Lasting Love Archives - Relationship Expert

Category Archives for Lasting Love

The 5 Relationship Stages

​​​​​​The 5 Relationship Stages

You’ve probably fallen in love at least once in your life.

In fact, some people fall in love multiple times, only to have their hopes and dreams of a long and happy life with their partner dashed.

Unfortunately for many of us, falling in love is
not the hard part of relationships. The hard part is staying in love!

​When I work with couples I find it useful to divide relationships into 5 stages. These stages are never exact, and couples can cycle in out out of 1 or more of these stages easily.

But by thinking about what stage your relationship is in, it is possible for you and your partner to anticipate the pitfalls of each relationship stage and learn the tools to move forward into a happier, more loving and more passionate stage of their relationship.

So, what are these
5 relationship stages?

​​​​You’ve probably fallen in love at least once in your life...Unfortunately for many of us, falling in love is not the hard part of relationships. The hard part is staying in love!​

​Stage 1: ​The Initial Attraction and Romance Stage

The first and most obvious stage of most relationships is the Initial Attraction and Romance stage. Some people even call this the “drug addiction” stage, as this is when the body releases most of the feel-good hormones that characterize the initial feelings of being passionately in love with your partner.

As you probably know from personal experience, the Initial Attraction and Romance stage of a new relationship is usually quite intoxicating. It is also what most movie romances are based on. Strangers may meet on a beach, their eyes lock and they experience a powerful attraction to each other.

They then can’t stand to be away from each other. They think about each other all the time. But just before they admit their true love for each other, in most movies they encounter an obstacle that threatens to keep them apart. But against the odds they overcome this obstacle, so that they can embrace each other in the final scene and kiss passionately as the sun sets behind them.

In these movies however, there is never any focus on what happens next. Are these two characters who have fought to be together really that compatible with each other? Do they have similar world-views? Are they good communicators? Do they have anger management issues? Given that they are hooked on feel-good chemicals are they likely to be faithful to each other long-term? And what are their listening skills like?

In most movies (unlike real life) we never find out. But if you and your partner have progressed beyond at least the initial stages of the Initial Attraction And Romance stage, you are probably probably struggling with some of these questions right now...

  • Are we the right people for each other?
  • Can we learn to live with our differences?
  • Are our communication skills good enough to deal with difficult relationship issues?
  • Can we overcome the things that we fight about, or even better, stop fighting all together?

​​​Are we the right people for each other?

​You will learn tools to deal with all of these questions ​in later blog posts.

For the moment however, know that during the Initial Attraction and Romance stage of any relationship your body will be releasing strong love chemicals that enhance the process of bonding with your partner. These chemicals include high levels of
dopaminenorepinephrine and oxytocin-almost exactly the same chemicals that you would find after taking addictive (and illegal) drugs!

However intense the Initial Attraction and Romance stage feels however, it will subside. Usually between a few months and a couple of years, the levels of these love chemicals returns to normal and your relationship may start to seem very different.

Very often this drop in love chemicals leads couples into relationship stage 2, which is the
Conflict Stage.

​Stage 2: ​The Conflict Stage

In the Conflict stage relationships feel much harder. Instead of looking deeply into each others eyes, you and your partner start to be more concerned about who left the toilet seat up or whose turn it is to take out the trash.

Other issues may start to enter relationship at this stage too. After being infatuated with your partner for so long, all of a sudden you mighty to feel feelings such as anger or disappointment. The questions that you have avoided in the Initial Attraction and Romance stage come into the light.

After your first big argument, or after multiple small ones, you may start to wonder if you actually compatible with each other. Maybe your partner’s sense of humour that first drew you to him starts to annoy you. The outgoing personality that you loved for so long starts to feel ​oppressive and irritating.

​​​After your first big argument, or after multiple small ones, you may start to wonder if you actually compatible with each other.

Often in this stage anger, arguments and power struggles start to appear. You may find that ​when you argue your partner pursues you, while you just want to withdraw. Maybe you find out that your partner has anger issues. Maybe you note that your partner is resistant to change.

Unless you know how too deal with these situations effectively, many couples can get caught in this conflict stage for many years-and possible even for the rest ​of their relationship!

