Warning signs to look out for in your relationship. While no relationship is perfect and couples can expect to have their fair share of conflicts, if issues are not resolved adequately, over time they can feel like insurmountable problems. Here are some warning signs signalling that a relationship is in trouble.
- Most arguments do not get resolved. Of course, most couples have issues that they return to over time for resolving at different levels of integration, but when key issues are not ever able to be resolved, the relationship is struggling.
- One or both partners feels like they need to “walk on eggshells” around sensitive issues. The need to avoid conflicts and protect oneself from further conflict signals a lack of safety in a relationship. Partners need to know what dangers are being avoided.
- One or both partners’ feel(s) unable to reach out to the other for emotional support. A romantic relationship devoid of emotional engagement is a relationship drained of any vitality. Being unable to trust one’s partner with emotional vulnerability is a clear sign of a relationship that is at risk.
- The partners find themselves spending less time together for no particular reason. It’s not that their schedules are incompatible or that one or the other has a period of excessive work demands or temporary obligations to family-of-origin members needing intensive help. Rather, for no good reason the partners choose to spend less time together. Time is a crucial resource for sustaining intimacy.
- Arguments include criticism, defensiveness, and contempt. If one or both partners engage in character attacks, mindreading, insults, name-calling, or counter-complaining, the emotional security of the relationship is being injured.
- Partners have not expressed needing the other for some time: say, months. One way that partners show intimacy is by sharing vulnerability. By no longer depending on one another, both closeness and the importance of the relationship are lost.
- There may have been anger and frustration, but now there is just apathy. Attachment needs, which are not met, engender despair and depression. When the situation continues chronically, these feelings give way to detachment, and moving away from the relationship. It is one thing to actively accept an unresolved difference, but to simply give up on an issue is like giving up on the relationship or moving away from it.
- Trusting the partner is too hard, so the person tries to control circumstances instead. Controlling actions is a common way for partners to respond when they have had an attachment injury or they are fearful, but it undermines efforts to rebuild trust.
- Fear of criticism prevents sharing of personal thoughts and feelings. When members of a couple feel insecure and/or fear a lack of care or concern on the part of their partner, it is common to manage it through withdrawal. While that is a short-term solution to eroding trust, in the long-term it can seriously threaten a relationship, depriving it of life energy (Bradley, B. & Furrow, J. 2013).
If more than two or three of these symptoms are present in the relationship, it is time to take corrective action; an EFT or other couples therapist may be needed. Conversely, relationships, which will be hardy in the face of adversity, are those in which the couple – while not perfect – is able to act resourcefully and skillfully to address concerns and maintain a stable balance of positive emotions.