People are creatures of habit. An ability to go on autopilot helps us conserve energy and stay alert to the unfamiliar. In relationships, it is our responsibility to remain attentive and proactive in nurturing our partner’s needs and addressing any problematic habits that may form slowly over time.
Here is an overview of potentially problematic symptoms that can develop in intimate relationships. Use your increased awareness to take control and purposefully establish healthy relationship dynamics.
1. Keeping score
It is quite natural for us to keep score. Whether regarding the division of labor, financial contributions, or conflict behavior, we have a biased perception that increases our awareness of our partner’s blunders and minimizes our ability to take accountability of our problematic behavior.
With intimate relationships, it is harmful to keep score because for one partner to win, the other partner and the overall relationship have to lose. Help your relationship win by reducing the tendency to justify your position. Communicate openly to help your partner understand your perspective, and make a greater effort to see how your partner holds a separate point-of-view.
2. Losing touch
Physical intimacy is most intense during the beginning honeymoon phase of a relationship. While it is natural for physical intimacy to lessen and fluctuate through the course of a relationship, it can be harmful to lose appreciation of its value. Without touch to differentiate your intimate relationship from other friendships, you risk letting your relationship drift away from passion indefinitely.
You do need to be active in fostering passion and chemistry over time. This does not mean your relationship is bad. Good relationships require the willingness of both partners to work at making the relationship satisfying.
3. Blaming your partner
Blaming your partner often comes with a dose of self-righteousness, and this can make your partner feel distant, unheard, and unappreciated. Yes, we all make mistakes that require us to accept accountability, but frequent blaming reduces one’s desire to take ownership of mistakes and fosters unpleasantness for both partners.
Use “I” statements to take ownership of your feelings and assumptions. Ask your partner for what you want, whether an apology, a change in behavior, or simply an acknowledgment that he or she understands your hurt feelings. Staying away from blaming increases the likelihood that you will feel like a team.
4. Excessive withdrawal or withholding
Avoiding problems in your relationship will not make them go away. While it is okay to temporarily withdraw for the purpose of regaining control of your temper and allowing time for you to be more clear-headed, you risk problems simmering under the surface and potentially growing into resentment if you do not address your needs and concerns.
Open communication requires vulnerability. It requires you to expose a sensitive part of yourself in hopes that your partner will care and address your underlying concern. Create a safe environment for communication with your partner that allows each of you the opportunity to be open together.
5. Lack of resolution following conflict
Every relationship, even the best, includes conflict. One of the biggest factors that separates satisfying from unsatisfying relationships is the ability and willingness to repair after conflict occurs. Make an effort to swallow your pride, risk making yourself vulnerable, and reunite with your partner. You do not need to resolve the argument to emotionally reconnect and feel loved.
6. Infidelity (emotional, physical, or financial)
Infidelity is not usually something we plan for, but it is surprisingly common. It does not need to be a death sentence for your relationship, yet it often occurs when people have lost hope that the current relationship will ever improve.
Infidelity is something you can choose to prevent before it occurs. If you find yourself in an emotional or physical grey area with another person, it is likely that this has been building for a while. Infidelity is a symptom of dissatisfaction with the current relationship. Stop avoiding this underlying dissatisfaction and begin addressing what needs are being unfulfilled.
When you have this awareness, it is your responsibility to communicate openly with your partner about your concerns. See a couple therapist to help you talk openly in a safe space and address the underlying needs of the relationship.
Resentment develops when you hold a grudge against your partner and do not communicate directly about it. Sometimes it is a conscious choice, and other times it gradually infects your feelings beneath the surface of awareness. The only way to eradicate resentment is to address the underlying issue.
This involves open communication with your partner, making yourself vulnerable and asking your partner for what you need to be able to let go of the resentment. Sometimes you can eradicate resentment by yourself by becoming aware of the underlying problem and initiating personal changes.
All of these unhealthy relationship symptoms may occur in any healthy relationship, but let too many of them fester and multiply and you risk losing a great source of intimacy and well-being. Remain mindful of when these harmful behaviors occur and keep ahead of the game by addressing these issues directly. If you ever feel incapable of solving an underlying or long-term problem, consider seeing a couple therapist who can help guide you towards a healthier, more satisfying dynamic.