Fortunately however, there are some simple tools to help couples move past this Conflict stage. These tools focus on how couples can maintain effected communication, as well as deal with anger, abuse or arguments. You will learn these tools in ​other blog posts.

For couples that make it past the Conflict stage, the next stage they enter is often called the Working stage.

Stage 3: The Working Stage

​​​Entering the Working stage does not mean that arguments between couples stop, but usually the intensity and frequency of the arguments drop.

Instead of arguing, you and your partner form a good team. A period of peace often enters the relationship-characterised by the beginning of acceptance of your partner for who he or she is. Things that may have bothered you previously now seem like not such a big deal. Issues such as who does the cleaning on the weekend get resolved, or routines get set up to avoid this issue.

The Working stage of relationships can last many years, and for many couples can seem very comfortable. This comfort however is a possible downside of this stage. At this point in relationship, often 5-10 years into the relationship, couples often start to take each other for granted.

Signs of this complacency can be subtle. Maybe you start easing dinner in front of the television, rather than sitting down together at the dinner table and talking. Maybe you stop the romantic gestures or date nights that were a strong part of the Initial Attraction and Romance stage of your relationship. Maybe you start watching television together in the bedroom, rather than snuggling and kissing.

If you are not careful, levels of passion in the Working stage of your relationship can drop.

Stage 4: ​Commitment

The fourth stage of great relationships is the Commitment stage.

The Commitment stage is about internally choosing your partner as your life partner, as they are (as not as you want them to be!). In this stage you decide that the person you are in relationship with is the person you want to be with for the rest of your life.

Of course, for many couples this Commitment stage may coincide with a wedding or other commitment ceremony, but they can also be very different things! In fact, many couples marry each other while they are in any of the first there relationship stages, which can lead to problems later on!

Often once couples enter the Commitment stage their relationship will improves. Psychological exit doors have been closed, and the brain starts to story your relationship in positive ways that justify the level of commitment you feel.

As a consequence, once you accept your partner as your one and only life-partner for the rest of your life passion levels may go up and feelings off being truly connected together often increase.

​​​​​​​​Once you accept your partner as your one and only life-partner for the rest of your life passion levels may go up and feelings off being truly connected together often increase.

​Unfortunately however, many couples return to previous relationship stages even after entering the Commitment stage. Problems, power struggles and conflict may come back into the relationship.

But for most couples the intensity of the problems is less than they were before the Commitment stage. Closing down psychological options to experience other relationships often means that you become happy with the person you have chosen!

The Commitment stage however is not the final stage of most great relationships.

The Final Stage is what I call the
True Love stage.

​​​​​​Stage 5: True Love

​​​In the True Love stage you and your partner are committed to each other, but you are also committed to something bigger. In the True Love stage you become more than the sum of each person. In fact, you influence each other so much that who you are is not separate from each other. As a client of mine said once, there is no ​Tracey without Peter.

The True Love stage is also often characterized by having relationship goals and plans. These plans may involve starting a family, building a dream home, giving back to a church or club together or talking about how you will spend you old-age together.

In the True Love stage you will also have shared short and medium term relationship goals, and be working on these goals together. ​I will discuss this stage more ​in later blog posts!

OK.

I hope it is useful for you to think about these 5 relationship stages. Of course, not all relationship pass through all these stages, and there stages do not follow a linear process. You and your partner may cycle between these stages many times before you even come close to the True Love stage.

In ​other ​posts, you will learn many of the tools that will help you move past the relationship stage you are in now to a happier, more loving and more passionate relationship stage.

​Before ending this post ​however, set aside 5-10 minutes with your partner to discuss the following questions.

(Note: The exercise in this ​post works best if you take turns talking and listening to each other as you answer these questions. Don’t focus on “being right” or trying to convince your partner of your perspective. Instead, just focus on listening and trying to really understand what your partner is saying!)

​​​​Question 1: What relationship stage would you say your relationship is in?

Try to explain your answer as fully as possible as your partner is listening to you. Remember there are no right or wrong answers!

​​​​​Question 2: What do you remember most about the Initial Attraction and Romance stage of your relationship?

