Wedding officiants ― particularly those that do pre-marital counseling ― often get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a couple’s future marriage. And what they see is not always pretty.
Below, seven signs a marriage doesn’t have what it takes, according to officiants.
1. One partner is very judgmental of the other.
“When I conduct my premarital counseling, I can often detect a person being judgmental about some behavior or aspect of the personality of their spouse-to-be. The judgmental one figures that they will eventually change the other. The judged one assumes that the judging one will calm down. Perhaps that happens. Couples that seek help can often work this one through. The conflict is a symptom of the deeper issue; the unwillingness to accept in a deep and honoring way who the other person is. I always recommend: before you want to change someone, ask them if they sincerely want to change. If not, accept it or don’t get married. And to the other: if the other person does not stop with the criticizing, learn to set boundaries — kind, clear, firm and ruthless if need be — and if your boundaries are not respected, don’t get married.” ― Rabbi Mordecai Finley
2. The couple believes they are incomplete without one another.
“Psychologically, some people get caught up in a romanticized illusion that their partner ‘completes’ them. Thinking this indicates how ‘perfect’ they are for each other, the individual fails to recognize the negative message they are sending to themselves and to their partner. This tells the self, ‘I am not enough by myself. I need this other person to be happy’ and it gives the partner an unrealistic responsibility for the other’s well-being. I perceive this as a sign of great immaturity and personal insecurity. Unless the individual outgrows this perspective, it typically erodes the relationship as the partner eventually feels burdened with the responsibility of carrying this partner rather than having someone who stands beside him or her as an equal.” ― Judith Johnson, interfaith minister
3. One partner rationalizes the other’s odd behavior or comments.
“A bride once told me that she’d had a blowout argument with her fiancé, at the end of which he said, ‘You think you know everything about me, but you don’t.’ She wondered if this was a ‘red flag.’ I asked if she was curious as to what he’d meant, but she shrugged it off with, ‘Oh, that’s just him.’ Within a year she got pregnant and then learned what he had meant. He doesn’t like children and so he divorced her.” ― JP Reynolds, interfaith minister
4. Everything seems to come before the relationship.
“If your work, your family or your friends come before your relationship, that is a sign that something is terribly wrong. It’s totally understandable that some circumstances require more of us ― family illness, a project at work, a friend in need ― but when your attention to these matters becomes more the rule than the exception, you have to ask yourself what is going on and what are you avoiding. You are a unit, which doesn’t mean that you don’t have areas in your life without the other in it, but even a crisis such as a family illness could be addressed together. In the end, that will make you a stronger unit and build more intimacy.” ― Jeddah Vailakis, interfaith minister
5. The couple doesn’t have a partnership of equals.
“In a healthy partnership, both individuals feel emotionally safe to be themselves and both value each other’s point of view. Alternatively, when one partner has to ‘win’ and have his or her way every time, the other becomes shut down and silenced. As time goes on, the relationship becomes increasingly imbalanced and unfulfilling.” ― Judith Johnson
6. One partner has a sense of entitlement.
“During our introductory conversation, the bride shared that she had put her career on hold so as to help her fiancé go to law school. I was impressed, but then she said, ‘So now he owes me and he’s going to give me the wedding of my dreams.’ I asked the groom if he thought he ‘owed’ his fiancé anything. He looked blankly and said, ‘No.’ She got the wedding of her dreams, and he eventually got the divorce of his!” ― JP Reynolds
7. There is a lack of emotional and physical intimacy.
“Lack of intimacy ― both emotional and physical ― means that something has broken down along the way. If your best friend is not your partner, why is someone else getting the best of you? If physical intimacy is waning, that may be a sign of a lack of communication or that you’re holding on to resentments, which in the end will cause a greater divide between you. Plan dates with your partner ― many of them. Have fun with each other. Know that no matter what, you have one another. The emotional bond will lead to the physical intimacy.