness in your marriage? Is your spouse willing to take the same risk?

Do you honestly believe that being alone or with someone else would change your state of unhappiness?

Are you willing and able to identify the negativity (even by omission) that you both bring to your marriage? It shows up not simply in what you say, but how you say it. It’s felt by what should be said but isn’t, what should be done but isn’t.

The acknowledgment of and accountability for negativity is critical for saving a marriage in its broadest, most fulfilling sense. 

Why? Because negativity has a way of devouring positivity. It’s not a 1:1 ratio of effect. In fact, it’s more like 5:1. 

What John Gottman calls the Magic Relationship Ratio is a 5:1 need for positive interactions and feelings for every negative interaction and feeling.

If communication is at the heart of your unhappiness, you may not even be aware of the amount of negativity flooding your relationship.

Likewise, you may not be aware of how “little” the positive additions need to be. 

Expressing curiosity, being interested, showing appreciation, looking for opportunities to agree, expressing affection. Sound familiar?

These are the infusions into a relationship that make it grow in the first place. And they were most likely natural and easy when you were dating.

They are also the infusions that make a relationship last.

This, then, is the time to become students of love again. This is the time to put love above ego, seek wise counsel from professionals, and learn the keys for fixing an unhappy marriage.

Can an unhappy marriage be saved? 

If the agony of knowing the work that lies ahead is exceeded by the knowledge of what must and can be done…

…well, you know the rest.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach. I help people, just like you, who are struggling with an unhappy or even miserable marriage. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know.” And if you’re curious about working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.

7 Advantages Of Being Self-Aware In The Workplace

People having fun and laughing while working together.

Does raw, “IQ” intelligence override the need for being self-aware? In the workplace, especially, self-awareness may seem like a bonus quality best sequestered to one’s lunch hour or after-work self-development reading.

On the surface, intelligence appears recognizable and measurable by degrees and “quotients.” A diploma from a well-reputed university, coupled with a high IQ, reads impressively on a resumé or CV at first glance. 

But education, reasoning, and processing speed don’t tell the whole story. Nor do they suffice for success. 

Intelligence is incomplete without emotional intelligence. And self-awareness is at the heart of this soft skill that is present at a high level in 90% of top performers.

But what is it about being self-aware in the workplace that’s so advantageous to its people…and its bottom line?

Your IQ (intelligence quotient) is a measure of what psychologists call fluid and crystallized intelligence. In a nutshell, it measures your reasoning and problem-solving skills by analyzing your visual, mathematical, and language abilities. It also analyzes your memory and information-processing speed.

Imagine a Mensa conference full of Sheldon Coopers tossing around complex theories and manipulating quantum data at lightning speed. (Scary visual, but someone has to organize all those 0’s and 1’s to run the next generation of your iPhone.)

What makes that hypothetical so uncomfortable for most of us is the unrelatability of it – and of the geniuses in it. 

What about the emotional side of things? Is the universe really that “binary” and formulaic?

This is where emotional intelligence (EQ) comes in with its own Big Bang Theory and big-bang impact on the workplace and on life.

Yes, understanding quantum physics by the age of four may be a good predictor of future contributions to civilization. But it’s not sufficient to predict success in relationships, nor the kind of flexibility at the heart of adaptability and change.

It also doesn’t guarantee an ability to read and navigate emotions, nor to respond appropriately to others.

Depending on the specific test, a high IQ may be more indicative of a regurgitative memory and good test-taking skills.

While IQ and EQ aren’t mutually exclusive, they’re not necessarily mutually aligned, either. 

Being self-aware – in the workplace, in personal relationships, even in solitude – is the “fourth dimension” to raw intelligence. It’s the “exponential” quality that fills everything out, gives it meaning and relevance, and adds the context of emotion.

In our rapidly evolving technological world, self-awareness is the essential difference between robots and humans. (And even that distinction is being tampered with.)

So why is it that great leadership in any area of life requires self-awareness? What is it about self-awareness in the workplace that can be the difference between profit and loss? Retention and a revolving door? Breaking new ground and getting buried by the competition?

Here are 7 advantages to being self-aware in the workplace:

  1. By knowing and understanding yourself, you have the ability to know and understand others.

    Have you ever had a boss who was quick to judge, quick to anger, and quick to make assumptions? You probably tread lightly because “bedside manner” wasn’t their strong suit. 

    And yet, this was the person sitting in the office-with-a-view, rubbing elbows with power and big dollars, and controlling your life.

    Chances are they weren’t very self-aware.

    Great leaders don’t operate that way. 

    By first allowing yourself to feel your emotions and then risking the discomfort of understanding them, you can better control and communicate them.

    And, when you operate from that vantage point, you are better able to recognize emotional patterns and expressions in others.

    Only then can you express empathy, support, patience, guidance, and other leadership qualities at the appropriate and warranted times.

    This is the foundation to how being self-aware improves communication and relationships, both in and out of the workplace.

  2. Knowing yourelf gives you clarity (and honesty) about your strengths and weaknesses.

    Humility is a virtue, and virtue is about strength, not weakness. It allows you to make an honest appraisal of yourself – specifically your strengths and weaknesses. 

