What are the indicators that your relationship is in trouble?
I suppose the obvious answer is when one of you feels it is.
One predictor of a relationship lasting is whether you are able to resolve difficulties in a way that works for both of you. This can change over time along with changing roles inside (e.g. becoming parents) and outside of the relationship (e.g. work pressures; different influences e.g. friends, family, media etc). In a relationship where you were able to resolve difficulties but now find it more difficult there might be a sudden realisation that you no longer know or understand the person you are with and that ‘something’ has happened almost without you noticing. So what are the early signs we should heed?
You are spending less time together. In busy lives it’s hard to make space for the things you’d like to do. Parents of young children can fall into the trap of taking turns to have ‘time off’ which is fine. If you find that this is prioritised over having time off together or you are finding reasons not to it is a red flag.
Our values and beliefs have become polarised – our values and beliefs change and evolve over time this can be a point of conflict.
Communication is difficult, differences no not get resolved but fester, you start to avoid having those important conversations.
Sex is problematic, physical intimacy is linked to emotional intimacy and can be a barometer of the relationship.
You enjoy the company of other people more; you seek emotional connections with others that you used to have with your partner.
Does this mean the end? Not necessarily, but asking the question is really important as it helps you to start forming what it is that you want from your relationship. This can be seen as an opportunity for an exciting new beginning in which you spend time together thinking about the next stage in your relationship and navigate the journey together.
There is a ‘health warning ‘with any sort of therapy couple therapy is no different –it can be hard to explore some of these issues. Having a safe contained space without blame and in which each voice is heard is important in feeling contained. At the beginning of work (and for a short time)we may agree which subjects that we’ve discussed, stay in the therapy room to avoid repeating usual patterns of escalation and arguments which lead to the familiar ‘hopeless’ feeling . Couples tell me this liberates them from these familiar and circular conversations which feed polarisation in the relationship and gives space for a different focus at home.