I’m gonna be direct and get right to the point. When men – especially bread-winning fathers aged 35-50 – are experiencing a subtle but very dangerous decline in their relationship health, they display three very specific symptoms of imminent marriage danger.
I’ve come to recognize these three warning signs as dead giveaways that a man’s marriage or long-term relationship is in grave and imminent danger. These men are headed for serious trouble.
Learning to recognize them early can prevent affairs, separation, and divorce.
Early Warning Sign #1: Feeling deeply unappreciated
This first warning sign that a marriage is in danger begins as committed men start muttering mantras that begin to betray their burgeoning feelings of being deeply unappreciated.
What kind of mantras?
Internalized messages that they are “just” valued for being a provider, protector, and transporter.
This shows up in statements like:
- “I feel like all I am to you is an ATM”
- “I’m tired of just being your cash machine”
- “I feel like I’m just a security guard”
- “I’m tired of feeling like I’m just an Uber driver for my kids”
- “You always seem to find the ONE thing or defect in everything I do!”
Sometimes the statements are in other more generic forms like:
- “I’m tired of you always…”
- “You never…. and I’m sick of it!”
These repetitive statements start first within a man’s mind before they materialize into outbursts to partners and children and others around them.
In their mind, the “issue” is that no one seems to notice or appreciate their hard work, dedication, robust DIY skills, economic prowess, recent raise or promotion, and more.
The reality? Sometime along their journey they stopped appreciating themselves for who they are and began valuing themselves merely for what they do.
Because their sense of worth is anchored to the moving target of how well they perform, they’re perpetually exhausted. They must continue to conquer, achieve, and dominate life in order to feel worthy of love. This is extremely dangerous to a marriage.
Unfortunately, they can’t seem to find the magic amount of “doing” to finally feel loved and appreciated. These men feel unseen, unknown… and unloved.
As men who don’t feel seen, understood, or loved – their own skills for seeing, understanding, and loving their female partners quickly dissolve. They become relationally impotent and to their female partners, just one more child that needs nurturing soothing “mommy energy”.
Unfortunately, it is often at least two years of a man being this way before he notices the changes in her. He begins to wonder why she is a cold and disinterested disposition toward him.
She on the other hand is already well on her way to getting over him. She’s spent the last two years concluding he’s incapable of being the strong and resilient man she thought and hoped he was.
Brother, if you’ve been feeling these deep feelings of not being appreciated, seen, or understood for more than a year, the chances of your wife being just about over it are very high!
Early Warning Sign #2: Putting himself last in how he spends time and money
Many men, especially fathers, begin denying themselves of time, finances, friends, and experiences. They do so “for the sake of the family” – so they think. They always think this level of dedication to being a provider and protector is virtuous, noble, and loving.
Turns out, it’s not.
It’s just an exhausting and depleting effort to earn the appreciation, love, and respect from others that a man has never learned, or has forgotten how to give himself.
To be clear, these kind and generous and easy-going men deeply love their wives and kids and would do anything for them! They’re usually the most dedicated fathers – the kind virtually everybody praises and looks up to.
They’ve never physically harmed their partner and few have ever even called them a bad name. To everyone else, they’re role models, leaders in the community, church, or civic club. They’re highly-esteemed, highly-qualified professionals and most often, men with impeccable standards.
Nevertheless, these same men, in their dedication to their wives and children have slowly forgotten who they were before marriage. Before kids. Somewhere along the journey, they lost their sense of individual identity, their mission, and clarity about their personal value, worth, and significance.
The family man who puts himself last remains last and endangers his marriage
Their entire mission in life has become their family.
Such men are the most common men I work with soon after they experience the worst days of their lives.
I meet them Just days or weeks after the shell-shocking revelations that their wife is “no longer in love with them” or “needs space” or “needs to find herself”.
Or even worse, they stumble upon messages with heart emojis and “I love you too” messages on their partner’s phone.
It’s quite simple. No one can value a man more than he values himself. His own view of self is the ceiling of his experience of others. Men that put themselves last to show love do not succeed. They merely show others they themselves don’t matter.
This is especially prevalent in men from religious, faith, or spiritual backgrounds. The men often fail to make a distinction between “being last” and “going last”.
They misunderstand humility as being a low view of self instead of being a high view of self and from that high view, relinquishing some of the benefits that come with it. Humility is meaningless without a high regard for self. Loving a neighbor (or child) as you love yourself is also meaningless if the love shown to self is minimal.
