Learning to spot the signs your wife has checked out of the marriage early means you can react and take steps to regain her interest again. These are not immediate signs your marriage is over but it does mean you have to act quickly. So what do you look for and (more importantly) what do you do if you spot these signs?
Common signs include a widening emotional and/or physical distance, a lack of engagement in arguments or discussing the future and withdrawal or secretive behavior.
These signs can help you diagnose where your marriage currently is and what needs to be done next.
Example Signs Your Wife Has Checked Out of the Marriage
I always loved this question. Have you ever felt like your spouse is more of a roommate? That’s exactly what it feels like when your wife checks out of the marriage.
If you think your wife is checking out and you’d like to talk about it, let’s look at your marriage specifically. Take the marriage assessment quiz and we’ll look at how to get things back on track.
Spending Time Around You but Not With You
If you and your wife spend a lot of time in the same room, say the living room, but she never does things with you, she’s likely disengaged from the relationship. If she prefers reading emails or talking on her cell phone to chatting with you, there’s a problem.
Obviously, it’s perfectly normal to talk on your phone or through social media with other people and I do have a guide on how to tell if your wife is cheating on Facebook because there’s a whole different set of signs to look for there. I’m not saying that the moment one of you reaches for a phone it’s time to call a divorce lawyer but if she starts checking her phone the moment you want to talk to her – she’s emotionally checking out.
Not Including You in Plans
It’s perfectly normal for two married people to have their own interests, friends and activities but if it becomes a consistent pattern like she goes to something frequently and doesn’t include you on those plans without a good reason then it’s a warning sign.
If she’s deliberately excluding you it’s at best a red flag that she’s checked out of the marriage and at worst a sign she’s already moved on to someone else.
Doesn’t Ask or Doesn’t Listen
People are sick of listening to marriage advice drone on about communication skills – but it’s a cliche for a reason. If you really want to diagnose the condition of a marriage you need to diagnose the condition of a couple’s communication.
When I looked at questions to ask your spouse to save your marriage it wasn’t so much about what you asked as it was about creating an opportunity for open conversations. Making sure that your time together doesn’t get bogged down by day-to-day real-world issues and you’re still making time to talk to each other like you did when you were dating.
If you find that your conversations are only about the daily doings of everyday life — such as picking up the kids from school, what’s for dinner, etc., then your marriage is likely to be in serious trouble.
When someone has decided to give up on a relationship, they stop caring about their partner like they used to. They don’t ask how your day was, remark on it if you look tired, or ask how your family is.
You might get automatic conversations like:
“How are you?”
“Fine thanks, you?”
“How was work?”
This doesn’t count as a real conversation.
Not Interested in Sex or Going to Bed Separately
Your sex life in a marriage will ebb and flow over time but if she’s completely lost interest and is fine with a lack of passion it’s because she’s no longer invested in the two of you being intimate.
This can happen because you’ve done something short-term. People who have been hurt tend to avoid intimacy because it no longer feels safe so it might just be that you’ve hurt her feelings or done something else to cause a dry spell.
It’s not an immediate red flag in itself but in combination with other signs, it adds up.
Going to bed at different times can be a sign that she wants to avoid physical intimacy, but it’s also a way of avoiding conversation and emotional intimacy there. Again, once in a while is no big deal but if it becomes a trend, it becomes a problem.
Extra Critical of You, Your Family or Your Friends
Your wife may not be as tolerant of your friends and family as you are, but if she’s seizing every opportunity she can to complain about them, this behavior indicates that something is seriously amiss in your relationship.
Worse yet if she’s become extra critical of you.
It’s perfectly normal for married couples to annoy each other once in a while. That’s just a sign of being human more than anything else, but if it’s becoming increasingly more common then it’s a major sign she’s emotionally checked out.
Things she used to ignore or even like about you might start to annoy her and it may lead to arguments that seem blown way out of proportion.
Stopping Started or Responding to Arguments
This one is the opposite of the previous sign, I know. Starting fights by being over-critical is a problem but not caring enough to argue at all is also a problematic sign.
A little conflict is found in every relationship. There is such a thing as a good fight, and couples should have one of these from time to time. This will help to clear the air and give voice to your grievances. When marriage experts say things like ‘work on your communication skills’ part of that communication is always going to be in the form of arguments.
If your wife doesn’t engage in arguing anymore, it’s yet another indication that she is giving up on the relationship. She’s not invested enough to try and do anything about it anymore.
How to Save the Marriage When Your Wife has Checked Out
All of these things can be unsettling and intimidating, leaving you wondering if your marriage isn’t already damaged beyond repair. The more of these signs you see and the more extreme they are, the worse shape your marriage is in.