​When you are answering this question, try to remember how you felt when you first met your partner? What first attracted you to him or her? What as the most romantic thing he or she did for you in this stage, and what did you do for him/her?

​​​​​Question 3: What have been the happiest times in your relationship so far?

​As you answer this question, try to describe these times as fully as possible. It can be a good idea to write down least some of these memories together so that you and your partner can refer back to them as much as possible. Is there anything stopping you recreating some of these memories?

​​​​​Question 4: Are you and your partner in the True Love stage? If not, what would need to change in order for you to move in this direction?

​Remember, if you want help moving your relationship towards the True Love stage, I am here to help!

12 Signs You Are In A Good Relationship

Today I want to help celebrate those people who are in good relationships!

How do you know if you are in a good relationship?

The following are 12 signs that I look for (both with people I work with and in my personal life). I'm not exactly sure what a "pass" score is for a good relationship, but I would hope most people can tick around 9 or 10 of these 12 signs.

If you can't, remember it is always a good option to book relationship counselling to help improve your relationship. It is not as scary as people think, and can help couples far quicker than most people think!

OK. 12 Signs that you are in a good relationship:

1

​You enjoy time together!

​As obvious as this sounds, this is not true for every couple! Common interests help couples enjoy spending time together, but are not essential. If you lack common interests, don't panic. The way you communicate together is more important than sharing interests together. 

2

​You communicate well together

​By this, I mean each person feels heard and understood (at least to some level) when you talk to each other. ​I very much rate regular talking time together and using active listen skills. My ebook, "How To Listen To Your Partner So That He Or She Feels Fully Understood" explains this in more detail. 

3

​Arguments do not get heated

​Arguments (in themselves) are not good or bad for relationships. However, if arguments get out of control, or result in any abuse or violence, this is always bad for a relationship. Good couples argue respectfully! 

​4

​​You have a relationship "support network"

​It is hard for couples to maintain a good relationship together without others. Times will always get tough, and in the tough times it is good to be able to turn to people who support the relationship to help get things back on track. Usually this is friends or family, but relationship counsellors can also help here! 

​5

​​You spend quality time together

​Spending time alone as a couple (especially if you have children) is vital for all couples. What is quality time? Basically it is time when you are alone together and connect with each other. Beach walks, coffees, playing board games all count as quality time. How much quality time do you need? Research suggest 2 hours a week minimum! 

​6

​​You touch

​When I ask couples what their "love languages" are, almost all men say touch is one of their top two love languages. Some women do too. Happy couples usually touch each other a lot. They hug or kiss when they get home from work, they touch on the couch watching TV, they cuddle in bed at night. These acts of touch help keep the relationship strong. 

​7

​​You trust each other

​Although I wish this went without saying, trust is synonymous with a good relationship. Any jealousy or mistrust (earned or not) can quickly destroy a good relationship. If you or your partner is experiencing issues of mistrust, get help immediately

​​8

​You have separate lives

​It is hard for couples to maintain a good relationship if there is not outside interests that each person can bring to the relationship. You both should have your own friends, interests and hobbies! Often this is harder when you have young children, but be sure to arrange the parenting so that both people have time to pursue life outside of home (and work!). 

​​9

​​​You respect and support each other (and show it)

​Research indicates that couples that thrive have roughly 20 positive interactions for every negative interaction. This means that for every thing you criticize your partner about, you should praise him or her for 20 other things. It is hard to do this if you do not fully respect and support your partner. If your ratio is a bit off, make sure you repair this as soon as possible! 

​​10

​You ​function as a team

​You and your partner are a team! This means that you share the relationship work. This includes housework, cooking dinners, doing jobs outside the house etc. Of course, not everything needs to be shared equally, but there needs to be negotiation about how these tasks are done. 

​​1​1

​​You have a good sex life

​Without a good sex life, couples run the risk of falling into flatmate or friend relationships. One of the keys to a good sex life is the ability to talk about sex. If you and your partner have done this and still find issues sexually, seek professional help as soon as possible! 

​​1​2

​​You have shared goals for the future

​Couples that work together on shared goals are more likely to stick together! Do you and your partner have relationship goals for the next year? The next 5 years? How about the next decade? If not, think about sitting down and discussing what you want together in the future. As with everything, the more you plan it, the more likely it is to happen! 

