Recognising relationship breakdown
“Some expression in your eyes,
Overtook me by surprise
Where was I?
How was I to know?”
The opening lines of Roxy Music’s anthem on lost love, perhaps ring with many who have been surprised by the sudden break up of their relationship. Perhaps they had no idea that it was coming.
Is it possible to spot the danger signs and take action? Can you save your relationship? Often couples who come to relationship counselling or therapy have left it till the problems have overwhelmed them, rather than tackling them at an early stage and this perhaps gives us a clue to the first of the problems in relationship.
Although both partners can see problems in the relationship, they avoid discussing them, sometimes this is because they don’t like the reaction they will get, or they don’t like conflict or perhaps that they don’t feel listened too. Unfortunately by not talking, resentment builds and as one author put it, trying to control your relationship with resentment is like killing someone by taking poison yourself. However uncomfortable, addressing the elephant in the room acknowledges the problem and shares your feelings with your partner and offers the opportunity to change things.
Many partners feel that they are very controlled, that their partner asks where they are going all of the time or that they are never happy unless the family do what they want. For example they may sulk if they do not get their choice of holiday destination. At one end of the spectrum, this is almost childlike, but at the other it can be very frightening to live with. All relationships need a degree of freedom where you will have interests outside and inside the relationship, and if this balance is changing, it can be a danger sign.
Quality of the communication
Partners of course can communicate with each other (assuming they speak the same language), however, it is very common to find in counselling that partners do not hear or understand each other. They physically hear the words and they can decode the dictionary meaning, but they often do not understand the sense of what their partner is trying to tell them. For example, one partner might say “you never show me you love me anymore.” “That’s nonsense, I work hard and I bought you that diamond necklace only last month, do you think I’d do that if I didn’t love you?” In this couple, one person is looking for closeness, intimacy, contact as an expression of love, yet the other is expressing their love through expensive gifts. Perhaps a trivial example, but you see similar examples with one partner talking in a logical, planning mode while the other talks about emotions and feelings and in these situations. It takes a great deal of work to really listen and understand. If one of the partners is not engaged in trying to communicate, this can quickly lead to many of the problems above.
Yet all of these problems can be overcome, and your relationship can become healthy again. Like all things, it benefits from attention and maintenance. It may seem strange to go to a therapist before your relationship is in the last chance saloon, but as most therapists will tell you, while there is no need for everyone to rush to therapy, it is worth considering if you are having difficulties in resolving any issue with your partner as the mediation and the perspective makes a big difference.