Relationship warning signs

Relationship warning signs

The ability to identify – and address – subtle warning signs is key to a strong relationship. “Facing your issues head-on gives you both the opportunity to see what you’re capable of overcoming as a couple and bring your relationship to a higher level of intimacy and understanding,” says Dr. Bethany Marshall, author of Deal Breakers: When to Work on a Relationship and When to Walk Away (Simon & Schuster, 2008).

Here are three warning signs you shouldn’t ignore and solutions for getting your love back on track.

warning #1: You’re focused solely on the future.
Do these phrases sound familiar? “Once he finds a new job, he’ll have more time to devote to me. As soon as we pay off more of the mortgage, we’ll be able to relax. Once we take a holiday, we’ll start having more sex.” Using the future to compensate for the present is the number one coping mechanism that women adopt when they’re not getting what they need from their partners, says Marshall.

the fix Start valuing the present. Lea Tufford, a registered marriage and family therapist in Cambridge, ON suggests asking yourself some questions to establish where your dissatisfaction lies: “Do you spend any time alone together? How do you support each other on a daily basis? If things don’t change, could you live with that?” Next, break the problem down for your guy and say something like “Work seems to occupy so much of your free time that we rarely get to catch up. I’d like us to change this.” Then step back because if you keep bringing an issue up, you’ll become more attached to the trauma of trying to change things than the reality of whether or not it actually will, says Marshall. When it comes to making changes, it’s best to start with little things: Designating every other Saturday night as date night, lazing around in bed a little later on Sunday morning and sending a quick “How’s your morning?” email are easy ways to stay connected and make the most of the everyday as a couple.

warning #2: you’ve become a social butterfly.
When a woman becomes disappointed in a relationship, it’s not uncommon for her to seek out substitute love objects, whether it’s getting attention from a group of friends or admiration from that guy in the morning coffee line, says Marshall. “Meeting your needs through others is a common compensatory mechanism,” she says. “But when this happens, you don’t get to express your dissatisfaction to your primary love object or see what he’s willing to do about it.”

the fix “Start with a little introspection,” says Tufford. Identify what you’re getting from your substitutes, take it back to your partner and use it to explain what you wish you were getting from him. Say something like “I started spending more time with my friends because I don’t feel like you give me enough attention.” Or, “I’ve been sharing my problems with my male colleague because I don’t think you value what I have to say.” Then step back and let him fulfill that need. “But be realistic,” she says. “You can’t expect all of his attention all the time.”

warning #3: the fighting has stopped.
“Whether you’re arguing over intimacy issues, spending habits or your in-laws, relationships require healthy, positive aggression,” says Marshall. “Once the fighting goes underground, it can result in emotional and physical isolation for both people.”

the fix Revisit the discussion using productive communication strategies. The key is to be honest about how you feel without blaming the other person. Start with an “I” statement, suggests Tufford, where you focus on yourself and your feelings and then ask for something. “Say ‘I feel anxious because it seems like we’re spending more money than we have. If this continues, I’m worried we’re going to find ourselves owing a lot of money. I need for us to talk about what our budget is and what our priorities are.’”

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