That said I’ve seen marriages come back from much worse than your wife emotionally checking out.
There’s a reason the two of you got together, to begin with. Underneath the day-to-day grind which has led to her pulling back, you’re both still the same people. The embers of that relationship are still there and as long as you are willing to fan those flames we can work to get you both back to being invested in the marriage.
We’ll cover some steps on how to get her engaged again but if you haven’t already seen it, I do suggest reading my full guide on how to save your marriage.
It Might Not Be Your Fault
But it almost might not be her fault either.
Perhaps both of you let the rest of the world get in the way of your relationship or perhaps one of you was at fault. It isn’t about playing the blame game or figuring out who did. It’s about figuring out what you need to do to get things back on track.
The goal is to get your wife checked back into the relationship so that she will be willing to work on saving the marriage.
Find Out Why They Disengaged
The first step to repairing your marriage is to get your partner to re-engage in the relationship, and that means trying to understand why they disengaged in the first place. Ask yourself why it is that your partner wants out. There has to be a reason why she gave up and simply shut down.
Now, here is where you have to be careful not to fall into the blame trap. You feel that your wife has abandoned you emotionally, and you want to share that feeling. You probably want to yell and blame her for hurting you. You want to tell her that her behavior is destroying your marriage.
Don’t give in to that particular temptation. Rather than losing your temper, confronting her, and attempting to assign blame, talk to your wife and try to understand why she has closed herself off to you.
Once you find out what has alienated your wife, then you can try and stop the damage, whether or not you agree with her version of the problem.
Break Down Barriers to Communication
Keep in mind that no one leaves a relationship arbitrarily. People don’t leave unless they believe there is something better to go to. So talk things over and get your spouse to tell you what you are doing wrong that’s making things go bad between the two of you.
The answer will probably hurt. It could be that you constantly want to talk about your relationship.
Perhaps your wife feels that you are being too critical of her, or that your expectations are too high.
On the other hand, it could be that you’re not giving enough thought to the relationship. Maybe you’re too involved in your job, or you’ve been spending too much time with your friends and not including her, or maybe you’ve been experiencing a personal problem and haven’t shared it with her. This could lead her to see you as too preoccupied with yourself and not caring about her needs.
The point of all this is to explain that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to curing a troubled marriage. You simply have to talk to your partner and find out what’s wrong. Then you can work on changing your behavior and fixing the situation.
What often happens is that many couples go down the wrong path while trying to talk things over. The husband wants to understand what his wife is feeling and thinking, and thus he will ask her to tell him.
The wife will state what the problem is, but the first thing the husband does is to justify, deny, or minimize the issue. In other words, he asked the right question but then isn’t open to the answer.
You have to sympathize with what your partner is feeling, whether or not you agree with them. It is essential that you are able to listen to what your wife is telling you without attempting to justify or excuse your own behavior.
Listen without trying to fix things, and above all don’t just brush the matter off as something that only exists in her mind. Until your wife is ready to work on repairing the relationship, you will not be able to change her point of view.
What you can do, however, is to make yourself be as kind and understanding as possible. If your partner really believes what she said about you and you’ve been blind to these feelings for a long time, give her empathy instead of protestations and anger. Tell her you’re sorry that she’s been feeling that way and that you were unaware of it.
If you can do this, things will change.
This is really true. A little understanding and empathy go a long way, and usually, once your wife knows that you are listening to her without being defensive or trying to reverse the blame and put it on her shoulders, she’ll soften towards you. She’ll be open to hearing your perspective on the situation.
It may be hard to do when you are bursting at the seams to get your own version of events out there, but spend a lot of time listening to your partner. Show her that you are genuinely sorry about what she’s been going through.
Remember, you aren’t showing regret for something you did not do, you’re showing it for what she has been through. Right or wrong, she is suffering and has been through significant emotional pain. That’s why you’ve been seeing signs your wife has checked out of the marriage.
Now it is time to ask if she is open to hearing your views on the subject. Most of the time she will say yes. That is how you get the dialogue rolling.
What Happens if She Doesn’t Listen?
I’ve seen cases where couples are able to get things back on track in a single session and some honest conversation but that isn’t the norm. Normally it’s going to take some consistent effort and she won’t immediately be invested again right away.
Depending on the history of your marriage she might not trust that this effort is going to last or she might not even want it to (yet).
The more you’re able to set your ego aside and the better you’re able to be consciously listening when you talk to her the sooner you’re going to see some actual change.