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Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's plans to divorce took the world by surprise —if six kids, amazing careers, philanthropic work and international fame can't make for a long-lasting couple or prevent "irreconcilable differences", what can?
Of course, it is possible to get a fractured relationship back on track — that's why it's important to recognize the signs.
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How can you know if you're in a marriage that's 'going south' towards divorce? Here are nine key signs that it may be time to get some relationship help:
1. You are not happy
When you're in a good relationship, most of the time, you are happy. Every couple has disagreements and fights — but the majority of the time things are peaceful.
Is your partner unreliable, shut-down, critical or hostile most of the time? Or, do you feel like your partner is unresponsive, lazy, incompetent and you can't see eye to eye? Being unhappy is a clear sign that this isn't good anymore.
2. Most of your interactions are not positive
Happy couples have an interaction ratio of 20:1 — that's 20 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction, according to marriage researcher John Gottman. Conflicted couples have a ratio of 5:1, and couples nearing divorce are .8:1, or practically equal number of negative to positive interactions.
If you are more negative than positive over a long period of time with no improvement in sight, this is not a good sign.
3. You find reasons to avoid your partner
When you get home from work and see your partner's car outside the house, do you sit in the car and avoid going inside? Do you find yourself wanting to hang out with your friends or family more? This can be a sign that things have changed on your end in an big way.
4. Your friends or family urge you to end the relationship
If many of your friends or family members don't like your partner and tell you to break up (and that you'll be better off) — pay attention! Those closest to you want the best for you, and may be able to see things clearly even when you can't.
5. Your instincts are telling you to get out
If your stomach is always in a knot, it may be your gut instinct talking to you. If your gut says you should go, and you're not sure, check in with your close friends or loved ones, or with an expert or therapist who can help you weigh the pros and cons.
6. You live like roommates
Maybe he sleeps in one room, you sleep in another room. You're hardly bothered when he comes home from a long trip and barely acknowledge each other. You live separate lives, and you're both more than OK with that kind of existence.
7. Everything is hard
Nearly every interaction feels like a chore or is painful. Whether it's what to feed the kids for breakfast, or who needs to have another boys' weekend — everything is difficult and dramatic. The conversations are provocative, painful, heated or even abusive.
8. One or both have changed values or priorities
In good relationships, couples value the same 'big' things. Over time, people can change, and what they once valued, they don't anymore.
One partner may feverishly take up a new religion or lifestyle which forces a new way of life upon the partner. One partner wants to move across the country for a job opportunity, and the other wants to stay back for their own career.
Unless both people can adapt to significant changes like this, it can be a tough one to surmount.
9. There is a sudden change in behavior
When one partner suddenly drops lots of weight and takes a renewed interest in their appearance, and maybe starts spending a lot of time away from home, there could be an 'outside reason' for this.
If they start ignoring you or even start wanting LOTS more sex, it could be a sign that something (or someone) else is in the picture. A new sexual partner can heighten sexual arousal — even back in their own beds.
If you have more than 2-3 signs:
Can you imagine another 50 years with this person? What does that life look like?
Breaking up a marriage can be one of the hardest things to do — but think long term.
If you have a pit in your stomach after reading this, it may be time for some kind of action.
It could mean setting time aside to sit down and openly talk to your partner about your feelings, going to counseling or maybe even starting the separation process. Living unhappily is not necessary and there is usually a light at the end of every tunnel —if you look hard enough.
Dating coach Bela Gandhi is the founder and president of Smart Dating Academy (www.smartdatingacademy.com)