Good relationships run smoothly and enable you to enjoy your life, work, and activities beyond the relationship. You’re not always worrying or talking about it. Like a smooth-running car, you don’t have to keep repairing it. You may have disagreements and get angry, but you still have goodwill toward one another, talk things over, resolve conflicts, and return to a loving, enjoyable state.
Cars do need maintenance, however. Take care of it, and it performs better. Relationships also take time and effort to maintain an intimate connection. This happens naturally in the initial romantic stage when you want to get to know your partner, spend time together, have frequent sex, and are more open and flexible. You’re less willing to compromise and may want less intimacy. Even if you don’t actually argue, you may return to the same emotional state you were in before you met — or worse — and wonder where your love went or whether your partner loves you. This is where the “struggle for intimacy” is required in order to maintain that love connection.
Here are some warning signs that your relationship may be in trouble. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not salvageable or that you can’t get the love connection back, but it does mean you both need to have honest communication and may need the assistance of a marriage counseling. The following list of relationship problems applies to either you or your partner. They’re also common characteristics of codependent relationships, and codependency may be the underlying issue.
- Inflexibility or repeated unwillingness to compromise on decisions, such as social activities, chores, moving, and having children.
- Selfishness or self-involvement with your own feelings and needs, without concern and support for those of your partner.
- Meddling by parents.
- Repeated deference to a friend or relative over your partner’s objection.
- Repeated instances of critical, undermining, blaming, sarcastic, disrespectful, or manipulative comments. This is verbal abuse.
- A pattern of withholding communication, affection, or sex. This is often a sign of veiled anger.
- Arguments or problems that don’t get resolved.
- Raging or name-calling.
- Keeping secrets.
- Passive-aggressive or aggressive behavior, including shoving or breaking objects.
- Controlling behavior, including giving unwanted advice, ordering, or withholding money for affordable expenses in order to control.
- A secret romantic relationship or pattern of flirting.
- Use of drugs or alcohol that impacts the relationship or work.
- Too much time apart if it causes your partner dissatisfaction.
- Persistent resentments, judgments, or disappointments.
- Lack of open communication generally, or communication that lacks personal content. Note that this may not be a problem for some couples with low intimacy needs, where their relationship functions well like a business partnership.
- Breakdown of trust. This can be caused by numerous things, such as dishonesty, using personal information against your partner, unreliability, broken promises or agreements violating personal boundaries, or infidelity.
- You need constant attention, validation, or reassurance – whatever’s given is never fulfilling for very long.
- There are subjects that are off-limits or you’re afraid to talk about.
- Violating personal boundaries, such as disrespecting your request to not be called at work, to not have confidential information repeated to others, to not be criticized about something, or to not read your mail.
The purpose of this checklist is not to score your relationship or your partner, but to raise issues that you may need to address personally and talk openly about with him or her. Many of these relationship problems revolve around a lack of healthy, assertive communication — communication that is open, direct, respectful, honest, and personal.
Couples get into problems when they’re afraid to be honest — usually because they think the truth will upset their partner and might jeopardize the relationship. They don’t express their hurt or to ask for the love or support they want, or they do so in a way that’s critical or blaming. People learn to communicate and problem-solve with others in their family growing up. Without good role models, some never learned how to be assertive. Assertiveness can be learned but takes practice.