Here at Vita Nova Counselling we see and interview couples every day. Our clients are all individual people, with their own set of unique challenges, but during my time here I’ve seen certain patterns and signs that indicate “red lights” when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship. In this article I would like to talk about these warning signs and how to identify whether your relationship is in trouble.
In today’s society we are bombarded with information and self-help books on how to have healthy relationships. Some of these books share their complicated views on what a relationship should and should not look like. The truth is that there is no universal law that states what the perfect relationship is because there is no such thing. We as people are different and so we want different things out of our relationships. Although all relationships are different there are some universal truths. Here are some signs that your relationship might be in trouble….
1. You stop communicating with each other on a daily basis
Communication is a skill – therefore it needs to be learned and practised. One of the biggest problems in relationships is that people do not communicate effectively and both partners end up feeling unsatisfied and unloved. More often than not we communicate in ways that we were taught. In my family “effective communication” meant my mother talking and my father listening or walking away. I grew up believing that this was the “right” way to talk to your partner. Imagine my surprize when my partner refused to just sit still and listen… I had to re-evaluate all the things that I thought was “normal”. So with this, I challenge all of you, question what you know to be normal and ask yourself whether it is working in your relationship.
Effective communication is not easy, it takes a lot of hard work, but it’s not impossible. With open and honest communication you and your partner can resolve differences and conflict, communicate needs and goals and also communicate love and caring. The moment that a couple stops communicating, the relationship is like a plant with no water, it will die slowly. Compromise and negotiation is part of effective communication. When you or your partner refuses to compromise, it will make everything in your relationship difficult.
2. Love is more than just a word
Love is more than just a word: it’s an emotion, an act, an affirmation, a touch and a gift. No relationship can be or survive without love. Love is not enough but love is a necessity. When we fall in love we spent countless hours hugging, kissing, talking on the phone, going on dates and giving each other gifts. Then we stop….we become lazy and we think that the other person just “has to know” that we love them. A relationship without love is in very big trouble. If you and your partner don’t love one another anymore you will not put in the effort to keep the relationship healthy.
If you feel that your relationship might be “love starved” talk to you partner about this and put the love back into your relationship. Get pro-active!!!!! Give your partner hugs, kisses and massages, send him/her extra messages saying that you miss and love your partner, go on regular date nights and keep surprises as a part of your relationship.
3. Acts of violence
When I talk about violence I don’t just mean physical abuse – I also refer to verbal and emotional violence. Sometimes I am shocked at how violently people talk to each other. In my opinion violence is NEVER justified, no matter what happened. You will be surprised at how many people give themselves the right to be violent. When your relationship has regular acts of violence your relationship is in trouble. When there is violence in a relationship love dies, trust is broken, communication is ineffective and respect does not exist.
4. One partner refuses to try
This is probably one of the saddest signs for me. Sometimes it happens that one of the partners refuses to try and save the relationship or refuses to change what needs to be changed in order to save the relationship. You cannot be in a relationship by yourself. There are two people and both have to take responsibility for their part in maintaining the relationship. Blaming your partner for everything that goes wrong in the relationship is both unfair and untrue. You and you alone are responsible for your behaviour.
If one partner repeatedly brings up an issue, asks for help and makes it clear that the relationship will not last unless they both commit to solving it, and the other spouse refuses to go along, the relationship is in trouble. One partner can’t do all the trying on his/her own.
Infidelity is one of the most common signs that your relationship is in trouble. This can lead to a lot of pain for the other person and this utter sense of betrayal can have devastating consequences on the entire family. Some people are frequent “cheaters” – being in a relationship with a person like that can be a high risk. There is life after infidelity but it takes months/years to repair the damages done. For a relationship to fully get past adultery, the unfaithful half of the couple cannot maintain a “friendship” with the former lover. This will just make the pain worse and no good can come out of it.
6. Having different moral values and life goals
Having different morals and life goals is not only a sign that the relationship is in trouble but also a sign that the relationship might not have worked out in the first place. Core values are very important to most people and most are not willing to change them for anyone. Being in a relationship where you and your partner want different things can be very difficult to maintain. You might want to have a family and children, your partner might not want to have children and travel the world – how will you be able to negotiate this. It’s important to start talking early in your relationship about what you want from life – do you want children? How many? How do you feel about discipline, schooling and parenting? These are important issues that can lead to huge arguments and resentment if not handled correctly. Even if you both agree on the parenting aspect; how about your definitions of things like friendships? Is it okay for a husband and/or wife to have friends from the opposite sex? And if so, what do those friendships look like? Any and everything related to relationships could possibly be defined and understood differently by spouses. Here again, it is important to talk honestly and openly to one another about what you each feel is right and wrong and why you believe it to be so.
During this article I highlighted the universal signs that your relationship might be in trouble. There might me more or less signs in your relationship but don’t wait until it is too late. The sooner you go for help, the better. Remember the basics: love your partner, always try to communicate effectively, trust one another and respect the person that you chose to be with. Be a partner who can be trusted and respected. Accept each other for who you are and be realistic. We all fight, we all disagree but it never needs to get violent.