Very often couples come in when their relationship is already on life support. The troubles did not just rise up overnight. They were there all along. It’s just that either neither partner wanted to acknowledge them, or both were just blind to what was happening until it was almost too late. If you want to maintain a healthy
relationship, you had better recognize some of the warning signs of a relationship in trouble that I have seen over the more than 30 years of being a psychologist.
Criticism- When you find your criticism of your partner has increased, or your partner’s criticism of you has increased, it’s time to examine what has been going on. It means you and/or your partner have become dissatisfied with the other person. Often time people are in denial they are being critical. This may even present a problem by spilling over to work. It often stems from the next sign.
Needs- A need is something that is very important to you. It’s different than a want because people, consciously or subconsciously, begin to gravitate toward ways to get their needs met. Certainly, while no one can meet all of another’s needs all the time, a healthy relationship means you are getting most of your needs met most of the time.
Trust- Here we are not talking about the obvious, flat out breech of trust like with infidelity. That’s not a warning sign. That’s an explosion. This is more like spending too much, or always being late, or forgetting important occasions. Good partners trust each other.
Change in Communication- I like to call this “empty conversations.” Instead of talking about anything of substance, you find yourself communicating really about nothing. It’s just idle talk. The generalization is that women tend to talk more than men, but there is usually still substance to men’s conversation. Beware of “empty conversations.”
Separate Socializing- There is nothing wrong with socializing with friends alone. However, when it becomes the overwhelming majority of time, it means you’d rather spend time with others than with your partner. Not good. You have begun to lose interest in your partner.
Reduced Intimacy- Let’s first clarify. Sex is only a part of intimacy. Sex and intimacy are not the same. When there is reduced intimacy, it often leads to couples drifting apart. The need for closeness and touch has been well established. It’s a need, not just a want. Often people get busy with the rest of their lives and forget to inject energy into their relationship.
Unintentional Weight Loss or Gain- There are many reasons for either, but one of those reasons is
dissatisfaction within a relationship. When people are depressed for whatever reason they often turn either to food or away from food, the former leading to a weight gain and the latter leading to a weight loss. If there are no medical or other psychological reasons, it may very well be a result of a relationship on the skids.
Keeping Score- In relationships there is always give and take. It’s called compromise. However, when one or the other party pushes the “all-or-nothing” button, it results in keeping score, meaning a winner and a loser. If there is one loser in an argument in a relationship, both people are losers because that loser will begin to keep score. No one likes to lose all the time. This leads to the next issue.
Resentment- People in general resent being taken advantage of. When it comes from a partner, the resentment turns to anger. That anger can be passive aggressive, as is the case with not doing something, or it can be directly aggressive by acting out.
Personality Change- While changes in personality can be a soft neurological sign, they are also signs that a person is changing. When the change is environmentally specific, that is the changes only take place in the presence of a partner, there are problems brewing.
Mirror of Others- Listen to those close to you. When people start asking if you (singular or plural) are okay, it’s time to realize that they see something rather clearly that you either don’t see or you are ignoring.
Red flags in a relationship are certainly not limited to this list. Ignore the signs, and your relationship will
definitely disintegrate. The next step would be to address the identified problems. Professionals are the often the best way to help because they can be objective.
Tikkun Olam- heal the world. Leave it a better place when you leave.