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The Seven Deadly Signs Your Relationship’s In Trouble
Relationships fall apart for many reasons. From infidelity to insecurity, from overspending to overreacting under stress. When exploring a break-up hindsight brings clarity. The partners realise there were signs the relationship was failing but they hadn't acted.
After analysing couples’ stories and anecdotal evidence I've concluded there are "seven deadly signs" that spell real trouble. Whether your relationship has one or a number, it's important to solve the underlying problem before it's too late.
Sign number one: The Cold Shoulder!
There’s a chill in the air and you "cold-shoulder" each other. Research shows those who fail to resolve quibbles/rows and go to bed in chilling silence are on dangerous ground.
When you don't have the energy to describe your hurt/anger say something neutral to take the chill out. For example, "I think we went over the top and I feel badly." Give them time to reply. Or make them a cup of tea and be honest that you dread going to bed angry. When feeling braver ask for a hug. During the day don't let cold silences go unchecked. Break them with such small gestures. Use a positive tone of voice to generate confidence that you can get over the coldness.
Sign number two: Last To Know!
Either you or your partner starts turning to your/their best friend or family member whenever they have news to share. Ninety-nine per cent of the time a happy couple will tell each other special, important, or unusual news, or even little titbits of interesting information first. As you grow apart you stop doing this.
Remind yourself to rebuild communication by getting in touch with your partner first with news or gossip. This’ll make them feel that once again they hold a special place in your affections and daily life. When they share news with you be excited for them. And ask them to be excited for your news, too. We turn to friends because they give us this positive reinforcement in the form of excitement about shared news when our relationship’s soured.
Sign number three: No Celebrations!
Celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, and special events are now forgotten. Judged unimportant it hurts the other. You've stopped sharing happy memories, that relationship research shows diminishes a long-term relationship.
Agree to mark-down special dates in your diaries. If they complain such celebrations don't matter any more, explain clearly that they matter to you. Regularly get out your photo album and enjoy a laugh over old times. Also frequently bring up a warm memory in conversation.
Sign number four: No Laughter!
You no longer laugh together as the daily grind’s taken over. Life feels grey, miserable and you can’t remember the last time you two had fun.
Try something completely new together - dance classes, ice-skating, or amateur dramatics. Facing a fun challenge invigorates things. Have proper, weekly "date" doing something you both enjoy. If you can’t afford that, make it regularly or try inexpensive alternatives like having a picnic at a local beauty spot. When on "dates" ban discussions of issues/problems and focus on fun topics.
Sign number five: No Compromise!
You no longer compromise and act as if you're single. It's like living parallel lives on train tracks running side-by-side. Early in relationships we're prepared to compromise. As time passes, in troubled relationships the compromise stops.
Discuss the issue needing compromise in straight-forward terms. Examine both your expectations - is there obvious middle ground? Will taking turns, or finding a middle ground, work best? Be the first to show goodwill and give up your "turn" occasionally. It's OK if you’ve both different interests and pursue them at mutually agreed times, but share your experiences. The danger is when you spend the time apart but don't spend "chilled" time together.
Sign number six: Passionless!
You've lost the romance and as for sex - what's that?! You may even fantasise of other people. Keeping romance alive sets your relationship apart from a platonic friendship. Also sexual needs varies between couples. Some couples are happy with less sex as other things become more important, e.g., raising children. Others feel deeply rejected.
Keep romance going through small, regular gestures like leaving love notes, sending flirty emails, buying surprise gifts, doing little favours for each other, etc. These make you feel special. Next, discuss your sexual needs in a non-threatening but loving or flirty way. Negotiate compromise where necessary over, e.g., being more adventurous. For couples rebuilding sexual activity it's important to experiment without feeling inhibited. Take turns looking through a sex guide to choose things to try.
Sign number seven: Creeping Negativity!
Sign No. 6 spells danger but the deadliest of all is disdain and derision. Once you smiled upon your partner now you view them with disdain. Once you listened to their views, now you deride them. Relationship research confirms this sign is particularly destructive to love and respect.
Disdain symbolises pent-up issues that have been swept under the carpet to fester, so anything your partner says or does makes you angry. These extremely negative feelings mean you don’t listen to them. First, remind yourself daily why you fell in love. Select their three best qualities and visualise them. Think of the nicest thing they did recently and hold onto that.
"Actively" listen, giving them time to express themselves. Repeat back what you think they mean so they can confirm you’ve understood or re-explain. Bite your tongue when tempted to bad-mouth them. Can you think of something warm and loving to say instead? Be aware of how you look at them, soften that dagger glare and see if you can’t rekindle respect.
If you've read the seven signs and tried the solutions but still need help get in touch with a local couples counselling service or Relate (0845-130-4016).
Published in The Express newspaper
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