6 signs your relationship is in trouble

Do you worry that you’re in an unhealthy relationship? We asked a couples therapist to share some of the common warning signs that every couple should watch out for. 

By Alyssa Ashton

6 signs your relationship is in trouble
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Cheating is a clear sign of a relationship in trouble, but what about the subtler signs that a couple is heading down a rocky road? We spoke with Felisa Shizgal, a Toronto-based psychotherapist who says that recognizing the problems in your relationship is an important step in potentially fixing them.

Here are six signs your relationship may be in trouble.

1. The relationship isn't a priority
Between work, kids and life, it can be easy for a relationship to become lost among other responsibilities. "There's an ebb and flow in relationships," says Shizgal. "There are seasons, there's change – it's a work in progress."

However, if your relationship is chronically not a priority then that’s a problem. If your relationship is not a priority, then you've "lost the mutual responsibility for the health of the relationship and the maintenance of the relationship," explains Shizgal.

2. You expect your partner to meet all of your needs

We often come into a relationship with an unrealistic expectation that our partner will fulfil all of our needs. Your partner isn't your parent, though, so it's not his or her job to meet all of your needs, explains Shizgal.

"It's hard to separate out that my unmet needs are for me to figure out and for my partner to support me in," she says. If you blame your partner – or vice versa – for not assisting you financially or for not helping you cope with stress and anxiety, then you need to step back and consider whose job it really is to fulfil those needs.

3. Checking out
If one or both of you is checking out of your relationship, then that's a problem. According to Shizgal, a relationship is a "conscious partnership" that involves "both people taking responsibility for the relationship, because two people have to be reliably, sustainably engaged," she says.

You need to be aware of how your actions – or lack thereof – are impacting the relationship. Ask yourself what you're bringing to the relationship. Are you present? If you're checking out of the relatinonship, then you're not engaged in a conscious partnership and that's not healthy

4. Lack of eye contact

"When couples are in distress, even in small arguments, they tend to stop looking at each other and avoid eye contact," says Shizgal.

You could be avoiding eye contact for many reasons: maybe you're not telling the truth or perhaps you're afraid of facing your problems. Either way, not making eye contact is a physical sign of a problem in your relationship. Ask yourself why you avoid eye contact, says Shizgal. Then, actually make an effort to make eye contact with your partner. 

5. You've stopped fighting
Fighting is a sign we often associate with a troubled relationship, and while fighting too much is not healthy, not fighting at all isn't healthy either, says Shizgal. "I think it's important to be able to fight and disagree and survive," she says. "Often, when we can work through conflicts or disappointments, we end up moving closer together."

If you don't fight it usually means that you're scared of upsetting your partner by saying that you're mad. However, if you don't express how you feel then you'll never work through your issues as a couple.

6. A pattern of pursuit and avoidance

"Sometimes people get so scared of jeopardizing their relationship or pushing their partner further away, that one person ends up chasing the other person, while the second person avoids them," says Shizgal. She calls this a "pattern of pursuit and avoidance" or "avoidance/avoidance."

This is usually a symptom of a relationship where the couple doesn't communicate or isn't sure how to communicate well. A couple that is stuck in this pattern has to learn how to communicate effectively and to actually address issues, instead of avoiding them.

Ultimately, relationships are a work in progress and you need to ask yourself if you can work through the issues you and your partner may have. Can you talk out your differences? Can you renegotiate your responsibilities so that everyone is happier? If not, then your relationship has a serious hurdle that it may not be able to overcome.

We've got more relationship tips, including how to say you're sorry.


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