​I hope that's useful!

Feel free to ​comment below (or on my Facebook page) how many of these items you could tick off (and how you feel about your relationship)! It would be good to calibrate this!

​Don't forget relationship counselling can help any relationship. If you know counselling can help, book now!

What Makes A Relationship Last? A Science Based Answer

​​​​What ​Makes ​A ​Relationship ​Last? A ​Science ​Based ​Answer

Why do some relationships last-and others fail?

It’s a question that many couples have when they come into my office. Are we right for each other? Should we work on our relationship, or should we go our separate ways? And, by the way, how do we make this decision?

How to predict whether a relationship will last or not would be a very valuable skill to have-especially when one realizes that in most marriages, even if they last, both partners may not be happy.

In fact, in his book “
Happily Ever After”, psychologist Ty Tashiro states that out of every ten people that get married, only three will create a happy, sustainable long-term relationship with each other.

​​Only 3 out of every 10 married couples will create a happy, sustainable long-term relationship.

​-Ty Tashiro

So, how does one tell if a relationship will last?

A powerful answer to this question comes from
John Gottman, one of America's most eminent relationship researchers.

​​​John Gottman

In 1986, relationship researcher John Gottman (together with colleague Robert Levenson) set up what he called the “Love Lab”. This was an apartment at the University of Washington where newly-wed couples would come and live for several days.

During these days Gottman and Levenson would physiologically-monitor and video-tape each couple as they lived together. They would also ask each couple questions about their relationship, including:

  • ​how they met
  • what conflict they had with each other, and
  • positive memories of each other

​As each member of the couple answered these questions, Gottman and Levenson would monitor their heart rates, the level of sweat produced and their level of general physiological arousal. After a few days they would send the couples home.

Six years later Gottman and Levenson would follow up with each couple to see if their were together to not-and if so, how happy their marriage was.

The Masters of Relationships

From this data, Gottman and Levenson separated the couples into two groups. These groups were:

  • ​the "Masters of Relationships" (these were the couples who were still happily married and content after 6 years), and
  • the "Disasters of Relationships" (these were the couples who had separated or were together but chronically unhappy).

​So, what where the differences between these two groups?

Accordion to Gottman and Levenson, there were just two traits that separated these groups. These traits were kindness and generosity.

​​Accordion to Gottman and Levenson, there were just two traits that separated these groups. These traits were kindness and generosity.


​​​​Kindness

According to Gottman, disasters of relationships to get very quickly into a "fight-flight" (or adversarial) state of mind during relatively simple conversations.

In other words, disasters of relationships quickly get into attack (or defend) mode during conversations. If their spouse says or does something that they do not like or agree with, disasters of relationships are very quick to point out the faults in their spouses words or actions.

In these situations a disaster of relationship will attack their spouse, often by criticism or expressing contempt. Or if they themselves are being criticized, disasters of relationships easily become defensive. Or equally they become non-responsive and stonewall their partner.

These four traits, namely:

1.

Criticism

2.

Contempt

3.

Defensiveness

​4.

Stonewalling

​are what Gottman calls the "four horsemen of the apocolypse". They are all signs that a relationship is in trouble. Each behaviour over time is likely to lead to distance in a couple-and eventual separation.

Masters Of Relationships

​​​For masters of relationships the relationship is far more important that any single issue-so they be careful not to let small issues escalate into pointless arguments.

Scanning For Positives

Another behaviour that masters of relationships do that disasters of relationships do not do is to scan their relationship environment for positives-such as for things that they can praise their partner for or say thank you for.

Examples of this may be a partner who regularly thanks their partner for bathing the children in the evenings, even if it their job. Telling your partner what he or she is doing right is a powerful antidote to the times where your partner is feeling judged or criticized.

​Kindness

In the same vein as scanning for positives, kindness helps glue couples together. In fact, research has shown that kindness is the most important predictor of relationship satisfaction and stability. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood and loved.

So, how do you show kindness in a relationship?

Fortunately there are many ways!

One simple way to show kindness in a relationship involves what is known as "bids for attention". A bid for attention is usually a simple request for connection. For example, you may be watching television with your partner and he (or she) may say: "Isn't that funny!".

