In the 1970s, singer/song writer Paul Simon sang, “There must be 50 ways to leave your lover.” Considering the divorce rate and the high percentage of failed relationships, the title of this popular song could have been, “There must be 50 ways to ruin your relationship.” Long-term, committed relationships are temperamental, and no matter the extraordinary love you and your partner feel for each other, your relationship (like all others) isn’t immune to the marital or relationship problems all couples face soon or later.
Relationship Truism: Marriages and relationships that once appeared indestructible and the envy of others have ended up on love’s scrap heap.
While there may be no doubt that your relationship is indeed special, you shouldn’t assume it will magically (and automatically) transcend the relationship challenges that befall mere mortals. With this in mind, let’s examine a few potential issues that can get couples into relationship trouble. Remember, when it comes to healthy marriages or relationships, information and awareness are golden.
Relationship Help: 5 Relationship Trouble Spots to Watch for
1) Setting Your Relationship to Cruise Control
This can occur for a variety of reasons (e.g., the relationship is running smoothly and you move into a relaxed, laissez faire mode of relating to one another; after mounting frustrations and attempts to fix the relationship, you pull back and stop trying). When the relationship is set on cruise control, there is always the danger that relationship comfort will morph into relationship complacency—when this occurs, you stop doing the much-needed relationship housekeeping required for a healthy marriage or relationship.
2) You’re Stuck in Neutral (Not growing as an individual)
When you are stuck in neutral, your curiosity and potential for growth grinds to a halt. You become passive (you perceive life as just happening to you rather than being an agent who creates your life); life’s challenges (including relationship challenges) are seen as unwelcome hurdles, unfair and unfortunate events rather than opportunities for self-enhancement. When you’re stuck in neutral, your marriage or relationship is likely to get stuck along side you.
3) Chasing Rainbows
In this context, when you chase rainbows you seek anything that feels good and you use this mood boost as the sole compass of how you should live your life. Rainbow chasers do well during the infatuation stage of relationships (the first 2-3 years when bliss and excitement naturally infuse the relationship) and typically fall hard emotionally when the feel-good emotions of new love give way to the challenges of domesticity. As the inherent differences between couples become a reality (and the work of empathy, compromise and negotiation are required), the rainbow chaser may falsely believe it’s time to move on and look outside the relationship in search of the new feel-good experience.
4) It’s Just a Matter of Time
With this mindset you anticipate the other shoe dropping at any moment and remain on alert for signs to ready the mental troops for attack or defense. This gloom and doom mindset gives minimal attention (if any) to anything positive that might exist or to any attempts your spouse/partner might be making to improve the relationship. And when the relationship is running smoothly, you are likely to see this as a fluke, insignificant, or simply the calm before the next relationship storm.
5) Grass Is Always Greener
Some of us go through life with a gnawing sense that just over the horizon somewhere lies something better and grander than our current life circumstance. This uneasiness can take the form of always searching for the “best” place to live or to find that “perfect” person who will turn your perpetual uneasiness into an emotional oasis. But when you continually look outside yourself for the antidote (rather than looking deeper within yourself for what ails you), you will always be searching for that special someone or someplace.
I often tell the couples I work with that knowing about potential problem areas shouldn’t create an atmosphere of chronic worry and tension. This will only intensify what you are trying to fix. So as you read through the above list, discuss the ones that feel relevant to your relationship with your partner, while also acknowledging and building on the existing strengths of your marriage/relationship.
Dr. Rich Nicastro