If you think your partner is to blame for your relationship troubles, scroll through these 10 signs and ask yourself: Am I turning into the spouse from hell?
1. You have no humility. Instead of owning up to your flaws and admitting your role in conflict, you blame your partner for everything, even your poor behaviour. "Well, I wouldn't have to yell if you'd listen!"
2. You're a bully. You bark, name-call, swear, throw your weight around, insult, intimidate your spouse and/or kids, threaten and throw childish temper tantrums to get your own way. If you aren't already an abuser, you're on your way. Here's a prediction: your kids won't talk to you when they grow up.
3. You're a doormat. Instead of making changes to improve your life, you play the victim. Like the spouse with no humility, you blame your partner for everything, downplaying the fact that you allowed him or her to treat you a certain way once, twice, three times until it was a pattern in your relationship. You may say that you can't leave because "you love him/her too much." Or you may say that you're trapped, perhaps because of the children -- the same children, by the way, that you may have knowingly brought into a dysfunctional marriage and who now must endure an unhappy childhood with you and your spouse as role models.
4. You're deceptive. You lie about your whereabouts, who you're texting at midnight or how much you spent on your shopping spree. You may be unfaithful or betray your partner's trust in any number of ways, whether emotional, sexual or monetary.
5. You're an egomaniac. You're the classic know-it-all, and it's all about you and your needs. Anyone who doesn't agree with you is an idiot and you have no problem telling them so. You're smarter, more enlightened, better looking, harder working and cooler than anyone else. You're also out to lunch and people don't enjoy your company.
6. You've physically let yourself go. This isn't just an appearance complaint. Gaining excessive weight, smoking, drinking too much and being sedentary have serious health effects that can worry a partner. They also limit your activities and lifestyle, so that you and your spouse cannot live life to its fullest.
7. You have an untreated personality disorder, mental illness or past trauma. Marriage is hard enough without these types of challenges. You have a responsibility to yourself, your spouse and your kids to get professional help.
8. You withhold sex. Chances are, you had hot sex before or in the early days of marriage; however, now you're too tired, busy, distracted or uninterested. Well, here's a question: where do you expect your spouse to get it, if not from you? If you have relationship problems that are standing in the way of sexual intimacy, deal with them. If not, stop sexually rejecting your partner. It's mean.
9. You withold affection. Numbers eight and nine are often part of their own vicious little circle. "Why should I have sex with you when you don't show me affection?" vs. "Why should I show you affection when you don't have sex with me?" Wow, talk about a pissing contest. And a sure-fire way to run a marriage into the ground. Let me suggest a way to break the stalemate: start showing affection. It isn't rocket science. And don't say you're just "not the touchy-feely type." That's like bringing kids into the world and then saying you're just "not the parenting type." It isn't fair. Every relationship comes with expectations and obligations, and a spouse has a reasonable expectation to receive affection from his or her partner.
10. You're always negative. You find fault in everything. You interpret innocent, offhanded or even well-meaning statements or gestures in a negative way, often overreacting or making conflict out of nothing. You are usually light on accuracy and understanding, and heavy on judgment and assumption. Like a bully, you may have a short fuse. And while you may not throw your weight around in the same belligerent or dangerous way, you nonetheless have a knack of making those around you walk on eggshells for fear of setting you off. You're the person that other people cross the street to avoid.
While this list isn't exhaustive, it does highlight some of the more problematic behaviours that many of us show in marriage, at least to some extent and from time to time. Nobody's perfect and marriages go through their ups and downs. Sometimes, however, the behaviour sticks and worsens, and the marriage becomes a chronically miserable one. Life's too short for that, especially when help is available. There is couples' mediation, counselling or therapy, marriage-saving home programs and relationship guides.
Man up. Woman up. Own up. Stop putting others through the hell of living with your entrenched egoism, negativity, short fuse, blame, whatever. Look in the mirror and get help. You owe it to the people you have brought into your life. Who knows? Instead of avoiding you, your spouse and kids may begin to admire, adore and appreciate you. You may begin to enjoy all the benefits that marriage and family life have to offer. I guarantee that your life will be richer for it.