While this may seem an innocuous comment, in reality it is an attempt (albeit a small one) to connect with the partner. A master of relationship will acknowledge this connection, by saying something like "Yes, it sure is!".

​​​​One simple way to show kindness in a relationship involves what is known as "bids for attention". A bid for attention is usually a simple request for connection.

​By contrast, disasters of relationships will often ignore this bid, perhaps by saying nothing. Or they may disagree, perhaps by saying: "No, not really". In either case, the bid for connection has been lost.

Masters of relationships then respond kindly to bids for attention.

Another way of being kind to your partner is to think the best of their intentions. If your partner makes a mistake, rather than thinking about the outcome of their actions, focus on what your partner was trying to do. Maybe their intention was good. They may have been trying to help. And even if the effect is to hinder, masters of relationships will kindly acknowledge the intention, not the outcome.

A third example of showing kindness in a relationship is to share joyous moments with each other. If your partner has done something well, such as achieved a goal in work or done well at a sporting event-share the joy with them (rather than just making a token acknowledgement-such as by saying "That's nice").

Couples who share each others joy are far more likely to stay together than couples who do not. In fact, research has shown that being there for each other when things are good is even more important for a couple than being there for each other when things get tough!

​​​​​​Research has shown that being there for each other when things are good is even more important for a couple than being there for each other when things get tough!

Generosity

What Is Generosity?

In general, generosity in a relationship is choosing to focus more on the needs and wants of your partner than your own needs and wants.

Of course there are times when acts of generosity are counter-productive in a relationship-such as when your partner is completely self-serving, narcissistic or controlling, but in general the more generous each partner is to the other, the more likely the relationship is to succeed long-term.

So, what does generosity look like long-term in a relationship?

Luckily there are many ways to show generosity in a relationship.

These include:

1) Being Forgiving

In a relationship it is easy to "keep score" on who does what, who makes the most effort and so forth. Unfortunately research shows that this "score-keeping" is a strong predictor of relationship failure. Being generous in this context means being forgiving (and forgetting) of your partners perceived mistakes, accepting your partners apologies for mistakes and not letting frustrations build up.

​2) Praising Your Partner

Supporting and uplifting your partner is a key part of any great relationship. Taking time to compliment your partner, saying "thank you" or encouraging your partner in their day to day life all contribute to the glue that helps couples stay together.

​3) Thinking About How To Make Your Partner Happy

There are many day to day things that we can all do to improve your partners day. Some of these may be based in knowing what your partners main "love language" is and acting in a way that responds to it. Small acts of services, physical touch and supportive words can all contribute to making your partner happier. But the key is to think what would make him or her happy (not what would make you happy).

​4) Listening To Your Partner

​If your partner has had a difficult day and wants to talk about it, simply listening to your partner as he or she offloads the day is a generous act. I have written previously about the importance of good listening, but if you want to brush up on your listening skills, click here.

​​​If your partner has had a difficult day and wants to talk about it, simply listening to your partner as he or she offloads the day is a generous act. I have written previously about the importance of good listening, but if you want to brush up on your listening skills, click here.

​How Generous Is Your Relationship?

​​There are many other ways to show generosity in your relationship, but for a quick assessment of how generous your relationship is, assess yourself on the following four questions, using a scale of 1-5 (1=Never, 5=Always):

1) How often do you express affection or love to your partner?

2) How often do you express respect or admiration to your partner?

3) How often do you perform small acts of kindness for your partner (like making him or her coffee in the morning)?

4) How often do you forgive your partner for his or her mistakes or failings?


If you would like a full scoring guide, contact me or go to this article:
Quiz: Do you have a generous relationship?

​If you would like an ​indication now of your score, an average score on this quiz is around 15-16. If you are less than that you may have some work to do!

​In Conclusion...

​​​Science has said that kindness and forgiv​eness are the two key traits that "glue" a relationship together.

​Would you ​like to increase the levels of ​ kindness or generosity in your relationship? Book a relationship counselling session here.

Is My Relationship Over? 6 Clear Signs That It May Be Time To Break Up

​​​Is My Relationship Over? 6 Clear Signs That It May Be Time To Break Up

​How do you know if your relationship is over?

