5 Signs Your Relationship Is in Trouble
You made it through Valentine's Day. Maybe it was a tender, heartfelt celebration of your union with candy hearts, flowers and singing birds. Or maybe the über-romantic holiday left you feeling unsettled, insincere, worried. Now that Cupid's wings are out of your eyes, it could be time to reassess your relationship for any of these five warning signs that your love may be on the wane.
1. You're always arguing. This one seems self-evident, but so often, it's not. I have a friend who frequently calls me to vent about her boyfriend's latest infraction: He lied, he no-showed a date, he didn't come check on her when she was sick. They fight -- loud, screaming things that are alarming to hear -- and then everything is aces. When she and I talk about their volatile dynamic in the lucid times, my friend agrees that his behavior makes her angry, that she doesn't feel cherished and that she's exhausted from fighting. Yet they stay together. "Why?" I ask. "I love him." The lowest lows often accompany the loftiest highs, and when things are good it may be hard to let go of someone with whom you share great passion and, yes, love. But despite what the Roman poet Virgil and Hallmark may want you to believe, love does not conquer all. You can love someone and still be better off without them -- and when your relationship becomes filled with friction and dissatisfaction and resentment more often than the course of true love runs smooth, you're sacrificing your peace of mind (and heart) to an unhealthy, destructive dynamic.
2. You never argue. Conversely, too much accord might be a signal of trouble -- namely that one partner (or both) is suppressing her real feelings, or subsuming himself in his partner, or has mentally "checked out" of the relationship. No two people with unique backgrounds, mind sets, ideology, etc., can live in perfect accord at all times -- sometimes I can even have lively arguments with myself. That doesn't mean that screaming fights should be part of your couple repertoire. Everyone argues differently; the key is to respect your partner's differing point of view, as well as their means of expressing it -- but also to take into account how they are most comfortable handling disagreements. I have an atavistic, knee-jerk fear of shouting; raised voices utterly unnerve me, leaving me too freaked out to engage as a rational adult. My husband knows that about me, and is careful not to yell, even amid a heated discussion. In a healthy relationship, two people feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns and emotions -- even the difficult ones -- but can still stay cognizant of each other's feelings.
3. You're always mad. Remember when you first started dating your boyfriend, and his habit of taking his pants off as soon as he walked in his front door and lounging around in his boxer briefs seemed like a charming quirk? If those same foibles you once found endearing now make you want to scoop out his eyeballs with a grapefruit spoon, you might have one foot out the door. Sometimes before we're ready to admit that our feelings have changed or our relationship is no longer working, our raw nerves are trying to tell us the truth. Are you often irritated by your partner? Do you find you're quick to take offense to things he says and does? Does your temper flare up faster and easier than usual? Pay attention to those signs. It might be your primal emotions reacting to the truth of your situation before your mind is ready to accept it.
4. You're not having any fun. And by fun, I mean sex. No, not really -- but partially. Of course, a marked change for the worse in your sex life is a red flag that something's "off," but not having fun is more global than that: lost delight in each other's company, no pleasure in conversation, a lack of mutual interests. Have you and your partner stopped sharing moments, in-jokes? Is he no longer the person you want to rush home to tell when something crazy or funny or outrageous happens in your day? Does the idea of doing things together no longer spark excitement or anticipation? Do you seek out other friends for "fun"? Or do you even disconnect entirely in your partner's company, mentally checking out? Every couple's dynamic is different, but shared activities, experiences and humor are widely accepted to be the cornerstones of a healthy relationship. Once those start to go, the clock might be ticking.
5. You're happy. Really. You are. This is the most insidious and easy-to-miss indication that your relationship may be on shaky ground. Many relationships, especially long-term ones, can settle into a complacent comfort zone as two people grow ever more familiar. But familiarity is not intimacy. In fact, sometimes it engenders the opposite -- when we become convinced we know everything there is to know about our partner, we can go on autopilot and stop paying attention. Intimacy is being open -- not just willing to show your own vulnerabilities, but open to the unique, separate, always changing individual your partner is. Once we think we know everything there is to know about someone, we keep them slotted into that safe, comfortable category -- and we stop growing as a couple. If things are perfectly fine between you -- pleasant, polite, comfortable -- but something is missing, take stock. This doesn't have to be a signal that things are over -- sometimes it's a much-needed wake-up call for a couple to remember to see the other person as another person- - not just a familiar appendage taken for granted. But whether you decide to work on things or end them, don't put it off. There are only 361 days left till next Valentine's Day.