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When married couples drift apart: 'How to know if you should stay or go'

9Honey logo 9Honey 12/09/2017 Jo Abi

© Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Anyone who's been in a long-term relationship for ten years plus will understand when I say all marriage have their good years and their bad years.

The trick to staying married is to wait out the bad year, because it will come to an end.

If done right, by the time you reconnect, you'll be closer than you ever were before.

But that's easier said than done.

Clinical psychologist Kirstin Bouse says there's a big difference between an unhappy marriage and one that needs to end and it all comes down to early intervention.

It's expected that a couple will drift apart, but as long as they don't drift apart too far and for too long, the marriage can still return to a happy state.

"The drifting apart takes some time to reveal itself," Kirstin Bouse explains on this week's episode of Life Bites.

"It's not necessarily a single event like infidelity or anything like that. It's a far more subtle process."

Bouse says once one of you identifies the drift, it is possible to reconnect through a meaningful date night or just talking about what each of you wants out of life.

But, she warns couples not to leave it too long.

"If you don't catch it early then sometimes it's gone on for such a long time that when you do realise it, it's really really hard and sometimes impossible to go back.

"You finally have time to go out to dinner together but then you realise you are with a stranger."

Bouse says early signs to watch out for are:

  • Having a sense of not understanding your spouse
  • No shared interests anymore
  • No personal discussions about each other's lives

The psychologist says it's inevitable people will grow and change during their lives, particularly after they turn 30, but this doesn't have to be a deal-breaker.

"For a lot of people though, as they come into themselves and really work out what their priorities are in life and their value systems and that happening in those very late twenties and early thirties that's when the disconnect can start to grow apart," she says.

A date night is a good way to reconnect, as long as that date involves meaningful time together, Bouse says.

"A date night where you're really spending time together and really reconnecting again and talking about the things that matter - and also talking about the things that don't matter and having a few laughs and doing something fun together, it doesn't always have to be the heavy duty stuff - it's really really important."

For couples who still find themselves unhappy, it might be time to call it quits, which Bouse says, is a "highly personal decision".

"I think one really important thing is to know you have done everything you can to make it work.

"I certainly know that people who know they've turned every stone, particularly when there are children who are going to be affected by it, fair better with a decision to leave than people who rush out and leave without really feeling as though they've done everything the could to make it work."

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