Recognizing the Warning Signs of a Struggling Relationship

Part of the Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy For Dummies Cheat Sheet

No relationship is perfect. Couples should expect to have their fair share of conflicts, but how they deal with these conflicts can be a sign of strength or distress. You can get in trouble when you lose sight of the ways that everyday issues can become insurmountable problems over time. Here are some warning signs that can signal a relationship is in trouble:

  • Few arguments ever get resolved. Most couples have common issues they argue about, but when couples find they can’t get to a resolution of key issues in their relationship, the relationship is in trouble.

  • You feel like you have to walk on eggshells around issues. If you find yourself avoiding topics and protecting yourself from conflicts in your relationship, this is a sign that there is a lack of safety in the relationship. Understanding the danger that is being avoided is essential.

  • You find it difficult to reach to your partner for emotional support. Emotional disengagement in a romantic relationship drains the life from a relationship. If you no longer trust your partner with emotional vulnerability, your relationship is at risk.

  • You find yourself spending less time together for no good reason. Partners who chose to spend less time together without purpose are often enacting emotional disengagement. Time is a crucial resource for sustaining intimacy.

  • Your arguments often include criticism, defensiveness, and contempt. When conflicts take on patterns that include attacks against a partner’s character, mindreading, counter-complaining, and insults or name calling, damage is being done to the emotional security of the relationship.

  • It has been months since you showed your partner you needed him or her, or vice versa. Shared vulnerability is how partners show and share intimacy. When partners stop depending on each other, their relationship loses its importance and closeness is lost.

  • Anger and frustration over couple issues has turned to apathy and indifference. Partners who give in to apathy and indifference are moving away from the relationship. Active acceptance of an unresolved difference or disagreement is purposeful. Giving up on an issue can be a step toward giving up on the relationship.

  • You find yourself trying to control circumstances rather than trust your partner. Controlling actions are a common way in which injured or fearful partners respond to insecurity in their relationship. These efforts at control undermine efforts to rebuild trust.

  • You don’t share more personal thoughts and feeling without fear of criticism. A common sign of insecurity is fear of your partner’s lack of care and concern. Managing this fear through withdrawal is a short-term solution to eroding trust, which can threaten a long-term relationship.

If you recognize three or more of these warning signs in your relationship, your relationship may be in significant trouble. You may want to consider talking to a couple therapist.

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