This is a question that doesn’t have an easy answer-yet it is something that many people in relationships struggle with.

As a relationship counsellor one of my main tasks is to help couples learn the relationship tools to help them stay together. However having said this it is important to ​realise that for some couples breaking up may be the best option they have.

For these couples it is still important to break up in a healthy, non-damaging ways-especially when children are involved.

​As a relationship counsellor my main task (as I see it) is to help couples learn the relationship tools to help them stay together. However having said this it is important to release that for some couples breaking up may be the best option they have.

​​Often seeing a relationship counsellor to talk through these issues in a constructive way is a good choice even if you have already decided not to stay together. In the past I have helped many couples do exactly this.

So, what are some common signs that your relationship is over?

While there are many answers to this question, here are ​6 common signs that either your relationship is in serious trouble, or that it might already be over.

​​Sign 1: Emotional Distance

One of the biggest red flags between couples is that they start to withdraw from each other.There are many ways couples can do this. These include

  • ​spending more time with friends or family outside the relationship
  • not sharing details of your life with each other
  • spending more time on ​seperate hobbies and interests
  • ​sharing highlights and lowlights of your day with other people (not your partner)

​This process of withdrawal from each other can be gradual, but the effect on any relationship is significant.

​This process of withdrawal from each other can be gradual, but the effect on any relationship is significant. Couples feel less connected to each other, they spend more time apart from each other and levels happiness and bonding drop.

If this process is not reversed then in most cases a relationship will break up. Or if the couple stay together it becomes a functional relationship, rather than a loving, committed one.

​Sign 2: Increased Aggression or Arguments

​​While the presence of aggression or arguments in not a predictor of separation in most relationships, an increase in aggression or arguments (or a change in the type of aggression or arguments) can be.

As an example, of this, it is common for couples who are on the verge of breaking up to increase both the frequency and intensity of arguments. What may have been a minor irritation a few years prior becomes a major argument. And an argument that may have escalated to a certain point a few years prior now its even more heated.

According to relationship guru
John Gottman, one of the most corrosive features in arguments is the presence of contempt between couples.

​Contempt is when we are truly mean towards our partner or think of ourselves as superior to our partner.


For those not familiar with it, contempt is when we are truly mean towards our partner or think of ourselves as superior to our partner. Common examples of contempt include:

  • treat your partner with disrespect
  • mocking him or her
  • using sarcasm or condescension
  • using hostile humour
  • name-calling
  • mimicking, and
  • body language such as eye-rolling and sneering

​Contempt is such a strong predictor of divorce that once is takes hold it usually takes professional help for it to change.

​​​Sign 3: Fantasies of Escape

​​A third sign that your relationship may be over is when either partner is having more and more consistent fantasies of escape.

Common fantasies of escape include the “grass is greener” type of fantasy where you imagine being with another person that will make you happier than your current partner, or simply being single and escaping from your perceived problems at the time.

While fantasies of escape can be tempting, it is important to realize that “running away” is only one solution to the problem of a poor relationship. Perhaps a more mature solution is to try and fix the relationship first by addressing the major issues in it.

While fantasies of escape can be tempting, it is important to realise that “running away” is only one solution to the problem of a poor relationship. Perhaps a more mature solution is to try and fix the relationship first by addressing the major issues in it."

​While some people think that they have already done this, it is also important to realize that many of us have a tendency to focus on our partners perceived weakness or faults and overlook our contribution to relationship issues. In fact, for some people this “taking responsibility” of relationship issues can be almost impossible.

With couples I see I always try to get each member of the couple to focus on their own contribution to the relationship dysfunction-not ​their partners. In other words, it is important to always try to change ourselves before we change others.

Having said that, if one member of the couple has truly looked at themselves and tried to eliminate their contribution to the relationship dysfunction without success, it may be time f​or the relationship to breakup.

​Sign 4: Your sex-life (or level of affection together) diminishes

Establishing and maintaining a healthy sex-life can be challenging in any relationship.This is particularly true in longer term relationships where many factors can affect the quality of a couples sex life. These factors include:

  • amount of time each partner spends at work
  • communication levels between the partners
  • presence and age of children
  • sleep issues
  • general fatigue
  • menopause, and
  • arguments and conflict

While maintaining a healthy sex life is challenging for most couples, changes in the couples sex-life can be problematic-especially if a coupes sex-life (or levels of affection) have diminished to almost zero.