    Knowing what you are good at – and acknowledging it – is your first superpower.

    Knowing what you’re not good at – and acknowledging it – is your second.

    When you can apply objectivity to your performance and abilities, you build a clear and genuine confidence. “I do ‘this’ really well, and I know I can take risks in this area to create new products/solutions that will benefit the whole company.”

    Likewise, an objective assessment of your weaknesses is actually a benefit to you and your workplace. 

    For one thing, it keeps you honest. Instead of pretending you can do everything with expertise, you can now apply your strengths with expertise. And you can open yourself to learning from experts in your areas of weakness.

    Honesty about strengths and weaknesses also allows better team-building in the workplace. 

    Did you know that employees actually perform better and are more engaged in their work when they are assigned strength-focused tasks?

  3. Knowing how to stategize your own strengths and weaknesses gives others permission to do the same.

    It just makes sense. When you are humble enough to acknowledge that you can’t do everything well (Who can?), you deliver an empowering message: I am so confident in what I do well that I don’t have a problem letting go of what I don’t do well. I am also confident – and humble – enough to learn from others.

    Having self-awareness in the workplace makes for more genuine interactions and efficiency. When employees can work on developing their strengths, they’re happier, feel a greater sense of contribution, and are more confident.

    And that kind of energy is contagious…and profitable.

  4. You more readily admit (and correct) your mistakes, making it easier for others to do the same.

    Self-aware people own up to their mistakes. They trust themselves – and they trust their strengths – to learn from and correct their mistakes.

    If you’ve already earned the reputation of being a self-aware, trustworthy, inspiring influencer, those around you are looking up to you. And they’re inclined to model their own behavior after yours. 

    It takes humility and vulnerability to admit your mistakes. And it takes courage and discipline to correct them. 

    These attributes don’t belong to the unaware. They belong solely to the self-aware.

  5. Being self-aware in the workplace allows you to build a more complete and competent team.

    Why should you beat your head against a wall trying to prove yourself at a skill that isn’t your strong suit? And why should your colleagues do the same?

    Part of feeling gratified with your work is believing you have the opportunity to become your best self.

    And part of feeling satisfied and motivated in the workplace is having the assurance that you and your co-workers are bringing all your unique skills to the same vision.

    Imagine what your workplace could look like if everyone were recognized for his/her unique skill sets, interests, and personality types, and were given tasks accordingly?

    Everyone just might come out with a Super Bowl ring!

  6. You are better able to read body language and facial expressions.

    A big part of becoming self-aware is making connections between your emotions, thoughts, and sensory experiences and the way you express them.

    When you begin to recognize patterns in your behavior as extensions of your interior reality, you inevitably learn to read others, as well.

    Having self-awareness in the workplace makes you a valuable asset because your own honesty helps you recognize honesty (or dishonesty) in others.

    You will also be quick to recognize other emotions like frustration, confusion, anger, embarrassment, boredom, and disappointment. 

    Someone capable of tapping into another’s emotions – often to that person’s surprise – has the ability to “disarm” situations. 

    The natural ability to resolve conflict and mediate tension among co-workers to a positive resolution is a remarkable and valuable leadership skill.

  7. Everyone feels less stressed and has more fun.

    Having a hefty title doesn’t guarantee leadership skills. And it’s not necessarily a sign of being self-aware in the workplace.

    Most of us have worked for a company or individual that hands out stress and insensitivity as a Christmas bonus. If it weren’t for the mouths you have to feed, the mortgage you have to pay, the retirement you can’t afford to lose, you probably wouldn’t stay.

    Even a little dose of self-awareness can go a long way toward building and inspiring a happy work environment. 

    When hard work is softened by kindness, empathy, creativity, humility, honesty, openness, humor, confidence, talent-sharing, and camaraderie, great things can be accomplished. (And people want to stick around.)

There may be no better example of the power of being self-aware in the workplace than the story of a poor immigrant from Scotland.

He came to the US with his family in 1848, at the impressionable age of 13, and took a factory job for $1.20/wk. 

Half a century later, Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America.

He had no knowledge of steel. But he developed an entire industry around it by surrounding himself with people who did.

Carnegie collaborated with a journalist named Napoleon Hill to document and share with the world the keys to his success. You may recognize this influential work as Think and Grow Rich.

In this now iconic book, Carnegie credits all his wealth, all his success, to one principle: the Master Mind.

As you read Hill’s definition of the Master Mind, listen to it in the context of all you have just read about self-awareness. 

“Coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”

The Master Mind is the quintessential model for a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

And this beautiful synchronicity, this explosion of aptitude in the interest of a common goal, germinates in self-awareness.

No one gets to the moon alone. And only a few ever set foot on it. 

We onlookers see a rocket, astronauts, and awe-inspiring photos as we take a vicarious journey.

But thousands of visionaries set that journey into motion because they first took a journey within.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing your self-awareness so you can become more you in every facet of your life.

Looking for more information about how you better know and accept yourself? You’ll find what you’re looking for in How To Be More Self-Aware.