We humans long for stability in a world where everything is in flux. Despite our wishes, the only certainty in life is constant change. Nothing will be the exactly the same tomorrow as it is today. Rivers erode one bank while causing accretion on another. Just when we think we’ve settled into a safe existence, we lose a job, someone gets sick, a child is born, a parent dies. Some change is rapid and perceptible like technological innovation or a summer storm. Other changes take eons like the creation of mountains or smoothing of jagged rock.
Your relationship is also always changing in perceptible and imperceptible ways. Even the most rock solid one is in a state of flux. Like nature, relationships have seasons and rhythms. But within each “season”, you build a stronger union or drift apart. Your thoughts, words, attitudes and behaviors dictate the direction of the change. Are you moving toward more intimacy and closeness or away toward isolation and alienation.
We have listed 13 specific danger markers to help you assess whether your relationship is headed in the wrong direction.
- Secrets are a cancer to relationships. They gnaw at trust and closeness and create barriers between people.
- Infidelity can undermine the best of relationships. Even relationships that survive the exposure are often irreparably scarred the experience. Emotional infidelity can be as damaging as physical infidelity.
- Lack of balance in decision making power is usually a sign of a lack of cooperation and mutuality.
- An overall feeling that you are superior to your partner is a prescription for dissatisfaction for both parties.
- Reluctance to bring your partner to business or social gatherings can be a sign of shame which is unwelcome in a healthy relationship.
- Resentment in sharing in your partner’s success or accomplishments reflects competitiveness and a lack of recognition that partners are on the same team.
- A condescending approach to your partner is a poison pill for any couple’s happiness.
- Feeling trapped, stifled, or imprisoned in a relationship breaks down the potential for intimacy.
- Prolonged and volcanic jealousy is a source of turmoil that isolates partners.
- Destructive or malicious conflict that is hurtful and encourages partners to withdraw and retreat from each other is a barrier to intimacy.
- Feeling critical or disappointed in significant ways about your partner discourages mutual respect and realistic love.
- Not having basic needs and wants met creates a vacuum which chokes a relationship.
- Compromised dependability and the inability to trust your partner makes lasting, fulfilling relationships extremely difficult.
When these dangers are present in your relationship, it signals a relationship headed in the wrong direction. The best cure is to identify and take responsibility for your part, bring the problem out in the open, and try to make positive changes together. If your relationship is plagued by more than one of these dangers, working together with an objective professional can help you get back on track.
-Dr. Jerry Duberstein