Warning signs of an ailing relationship

A question that I was asked recently is “how do I know when my relationship is ailing, and that intervention is needed”?  In other words, what are the warning signs that you should watch out for in order to take actions? Let’s examine the following:


1.    Lack of awareness, interest and knowledge

A strong and healthy relationship is one where both partners care and pay attention to what’s going on in each other’s life. Failing that, you lose the moments when you can connect and the sense that you are cherished is absent. When you are clueless and do not care about the external and internal world of your partner, it is a clear sign that your relationship is ailing.


2.    Feeling lonely in the relationship

There is an increase in feeling unappreciated, invisible and a lack of connection with your partner. You behave more like a housemate (and co-parent), and the conversations that you have are mostly functional. You can’t remember the last time you have a meaningful dialogue, much less feeling cared for. You start thinking the worst of the other and there is a negative sentiment override that signals trust is broken.


3.    Living a parallel life

Parallel lives happen when you no longer do things as a couple. Work may take you on many business trips and even when you’re back home, you and your partner have your own activities. Even though you live in the same house and sleep on the same bed, there is minimal communication and intimacy. This emotional distance and disengagement is a very hard place to be, a clear warning sign.


4.    No physical intimacy and sex

While there are periods of time when healthy couples do not actively engage in sex, it is a problem when one partner feels that the need is not being met. He or she feels frustrated and rejected to the point of resentment. Open communication is missing to express what lies behind the hurt and when this is not forthcoming, the relationship is in trouble.


5.    The waiting games

Unlike earlier days of the relationship where one partner (or both) was proactive in showing affection, expressing gratitude or initiating a date, the attitude now has changed to “why should I do it when he/she doesn’t bother?” The benefit of a doubt that you used to give to your partner is now replaced by suspicion and negative sentiment. The attitude is that of “I don’t want to risk getting hurt or rejected by taking the first move.”


6.    Comparison and keeping scores

As a social being, there is a great tendency to observe what other couples do for each other, compare them to what you and your partner are doing and feeling resentful about it. This behavior is detrimental because you stop seeing the good in your partner and start focusing on what is lacking. Expecting your partner to behave like your friend’s partner isn’t going to compel him/her to behave the same way. In fact, it conveys the message that “you are not good enough” and that’s hurtful.


7.    Stop being kind and respectful, and contempt is present

You might have heard that familiarity breeds contempt. Many at times, the people closest to us get the worst treatment. Instead of making requests, demands and complaints are being made. You stop minding the “please and thank you” and start taking your partner for granted. When your spouse feels that you’re kinder to everyone else but him/her, something is wrong with the picture. Treat your partner as you would your best friend. Relationship experts have found that the biggest predictor of divorce is contempt.


8.    Forgetting your love story and dreams.

Couples who are deeply in love remember details of their relationship. This is important as it strengthens the commitment they give to each other. These details become fuzzy when you stop giving attention to them. As the memory of your relationship starts to wane, you forget what brought you together and the dreams that you’ve shared. When that memory is gone, it is easier to give up on the relationship because it is no longer meaningful.


Please seek help by (reading up, speaking to trusted friends, seeing a relationship coach or couples therapist) should you have more than half of the warning signs. Relationship is like a plant that needs to be nurtured and it suffers when no attention is given. You reap what you sow.


If there are topics that you'd like me to address, please email me your suggestion at Ask Winifred. See you there.



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