All couples face trials and challenges, and some problems can seem so insurmountable that divorce seems to be the only solution. Marriage counselors observe, however, that the size of the problem is not the biggest sign that a marriage is about to end. Some couples manage to work things out (even something as grave as spousal infidelity); others are quicker to walk away.
So how do you know that your partner is interested in fixing things, or is about to throw in the towel? Counselors notice some behavioral patterns that indicate that someone has already become emotionally detached. This, they say, is the death knell of a marriage: in eesence, he’s given up.
Unwillingness to recognize the problem
Any problem can be solved, if you’re willing to confront it and to work on it. But if your partner believes that everything’s fine—that you’re either imagining the problem or making it bigger than it should be—then you’re not going to get anywhere. If he doesn’t admit there’s a problem, then he’s not going to change his behavior. And you’re just going to be frustrated, resentful, and eventually furious.
It’s important for the couple to see that what they do, or don’t do, will affect the relationship. If that doesn’t happen, the only choice open to you is to live with the problem, or to walk away.
Unwillingness to believe that things can be better
Your partner may see the problem, but doesn’t want to solve it. Maybe he thinks ‘it’s just the way I am/the way things are.’ He doesn’t really care if you are hurt, or if the relationship is on the rocks. He’s withdrawn emotional investment in the marriage. And sometimes, all the talking and sharing that goes into couples counseling just reveals that the other person knows the issue and how the other feels but that no longer matters to them.
Conflict of fundamental values or directions
Sometimes a couple can deeply care about each other but just seem to be going in different directions. You can have very different ideas of what you want for your lives, the values you care about, and the future you foresee for yourself and your family. For example, you may want to focus on your career and that means moving to another city with greater opportunities and chances of advancement. He, on the other hand, wants a quieter life with a wife who is content to stay home with the kids. It’s just not going to work. Nobody is wrong, but you just aren’t right—for each other.
To stay or to go
When couples reach this point of clarity—there is a deep problem, and no way around it—a difficult choice must be made. Marriage counselors say that no matter what happens, this is a turning point towards happiness. If you decide to work things out because your relationship is worth fighting for, then the two of you may even find deeper love and commitment. If you decide to end it, then both of you are free of a relationship that was pulling both of you down.