​​As with all of these signs, awareness of the sign is the first step in trying to change it. A useful second step is to seek relationship counselling.

As with all of these signs, awareness of the sign is the first step in trying to change it. A useful second step is to seek relationship counselling.

Some simple steps for couples to try to re-ignite their sex-life (or to increase levels of affection between each other) include:

  • working on improving communication levels. In fact, for many couples communication (and the emotional connection good communication brings) is the key to a healthy and active sex life. This especially applies to being able to talk to each other in non-superficial, “deep” ways.
  • sharing sexual desires and expectations. Having the maturity ​to be open with your partner about what you want sexually is key to a good sexual relationship. As someone said to me once “If you cant talk about sex, you shouldn’t be having it.”
  • making a plan. As strange as it seems, planning to have sex together in a relationship is one of the keys to keeping a healthy sex-life. Too many couples expect sex to be as passionate and spontaneous as it was when they first met. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case-so planning sex is almost always a good idea!

​Sign 5: You ​focus ​on ​your ​partners ​flaws (​not ​their ​good sides!)

We all know that frustrations can build up in a relationship.

One obvious sign of this is that you may find yourself thinking more and more about your partners flaws-and not their strengths.

For some couples this phenomena can be an example of what is called “
negativity bias”.

Negativity bias is the tendency many people to give greater attention and weight to negative information. Australian couples therapist
Clinton Power states it this way:

​The brain is Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences.

When it comes to relationships then it is easy to remember all the negative experiences we have had with our partner and the flaws that we perceive these demonstrate about our partner. These frustrations build up, and before we know it we are thinking of leaving our partner.

A simple anti-dote to our common negativity bias is to learn to mitigate the negative qualities that we see in our partner with a more positive quality. I tell many of my clients that one of the best ways to do this is to use the word “but” whenever you think of a complaint about your partner.

​For example, if your partner is often late for events, but when he or she turns up at the event, they are the life of the party, it is most useful to think of the situation this way:

“My partner is often late, but when he or she turns up they are the life of the party.”

This mitigation of the negative quality can prevent the perceived flaw of your partner from becoming too strong in your mind.

Sign 6: Refusing to see a Counsellor

​If things aren’t going well between your partner and yourself and your partner refuses to go to relationship counselling, this may be a sign that your relationship is not going to work out.

American Marriage and Family therapist,
Christie Tcharkhoutian ​ puts it this way:

​​If your dynamic is toxic and your partner does not want to try to work it out, then that is a big sign that the relationship may be over.

It’s similar to when you are driving a car and the emergency warning that you have a flat tire goes off. If you keep ignoring it and never pull over to change the tire, your car is going to drive off the road and lose control.

In the same way, the dissatisfaction in the relationship and the healthy dynamics are your warning sign for your relationship. If you don’t pull over and get help through going to therapy, your relationship is going to get off track..

In my practice I see this dynamic most commonly with male partners of women who are seeking relationship counselling. In fact, I often get asked the question “How do I get my partner to come to counselling?”. While there is not always an easy answer to this, some options include:

  • asking your partner to make a small commitment, such as ​attending one relationship counselling session. If after this session, he (or she) can’t see value in relationship counselling he or she does not need to come again
  • emphasizing that relationship counselling is not about blame. In fact it is about creating a better, more positive relationship that will benefit both of you
  • asking your partner what would make the relationship better
  • researching relationship counsellors first and presenting your partner with some options
  • coming to relationship counselling individually first, so that your partner can see that you are trying!

​In Conclusion...

​​The above six signs are not the only signs that your relationship may be over. In fact, there are an infinite number.

However, as I tell many of my clients, even though there may be ​many signs that your relationship may be over, it is never too late to start working on it!

As a relationship counsellor I have helped many couples recover from what they thought were almost hopeless relationships. Sometimes this takes time and energy, but if both people are committed, you can create almost any type of relationship that you want!

>