The national divorce rate is often thrown around as a kind of inevitability, even though the fact you’re in a marriage means you’re always, however slowly, inching towards a divorce. This mindset keeps people trapped and can turn them off from ever trying to find happiness in marriage in the first place.

There is no shame in divorce, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure, or that the prior years were a waste, as much as it can feel that way when you two begin to grow apart. While none of these signs in isolation mean the papers are already with the attorney, together they show the sense of alienation and stagnation that often pre-empt separation.

You have felt alone, for a while

It can be easy to lose track of the fact that, despite sometimes spending 99% of your time with your spouse, they’re always there for you. Partners are often the first port of call for any emotional issues or life problems, and that holds after tying the knot. You should also want that to be the case! You should want to let your chosen partner be there for you.

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Couples who find themselves sliding towards some kind of separation often lose touch with this very fundamental concept. It snowballs gradually over time, and what started as a blip where you stopped communicating grows into longer periods of feeling emotionally dethatched. It adds an unseen but constant source of stress to the marriage until even solid foundations begin to buckle.

You stop being intimate

Married or not, a loss of intimacy in a relationship is worth paying attention to. Even the most likely explanation, that it’s a temporary blip caused by stress, is something worth discussing with your partner if only to reassure them that you understand and you’re there for them. In the instances where something deeper is at play, it can often spell doom.

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Intimacy is important for a relationship, yes, but it’s also important for our individual happiness. We do destructive and irrational things to feel some form of intimacy because going without it seems so daunting to us. One partner disconnecting from their source of intimacy, for whatever reason, means something at the core of the connection is missing. A marriage will not survive that unscathed.

You don’t make time for each other anymore

Ideally, you didn’t decide to get married just for the tax benefits. In the modern age, where marriage is largely divorced from the spiritual and societal weight it once had, we’re free to betroth our partners based on the only thing that matters; how much you love each other. People who love each other want to spend their time together.

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Life is compilated, and in something as long as a marriage, statistically, it’s going to get in the way of some quality time. In a loving and stable marriage, you both work to make up for that, you make sure you get the together time you deserve and you look forward to those new opportunities. Without that, you will gradually lose touch with why you’re together in the first place.

You stop communicating

While you don’t have to go as far as trauma bonding on the first date, most relationships are built on an immediate and continuing ease of conversation. Your partner becomes like a best friend, somebody you can recount the events of the day to, minor or major, and share the triumphs and failures of life with.

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It goes slightly beyond that, of course, a spouse has responsibilities to the relationship and themselves that a friend does not, but you should both still be able to at least talk to each other. If conversation, mundane or otherwise, feels tilted, dry, and lacking in affection, it could be a sign they are beginning to disconnect from you.

You lack a sense of independence

It’s common for people approaching the middle of their life to start feeling lost like they’re no longer sure of their place in the world. The dreaded mid-life crisis is one manifestation of this existential dread, but partners may also begin to project some of their insecurities onto each other. Without your sense of self, navigating the relationship seems impossible.

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Once those feelings start to fester, people will blame all sorts of things for holding them back, and their partner is simply the closest and easiest scapegoat. It’s important to maintain your mental well-being, not just so that you can be there for your partner when times get tough, but so you recognize when you’re in them too.

You aren’t saying “I love you” anymore

Is it any surprise divorce is so common when the two prevailing stereotypes for marriage are loveless and doomed? People will brand this approach as realistic as opposed to pessimistic, but there is nothing pre-determined about the fact you can and should love your spouse for the rest of your life, even in separation.

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It can seem silly and immature as an adult to require validation, but sometimes our insecurities never leave us, they just change how they manifest over time. A spouse can reaffirm their love in a great many ways, but the most simple, the three words, are an important part of that repertoire, and their absence isn’t a great sign.

You’re starting to argue more about small things

However well a couple works together, they will still find themselves having disagreements. Learning to pick your battles is a social skill you develop while co-habiting with anybody, and good restraint becomes much easier when living with somebody you love. That’s essential, as you want to reserve the big arguments for the things that really matter.

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If instead, the TV remote disappearing is enough to cause a rift between you two somehow, it’s a sign the love has been on life support for a while. Clearly it’s not about the controller, it’s another symptom of poor communication and the fact you’re bound to somebody you have some strong, unaddressed resentment towards.