There are an enormous number of reasons why relationships end. Very often, however, the root cause of the relationship breakdown lies in multiple, complicated and compounded problems.
Often, those problems have remained unresolved for a long period and have likely led to bigger problems, which in turn have caused further difficulties.
Many negative feelings and actions in relationships are usually not the cause of the problems. Yes, arguing, frustration, lack of intimacy or sex, resentment and anger are problematic but they may not necessarily be the root cause of relationship difficulties. Rather, they are often the symptoms of problems.
In fact, at the heart of many relationship problems are issues with communication as well as people’s expectations.
Talking about relationship problems
Talking about relationships problems in a calm, non-confrontational and honest manner is often one of the best things that you can do when confronted with relationship difficulties.
Understandably, this can be an uncomfortable and confrontational experience. Indeed, the very thought that there could be unresolved problems with someone that you share every part of your life with (and may even have kids with) may seem incredible.
Nonetheless, people ignoring the problem or bottling it up is very unlikely to make the problem disappear.
So should you be concerned? When’s a good time to open up to the most important non-blood relative in your life?
Here are eight signs that you should consider talking about it.
1) Is there enough intimacy and closeness?
Intimacy is a lot more than just physical contact, hugging, kissing and sex. If intimacy seems to be lacking, feels one-sided, or seems to be more about sex than general closeness (sex does not automatically correlate to feelings of emotional warmth) or vice versa, then there will very likely be an underlying reason for that.
2) Is there enough trust?
Did you know that trust is actually a form of intimacy? Your partner should be the person who has got your back. Do you feel that you can trust them with your life, your money and your deepest secrets?
3) Can you forgive? Can you acknowledge fault in yourself?
Stubbornness can be an admirable quality that allows people to achieve their goals, despite adversity. However, it can also lead to immovable attitudes. This might include a refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions, or an inability to let go of previous hurts and a feeling of being wronged. Can you forgive each other equally and not hold grudges? And can you rightly acknowledge fault when it is in yourself?
4) Do you both have enough independence?
The ability to depend on each other is a key part of any relationship, whether it’s emotionally, financially or otherwise. Not feeling like you can depend on someone may indicate a problem, as can the resentment that arises from feeling like they are forced to depend on the other (for example, having to ask for money).
5) Is there enough down-time?
Allowing yourself to briefly step away and take a mental break from it all is important to your wellbeing. Simply having your own space as you face the stresses and fast pace of daily life (for example, if you’re raising children or working in a high-pressure job) is vital, whether it’s a few minutes on your phone on the couch, a jog in the afternoon, or a bit of shed time on the weekend. Stepping away is not a sign of not loving someone. If down time is not a feature in the relationship, then why not?
6) Are there enough social connections outside of the relationship?
As with having your own space and down-time, so too is it important to have social contact with people who may be outside of your direct relationship, whether it’s a best mate, a group of old school friends or familiar faces at the footy.
Healthy social networks are crucial to a person’s wellbeing and spending reasonable periods with friends outside of the direct relationship is in no way a sign that you do not love each other.
7) Can you communicate openly and honestly?
Just about all couples disagree. The question is, can you disagree or voice differing opinions without it devolving into heated anger or a trigger for venting feelings of resentment.
It is important to note that knowing how to be a good listener is as much a key communication skill as is the ability to put things into words.
8) Can you negotiate and compromise?
The “ability to live with the unchangeable” is one characteristic of successful marriages. This doesn’t mean settling for second best or accepting bad behaviour in a partner. It does, however, imply that occasionally letting things go — especially if those things probably don’t matter in the long-term — and viewing situations in life with a “glass half full” mindset means more energy and patience can be devoted to things that do matter.
There’s an old saying: “would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?” While this is up to interpretation, there’s nevertheless some truth in it.
Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.
More information about relationships