Whether you’ve been married 20 years or have just been dating for several months, your relationship is not immune to serious problems. Many couples experience a relationship crisis at one point or another, and the best defense against it is to recognize the signs of it as soon as possible. Exercising denial or failing to acknowledge problems in your relationship will put you on the fast track to a breakup or painful divorce.
The following are six signs that your relationship is headed for or is already in serious trouble:
• You’re living parallel but separate lives. This occurs much more often than people realize, particularly when two people have been married or living together for several years. You share a home and a bed, but little else. Instead of truly living as a couple, you both do your own thing. You live more like roommates than a loving couple, with your own activities, hobbies, and friends. While it may appear to be “working” on the surface, it is often a red flag of a serious relationship crisis.
• There is abuse of any kind. Abuse of any kind should never be tolerated in a relationship. Many people, particularly women, deny the abuse if their significant other is not hitting them or physically harming them. They fail to acknowledge that abuse also encompasses things such as pushing, using intimidation or threats, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Whenever abuse is present, it is a neon-flashing indicator of a very serious relationship crisis.
• One or both of you is playing the blame game. Part of being an adult involves taking responsibility for one’s role in any type of relationship problem. None of us are perfect human beings and relationship problems are never one-sided. If nothing else, at least one person is allowing the other to be disrespectful. Blame is destructive and accomplishes nothing. If one or both of you is blaming the other for any problems in your relationship, you are already in or heading towards a relationship crisis. Nothing will get resolved until the blame stops.
• There is significant unresolved conflict. One of the best ways to keep a relationship healthy and avoid a serious relationship crisis is to keep the avenues of communication open and work to resolve conflicts quickly. Unfortunately, many couples allow conflicts to go unresolved and to fester for a very long time. Sadly, unresolved conflicts don’t go away on their own and can slowly tear a relationship apart. One or both partners will often feel resentful or angry, and those emotions always surface one way or another.
• Infidelity. When infidelity creeps into a relationship it always affects the relationship in some way, even if the non-offending partner is totally unaware of the affair. People who are in truly happy, healthy relationships rarely cheat on their partners. Those who do are often attempting to get a need met (whether emotional or sexual) that is not being met within the relationship. While often a symptom of a relationship crisis that already exists, infidelity can also create a serious crisis as well.
• Sex is rare or not happening at all. Sexual intimacy is one of the key things that separates a marriage or other committed relationship from the other relationships in both partners’ lives. For women, sex makes them feel loved and desired, and for men sex is often how they communicate love for their partner. When it is absent or occurring very infrequently, it is typically a sure sign of a serious relationship crisis.
If any of these things are occurring in your relationship, don’t ignore it. Burying your head in the sand and hoping it will just go away doesn’t work! Far too many breakups and divorces occur because one or both partners refuse to take action to deal with signs of a relationship crisis before it is too late. Most crises can be resolved if both of you are willing to do the work. There is hope – but you must take action!