Is Your Relationship in Jeopardy?
Some couples appear as though they've got it made - until the day they shock even their best friends by announcing that they're separating. Other couples, in contrast, squabble all the time. Yet, the next day they put it all behind them, feeling loving and supportive toward one another.
Clearly, a relationship's stability is not always evident to other people. What’s more surprising, however, is that it may not even be evident to those living it. It's not unusual to wonder if your marriage is 'on the rocks' or if it has simply hit a few bumps in the road. Of course, time will tell. Nothing stays the same. Relationships either get better or worse.
But wouldn't it be helpful if you could assess the signals beforehand like people do with medical issues? That way you can either reassure yourself that the symptoms are no big deal (after all, no marriage is perfect) or that the symptoms you're experiencing are indeed a danger sign - alerting you to the need to seek out marital counseling sooner rather than later.
Here are five signs of trouble to help you assess if your relationship is in jeopardy.
1. Viewing "Bad Behavior" as a Negative Character Flaw.
It's not just what your spouse does (or doesn't do) that creates problems. It's also how you interpret his behavior. For instance, if he was supposed to run an errand for you and didn't do it, do you think of him as "an asshole who doesn't give a damn about anybody but himself" or as "a forgetful guy with too much on his mind." Your relationship is in jeopardy when you interpret his behavior as a negative character flaw (he's so selfish) rather than as a situational difficulty (he’s overstressed).
2. Frequent Cross-Complaining.
Cross-complaining is when a complaint is met with a counter-complaint rather than addressing the grievance.
- Your spouse gripes, "You don't discipline the kids enough." You don’t defend yourself or explain your actions but you cross-complain, exclaiming, "You're always too tough on the kids."
- You arrive home from work exhausted, grumbling, "What a tough day I had!" Rather than offering a bit of sympathy or asking questions about your tough day, your spouse cross-complains, "You think your day was tough, mine was crazy stressful."
How do couples feel when their grievance is met with cross-complaining? Distant and alienated from each other, often expressed as, "There's no use talking to you," or "You don't give a damn about what I have to say."
You might ask, "Don't I have a right to complain too?" Yes, of course you do. But you must choose your timing. If your spouse has put an issue on the table and you don’t respond to that first, don’t be surprised if communication spirals downward. So, first address your spouse's complaint. Then, put your own issue on the table.
3. Treating Your Spouse with Contempt.
If you are chewing up your spouse, spitting him out for breakfast, obviously your relationship is in trouble. However, when contempt is more subtle, you may be unaware of it. Watch out for these forms of contemptuous behavior:
- Rolling your eyes as your spouse speaks;
- Assuming a patronizing, lecturing tone of voice;
- Using gestures of disgust;
- Cutting off discussion early on;
- Giving your spouse the cold shoulder;
- Name-calling, cursing and other disrespectful language.
4. The Deadly Duo – Disappointment and Disgust
When people fall in love, it’s not so much that their heartthrob is so perfect; it’s more that their heartthrob makes them feeling really good about themselves. They feel loved and valued. Yet as time takes its toll, these beautiful feelings may morph into a deadly duo - disappointment and disgust. She often finds herself nagging; he often responds with stonewalling. She believes, "No use talking to him". He believes, "It always has to be her way."
5. Not Enough Good Times to Counterbalance the Bad Times.
It may not feel fair, but it’s true. Negative feelings linger longer in memory than positive ones. Research shows that you need to count on at least 5 positive experiences to counterbalance 1 negative one. And if that negative experience packs a punch, only considerable time and an honest effort to rebuild trust will make a difference.
If, you believe that your relationship is in jeopardy, make it a priority to address the issues. Don't let a relationship languish that still has the potential to be a loving and caring one.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.PsychWisdom.com.
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