“I had no idea we were so unhappy!” This is commonly said by the partner who had no idea their relationship was in trouble… until their partner marched them off to relationship counselling.
So you may be wondering what will warn you when your relationship is in trouble. Is there a distress flare to signal when you can ignore a relationship glitch and when it requires your undivided attention?
What ever you and your partner tangle about, it’s the way you do your disagreeing that tells you how deep a hole your relationship is in.
American relationships researcher John Gottman can predict which couples will split up. He’s right over 90% of the time. And it’s not the topic of dispute that tips him off, it’s the way you talk to each other.
How to know if your relationship is in trouble
When you argue, what sort of a build up do you have? Going for the jugular early isn’t a good sign. It stymies the chances of working anything out. Your partner will probably will get the idea that you don’t believe that having a conversation will make a difference. And if you’re not trying to make it work, why would they?
If your partner feels like you’re getting at them that’s not so good either. If you are continually being critical, finding fault or just plain insulting them, your partner will probably either shut you out or try to get even.
Either way you’re unlikely to get the response you want.
Warning signs of a troubled relationship
So if it’s warning signs you’re after then research tells you that becoming hurtful quickly, sneering, getting your back up and shutting down are the things to watch out for. You might do all of these sometimes and not worry too much. Whatever you fight about, if your typical pattern of fighting includes some of these then you can take them as a sign that your relationship needs help to get it back on track.
You’re human, so you probably do things which annoy your partner now and then. However, the more you become careless with your actions, the easier it becomes to find fault with each other. Maybe you find your emotions escalating and next thing you know you’re telling your partner they never do this or they always do that.
When scornful dismissal enters a relationship, it’s definitely a sign that your relationship is in trouble and you need to take specific action to get it back on track.
When your partner sneers at you do you bristle and sneer right back? Maybe you switch off instead and act like you don’t notice and don’t care. Refusing to engage is another indication that your relationship is in trouble and needs some serious attention.
What to Do to Ease the Trouble in Your Relationship
When you say what you don’t like make sure you be specific. Focusing on the behaviour without getting personal is also a good idea. “You didn’t do the dishes last night, do you think you could help with the washing up more often?” is a very different proposition from “You’re a lazy slob and you never lift a finger to help out around here!”
Avoid using the terms: Always and Never as they are untrue and will most surely get you into more serious relationship trouble.
The real question is what you do with the warning. The same research that identified the warning signs shows that what makes a relationship work is noticing and appreciating and building the good times you have together.
Warnings have their place. But if you really want to safeguard your relationship focus on what makes it worth having. You’ll have a lot of fun plus you’ll have a reason to bite your tongue before you say something you’ll regret.
Don’t wait for a warning before you attend to your relationship. Unlimited happiness can be gained by being aware of the effects your words and actions have on your partner, and knowing how to modify them toward the best outcomes.