What are the warning signs that your relationship is in trouble?
Some people worry about this sort of thing all the time, while other people hardly ever think about it, depending on their personality. If you’re worried that things are getting rocky, here are some signs to look out for and ways to help improve your relationship.
Just the fact that you’re asking whether your relationship could be in trouble is a good sign. It shows you’re concerned and you’re paying attention.
Too many people just cruise along on autopilot, paying attention to nothing, and then are blindsided when their partner dumps them, or says, “I want a divorce.” Trust me, it happens often.
The most important way to know if your relationship is in trouble is to ask yourself. Trust your own instincts. Human beings are very perceptive about subtle, subconscious cues, and often we get a “gut feeling” about something without even knowing exactly why.
What’s your gut feeling about your relationship? That’s a good thing to do some writing about. Every morning for a week, just take five minutes to scribble down your feelings and impressions about how your relationship is going.
Write positive and negative things, whatever comes into your head. You don’t have to save these bits of paper – write and then throw them away. The writing process is just to help you become aware of your own ideas.
You know your own relationship better than anyone else, so if something is broken in it and needs mending, you’re the best person to figure out what it is and fix it.
Here are some of the most common warning signs that indicate trouble ahead.
I’ve yet to meet a couple who don’t fight sometimes. Depending on the particular personalities of the people in a relationship, fighting can even be a common, normal thing. Some people just like to argue.
But what kind of fighting is it? How common, how nasty? Arguing about whether to go out on a Saturday night or stay home is one thing. That could happen to anyone. But if the same, chronic problems keep coming up during the fights, that’s a warning sign. Do you argue every Saturday night about whether to go out or stay in? Is the argument so predictable that you could write the script for both you and your partner even before it begins?
That kind of fighting means you keep returning to the same issue because neither of you feel you’ve resolved it.
Letting an issue like this fester can cause more serious problems down the line. For example, you’ll be having a minor argument about washing the dishes and one of you will shout, “And you never want to go out on Saturday night, either!”
The best way to resolve the issues that lead to chronic arguments is to talk them out. If you and your partner can’t sit down and have an honest, heart-to-heart conversation about something, then that’s a problem.
If you really can’t talk about those issues without fighting, then it’s a good idea to seek help from a professional counsellor or therapist, who will teach you how to talk and act as a referee to keep you safe and on track.
If you and your partner don’t know how the other person is feeling, that can be a sign of trouble. How does your partner feel about their job? What are their dreams, either for their career or personally? What are they looking forward to or dreading over the next week, month, or year?
You should build a way into your relationship to check in with each other about how life is going. I suggest taking time to talk while the other person just listens. This is a good thing to do in the car while you’re driving somewhere, or at meals. If your intimate partner is a mystery to you, that’s something you should change.
Too Much Time Apart
We’re all of us busy people, and once we’re in a relationship for a while we can get lazy and go on cruise control. Especially after marriage and children, our lives can get so hectic we feel like we hardly ever see our partner, what with taking kids to school and sports practice, helping them with their homework, and so on.
If you are worried that you and your partner don’t have enough time together, then take some steps to change that. Drifting apart like this is a common problem that leads to breakups.
Be conscious about scheduling alone time with your partner – get someone to watch the kids and go out to a restaurant, or even on a walk around the neighbourhood. You can have a wonderful conversation just walking somewhere together.
Lack of Intimacy
Too many people think intimacy means “sex.” But true intimacy is different from sex. And while good, healthy, loving sex can be a great way to stay connected to your partner, too often sex becomes a barrier to intimacy.
Couples think that “because we still have sex regularly, our relationship is great.” Don’t fall into this trap. Don’t let sex become an excuse to stop paying attention to your relationship. Real intimacy takes work – it means communicating with your partner (see “Emotional distance” above) honestly and regularly. It means expressing love for them often. You’d be surprised to know how many couples even forget to just say they love each other every day!
How do you communicate your love to your partner? And how do they communicate their feelings to you?
True intimacy comes from staying connected to your partner, which means really talking to them and really listening when they talk. It means expressing your affection and love for you partner with words, body language (pay attention when they’re talking), touch, and so on.
Give your partner a hug. Hold their hand. Kiss them. Snuggle up to them on the couch or in bed. These little gestures are good for both of you. And if you haven’t been having sex for a while, touching and being close to your partner, telling them you love them, is a great way to fix that problem.
Your natural expressions of affection and tenderness will lead you back to bed together if you let them.