Early Warning Sign #3: Feelings of living in a perpetual Groundhog Day
When a man has lived long enough in a season of sacrificing himself on the altar of pleasing others, he begins to ask himself a lot of deep questions.
“Is this all there is?”
“Isn’t there more to life than this?”
“Do I exist just to go run around, perpetually busy, and to just go work every day?”
If he’s honest, these questions gnaw at him. They won’t leave him alone.
Unfortunately, most men have virtually no idea where to take these questions and the difficult emotions that accompany them. The same men are nearly always cut off from deep and loving relationships with other men. About 90% of them would recount growing up with an emotionally disconnected father, who perhaps was a good provider, faithful, but unable to relate to them at a soul-satisfying level that felt like true fathering.
Without this deep and loving connection with other men, these men tend to remain in an endless cycle of wanting more for themselves but having no idea how to get it. Every day feels like Groundhog Day because every day feels meaningless, directionless, and to most – connectionless.
These feelings, in a short amount of time, begin to metastasize into deep-seated unhappiness and discontent. Most men fail to see this as an internal conflict and begin to personify this conflict in their spouse. From there, these feelings of being disgruntled, disappointed, and disillusioned quickly escalate into deeper and deeper relationship struggles.
What do all these early warning signs indicate?
All these warning signs are subconscious indicators of the dangerous concoction of life-destroying, relationship crumbling cancers beginning to take root deep within a man’s soul.
Without intervention, these brewing frustrations do not go away but metastasize, spread in the relationship and wreak quick havoc as they become a fertile breeding ground for disconnection, sexlessness, emotional affairs, physical affairs, separation, and divorce.
What you can do to stop them
Inspect… your sense of self-worth
The man who wishes to have a great life, marriage, and family must begin with coming to a new understanding that he has value, worth, and significance and that he had these before a wife and family were ever on his mind or radar.
He must remember who is deep within and re-learn his identity as being founded upon not what he does, but who is. A man who otherwise calculates his sense of esteem, value, and worth based on what he does must always “do” in order to feel a sense of well-being. That is a bankrupt, fatiguing, and endlessly frustrating way to experience life. Click here to learn more about performance-based self esteem.
Protect… your heart, time, and sleep.
A man with a solid sense of self-worth must then begin to protect his heart from influences that would propel him back the slavery of a “doing” based self-worth. He must stop giving time and attention to these fruitless endeavors. As he gains clarity about his value and worth, he begins to see just how much time and energy he devotes to these pursuits in order to keep others happy with him, or to not “rock the boat” or to “avoid conflict”.
He must instead begin to see himself as worthy of the use of that time and begin to realize that without being and feeling like a valuable and worthy man, he can’t be a source of love for others because he’s trying to operate from a chronic deficit.
Sometimes, the most radically helpful way for a man to use time and make himself feel better is take a nap or get a good night’s rest. Many men fail to appreciate the cognitive “tax” they pay for not getting good sleep. Poor sleep and rest causes up to a 40% reduction in the ability to think clearly! Poorly rested men tend to struggle to lead themselves with clarity and calmness and become emotionally reactive instead. Protect your sleep like anything else valuable to you!
Connect… with other men!
“But I don’t relate to men easily and find women easier to relate to”. This a common refrain of men struggling with these warning signs. What they’ve not yet learned and realized is that they just haven’t found the right men.
Who are they? They are what some refer to as “initiated” men. These are men who’ve been invited upward into a deeper experience of a vibrant, healthy, connected, and deeply-loving masculine journey by men who have and continued to already experience this.
All men experience some form of initiating relationships, it’s just that many men do this through shallow, unhealthy, and at times toxic ways.
Where can you find such men? Look here.
Respect… yourself… enough to do something better!
Many men will invest heavily into a future they hope to experience when they’re old and yet hesitate to invest in how they live every day in between.
Ultimately, this is just his low regard for himself and his value rearing its’ head. A man that doesn’t value himself doesn’t invest his time and resources into his own life. Much of his anger and resentment is because he’s upset that others aren’t regarding him highly, showing him love, respect, appreciation, and admiration – yet, he lives his entire existence not knowing how to show himself these fundamentals.
All that can (and needs to) change. Where can you get such help? Look here.