Most of us have experienced the reality of a relationship that no longer seems to be working. One moment, you're happy, in love, completely connected with the other person. The next, it seemed like everything was broken - disconnection, arguments, lack of trust and anger became the norm.
Relationship problems don’t emerge without an origin. Here are some of the warning signs that things are not going well. If your relationship involves one or more of these red flags, you might feel you are at a crossroad - should you stay or should you go?
Red Flag #1: One Or Both Of You Keeps Turning Away
In healthy relationships, you want to share the good news, bad news and everything in between with your partner. Your partner is your confidante - he or she is the one you turn to when you need support, validation and encouragement.
When one or both of you stop listening to the other and can no longer muster the curiosity to ask each other about their day, it may be the first symptom of relationship rupture. Although it starts subtly, it erodes the friendship necessary for healthy and enjoyable communication.
Continuous turning away certainly signifies an undertone of dissatisfaction. It also may represent an even more insidious issue like infidelity. Burnout is a real risk in any relationship - it’s easy to become complacent and take each other for granted. However, it can also signify a serious warning sign.
Red Flag #2: You Don’t Trust Your Partner
Trust doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that takes time, patience and repeated experiences of safety and security.
If you’ve been committed to someone for a while and you don’t trust him or her, this could indicate a significant relationship problem. Take the time to identify why trust feels challenging. Have you caught your partner in the middle of a lie? Do the stories not always add up in ways that would make sense? Does your partner become defensive or evasive when you try to approach him or her?
Without trust, the relationship may always seem rocky and unsteady. You may experience a perpetual limbo of uncertainty. It’s a frustrating dynamic, and it’s one that will often lead to intense resentment.
Red Flag #3: Your Loved Ones Don’t Like Your Partner
Maybe your aunt doesn’t like anyone you bring home. But what happens if your aunt, uncle, parents and the rest of your friends don’t like your partner?
Of course, if you love someone, hearing any criticism or concern may be painful. That said, true loved ones care about your well-being. They want you to be treated right. If the majority of your support system doesn’t seem too fond of your significant other, it is probably time to listen to why.
Red Flag #4: You Feel Controlled
Control can be both apparent and covert. Apparent control may come in the form of physical or sexual abuse. You’re literally being controlled, and that is always a red flag in any relationship.
However, covert control can be challenging to distinguish. In fact, you may even justify or downplay it because you may worry that you’re overreacting. Control can come in many flavors, but it may include:
Feeling like your partner is trying to isolate or pit you against other people
Limiting your whereabouts
Checking in on you incessantly
Attempting to make you choose between them or something else important to you (your job, other friends)
Control often stems from deeply-rooted shame and insecurity. However, it can also come from narcissism. Regardless of its origin, when left untreated, the control issues tend to become progressively worse.
Red Flag #5: No Acknowledgment or Apologies
All couples experience trials and turbulence throughout their relationship. Conflict is normal and you may snap, criticize, or offend your partner in the heat of your emotions.
Conflict alone does not signify a relationship red flag. However, if your arguments follow a pattern of one of you caving in, trying to compromise and doing what you can to make peace (without the other budging), you’re headed into dangerous territory.
All adults make mistakes. However, healthy and mature adults can acknowledge and hold themselves accountable for these mistakes. If you and your partner cannot provide that for each other, the relationship is likely filled with bitterness.
Red Flag #6: You Feel Disrespected
Does your partner put you down? Does he or she mask criticisms under thinly-veiled sarcasm? Do you feel like you’re being gaslighted or walking on eggshells when you two interact?
Respect is a fundamental pillar in any healthy relationship. It means that you care about the other person’s integrity. It also means that you treat them with compassion and maturity. You should both feel like equals in the relationship, and the take-and-give should feel mutual.
If you feel disrespected, it may signify that your partner doesn’t care about you in the ways you deserve. It may also mean that he or she has a sense of entitlement in the relationship - that you are somehow beneath them when it comes to relationship equality.
Red Flag #7: You Constantly Question Leaving The Relationship
It’s normal to drift into the what-ifs occasionally. However, if you’re constantly questioning, fantasizing or even obsessing about whether you should stay in your relationship, you’re facing a major red flag.
Why? Because in healthy relationships, you feel implicitly secure and satisfied with the other person. Regardless of potential stress or setbacks, you trust that the two of you can and will work it out. You like the person that you are with.
Your constant daydreaming and questioning aren’t random. It’s your intuition nagging at you that something either needs to change quickly - or that something needs to end.
Coping With Stay or Go Decisions
Despite these relationship red flags, it isn’t always simple to take the next step. Even if you know you need to make a change, the feelings of fear, shame, and guilt may feel incredibly overwhelming. There is a lot to consider before ending a relationship, especially if there are children involved. Taking the time to carefully consider your options, which may include couple's counseling to try to resolve some of the issues, is an important part of the process.
Therapy can help you sort out some of these challenging emotions and decisions. Contact me today to learn how I can best support you make the right decision for you.