In most cases, red flags appear fairly early on in a relationship that can signal eventual disaster if they’re not dealt with. In fact, most divorced couples report that one or both partners buried resentment and avoided dealing with their problems for years prior to their breakup.
A healthy relationship is built on trust and vulnerability which involves sharing your innermost feelings, thoughts, and wishes. It’s important to remember that all couples have perpetual problems and can develop tools to deal with them. It’s not so much conflict that breaks up their relationship but the lack of tools to repair it.
Let’s look at Kendra and Ryan a couple in their mid-forties who came to my office ready to throw in the towel because their arguments had escalated recently. Ryan reported, “Kendra and I argue constantly about everything from our two kids to money problems — a lot of issues are never dealt with. I just can’t seem to make her happy.” To this Kendra responded, “Yeah, I’ve been feeling alone and hurt. We don’t seem close anymore and rarely spend time having fun.”
Unfortunately, the common theme in Kendra’s and Ryan’s remarks is focusing on their mutual unhappiness and complaints rather than ways they can repair the relationship and their positive qualities.
Here are 8 warning signs your relationship is crumbling:
- You argue about the same things.
And you do it over and over (and over) again and never seem to clear the air. You both feel like you’re the loser and that you often have to defend your position and tend to point fingers at one another.
- You feel criticized and put down.
This leaves you feeling less than “good enough.” According to renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, criticism is one of the main reasons why marriages collapse.
- You have difficulty being vulnerable with your significant other.
Because you lack trust in your partner, you don’t feel comfortable being authentic. And when you do share your feelings, your worst fears are often actualized: you’re left regretting that you revealed your feelings and desires.
- One or both of you put your children or others first.
Many parents fall into the trap of putting their children first and the outcome is resentful, alienated parents and demanding, insecure children. Be sure to make time weekly to do something together, without your children or family members, and try being more physically affectionate to boost endorphins (the feel good hormone).
- You don’t enjoy each other’s friends or families.
So you begin socializing away from one another and drift apart. This may start out as an occasional weeknight out. But if not nipped in the bud, it can spill over into weekends — ideally when couples have an opportunity to spend time together.
- Your needs for sexual intimacy are vastly different and/or you rarely have sex.
Relationship expert Cathy Meyer writes, “Whether it is him or you that has lost interest, a lack of regular intimacy is a bad sign. Sex is the glue that binds; it is the way adults play and enjoy each other.”
- You and your partner have fallen into a pursuer-distancer dance.
This is one of the main causes of divorce according to Dr. John Gottman. This pattern is characterized by one person feeling a need to be closer while their partner attempts to withdraw physically, emotionally, and/or sexually. Over time, it erodes love and trust between you because you’ll lack the emotional and sexual intimacy that comes from being in harmony with each other.
- When you disagree, you seldom repair conflicts or ask for forgiveness.
You fall into the trap of blaming each other and fail to compromise or apologize. As a result, you experience less warmth and closeness.
What are the best ways to break the negative pattern of relating that can lead to the demise of your relationship? First of all, it’s important to become conscious of your expectations.
Remind yourself of your partner’s positive qualities — even as you grapple with their flaws — and express your positive feelings out loud several times each day. Search for common ground rather than insisting on getting your way when you have a disagreement. Listen to their point of view and avoid stonewalling, which is shutting yourself off from communication. Most importantly, give your partner the benefit of the doubt and try to remember what drew you to him or her in the first place.
The best way to create a relationship built on love, trust, and intimacy is to take responsibility for our own actions and to practice acceptance and compassion for our partner.
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry