Common Red Flags That Can Signal a Marriage Breakdown

People often say that they should have seen the signs of a deteriorating marriage sooner. It’s hard to notice subtle changes in everyday behavior, though, but you might notice persistent behaviors that just don’t quite add up. We combed many sources and found several recurring themes on this topic. Here are a few common red flags that can signal a marriage breakdown.


Abusive Behavior

Whether it is physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual, abuse is abuse. Don’t talk yourself into believing it is okay to be treated this way. Heed the red flag and take steps to get out of this relationship. See our article, Counselors, Social Workers, Psychiatrists to give you an idea of the type of help that is available in different circumstances, and schedule a consultation with us here at Findling Law to learn what protections may be available to you in these circumstances.

Trouble Letting Go of Past Relationship(s)

Your spouse or partner may have had romantic, business, or friend relationships in the past that just never seemed to have been resolved or come to a conclusion. This could include a boyfriend/girlfriend/ex-spouse that just keeps resurfacing, a friend with some bad traits, questionable business activities, or even illegal ones. If this stuff is following them week after week, month after month, then heed the red flag that it is. It will continue to hang over both of your heads and impact your relationship and your future, leading to a marriage breakdown.


Many times, infidelity in a marriage takes time to uncover. One spouse is denying it could be happening, while the other spouse is getting away with it. No one wants to admit that their spouse could be cheating on them. It’s much easier to tell yourself that you’re overreacting or that there is an explanation for all the little signals you’ve been picking up. Those little signals are red flags. If it feels wrong, it probably is.

Unpredictable Behavior

We’ll use this as a general category that sums up all behaviors that are outside the norm of the average person. It can include having trouble staying on task or within a schedule, doing all the normal activities of adulting like paying the bills, keeping food in the fridge, and the gas gauge needle off the E. In this case, you need to be prepared to pick up the slack and possibly even do some teaching/coaching/coaxing. Remember that people don’t change because you want them to – they change when they want to. And some never do. There goes the red flag.

Your Friends, Family, or Co-workers All See What You Don’t
When many people in your world tell you that this person isn’t right for you, that’s a red flag. If it’s just one person, well, we chalk those things up to personalities that don’t align. If many people are telling you the same thing, it’s time to hear what they are saying and analyze the situation objectively.

Demanding Your Passwords

If you and your partner want to exchange your passwords for your social media, phone, and other protected items, that’s fine. A lot of couples do that. But, when it is demanded of you, possibly with consequences if you don’t turn them over, then that might be a red flag. Are you not seen as trustworthy by your partner? Do they need that control over you? Are they jealous of your relationships with other people? What is behind this requirement and what will be done with the information? When turning over you passwords is required, that’s a red flag.

Not Every Flag is Red

None of these so-called red flags are necessarily red flags in and of themselves in every relationship. People are unique and some individuals are just more open and communicative than others, for example, without there being an underlying motivator. In other cases, people try hard to overcome their issues and make progress in baby steps. That’s different from the type of persistent, questionable behavior we’re talking about here.

There are other potential signals that we haven’t talked about here that might be red flags in your marriage and there are many places to read more about this topic, from academic journals to grocery store mags and everything in between. Read more here in an article in Psychology Today, or read here for a list of 25 from SELF magazine. These could give you something to think about as you weigh the circumstances in your relationship. When in doubt, schedule a confidential consultation with your Findling Law attorney [CONTACT LINK] to help you better understand the legal position you’re in and what your options may be.

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I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades.  The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.

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By:  Daniel Findling


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