Whether your significant relationship/marriage is new or old, chances are it has gone through its fair share of highs and lows. While the traditional notion of “falling in love” may seem a tad euphoric and short-lived, growing in love, according to scientific research, is still a very real and explainable occurrence. Which brings me to the focus of this article.
What happens when our relationships seem to have reached a growth stalemate? Do we even recognize that things have come to a screeching halt in the growth department? Are we even aware of the signals which might suggest that our relationship may be in serious trouble? Do we even know what we can do to turn things around? The following list, though not exhaustive, represents some of the common warning signals which suggest that our relationship may be in serious trouble.
1. You no longer relish your partner’s company. While there is nothing wrong with some alone time or a girls’ or guys’ night out, if consistently, you would rather spend time alone or with others, instead of your partner, then this may be a signal that something is not quite right in your relationship. The reason you chose your partner, is because you preferred him or her over all others. When this preference changes, it may indicate that hidden or unresolved issues have begun to take their toll on the relationship. This may also suggest that relationship neglect has occurred which fosters a sense of distance or “tiredness” between partners.
2. You negatively compare your partner to other people. Yes; you may have had a physical ideal when it came to a life-partner, or they may have been a set of personality traits which you prefer; if you have chosen your partner in spite of the fact that he/she may have fallen short of your ideals, then you owe it to him/her to love completely; flaws, foibles, warts and all; learn to honour your choice and don’t do your partner a disservice by constantly comparing him/her to someone else; real or imagined
3. You regularly “forget” special dates like birthdays, valentines or anniversaries or treat them like regular days. Very often a seemingly convenient lapse in memory is our way of deliberately communicating several things to our partner, without actually saying. Among them is our own feeling of neglect (so we do a tit for tat), a latent underlying anger or unforgiveness over some issue, our preoccupation with someone else or a blatant loss of interest in our partner leading to a disregard of their feelings. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially for women who place great stock and sentimentality into celebrating milestones.
4. There is an absence of meaningful conversation between you and your partner. When your relationship goes silent or if the only things you ever talk about are the kids, the bills or your horrible boss at work, then this may be a sign that your communication channels may need some work. Yes; some talk is better than none at all but special couple-time should also be allocated to sharing about your relationship, your individual or couple goals, your disappointments and of course the communication of how much you love and appreciate your partner. An absence of meaningful conversation usually means that your partner is being taken for granted.
5. You are flirtatious with others or over-step emotional or sexual boundaries. There is no greater sign of relationship neglect than treading into an area which should be exclusive to your spouse. Being sexual with someone of the opposite sex does not have to include the actual sex act. We are usually sexual long before the penis and vagina interface; so inappropriate behavior can include anything from lustful ogling or undressing with the eyes to staring deeply into the eyes of another to communicate desire, touching, caressing, sexting, grabbing private parts, kissing, suggestive talking and the like. Such behaviour is inherently disrespectful to the one you should be committed to.
6. You never see yourself as being at fault in any couple-disputes and so you never apologize. If you can never, ever say sorry or you think you are always right, then this points to emotional under-development and is likely to retard the progress of the relationship. This is especially so since the last time your partner checked, they were probably no perfect people around (so where exactly did you come from?)
7. There is an absence of touch or physical displays of affection. Touch is the barometer that gauges the temperature of the relationship. So the absence of hand-holding, hugs, affectionate squeezes, affirming pats on the back, kisses, playful tickles or even the biggie; sexual intimacy, spells that your relationship is likely to be in some pretty big trouble. Who wants to be close or intimate with a spouse they really can’t stand?
8. You no longer say “I love you”, ever; nor do you attempt to demonstrate love in ways that are meaningful to your partner. This needs no further explanation; love is an action not a lofty ideal which exists in the thoughts; to be felt it must be demonstrated in a love-language or preferred way that is understood and desired by our loved ones.
If your relationship is plagued by one or more of these characteristics and nothing seems to be changing, then this may indicate a need for intervention through counselling, relationship coaching, or through serious dialogue and confrontation with your partner. If you choose to work through this on your own, the emphasis should be on communicating your concerns in a firm but loving way which ultimately conveys your concern for the life and longevity of the relationship.