We’ve all heard it, the pitiful denial of a relationship in trouble; “I don’t know what went wrong,” or “I had no idea.”
As a friend, I bet you already knew the relationship was doomed, you saw it collapsing around your friends ears and you may have even tried to warn them once or a thousand times but your observations fall on deaf ears.
But would you be able to spot when your relationship is in trouble?
Don’t shake your head and say “no, it will never happen,” because every relationship goes through moments where the flip of a coin could spark a chain of irreversible events.
Would you know what to look for in a troubled relationship?
Here are three warning flares the heart sends out when it needs help;
1 – It Hurts
It might be something, or it might be nothing but you know it hurts.
Maybe he said something about your hair color, maybe she pointed out that your hairdresser really should stop using the thinning scissors.
Maybe he called you ‘grumpy’ and the usual laugh didn’t follow, maybe she suggested you take a little less potato and a little more salad. Maybe no one said “I love you,” when they should have.
Whatever it is, it is eating away at you and it is hard to put a finger on why.
Our natural instinct is to hide when we are hurt. It’s what our body does when we sustain an injury, it covers the area then heals over from the outside in.
We do the same at an emotional level. We interpret words and if they hurt we bury them, for analysis at a later date.
Then we pull them out, inspect them, scratch at the small wound and worry at the meaning of the words.
Doing this is natural. Doing it and not facing your fears by talking it through with your spouse is when your relationship will start to become strained.
So what if you find out you are going bald, or you are putting on weight, or have a silly laugh or loud sneeze or whatever?
Talking about the things that hurt you with your spouse is one of the quickest ways to open the lines of communication and avoid getting to the point where your relationship is in trouble.
2 – It’s Hard to be Nice
You wouldn’t say just any old thing to your best friend and expect them to stay on your side forever would you?
Of course not. Yet so many people treat their spouses like they are from a different planet without even realizing it.
Listen to yourself talk to your partner and make sure that no matter how you are feeling that you treat them with the same respect and kindness you would give your best friend.
If you find it hard to be at least civil then you know your relationship is in deep trouble.
This is something that your friends, family and sometimes even strangers watching you can pick up.
So a way of recognizing the flare when it is sent is to have friends and relatives act as ‘fail safes’ to alert you when you have overstepped.
3 – You Imagine Life Beyond ‘Here’
When your relationship is in trouble you start to unconsciously build a Fortress of Solitude.
I don’t mean that you dream of donning a red cape and jet-setting across Europe with David Beckham, keep a separate family hidden from the world, or even taking a lover.
But you do start to pick up the missing pieces from your relationship and deliberately place independent ‘gap fillers’ as a way of putting a distance between you and your partner.
An example of how this looks when your relationship is in trouble is when you feel lonely so you fill your life up with all sort of social circles, online, off line, kids events, parenting groups, school groups as a way of getting your ‘attention fix’.
Pretty soon you have all the attention you want, but have no time left for the person you most need attention from.
Another is when you deliberately avoid asking your partner to do things and instead employ someone else to do them just to prove to yourself (or your partner) that you don’t really need them.
What you think you are doing is getting things done.
What you are actually doing is building walls around yourself so that if it all turns to custard your life remains as intact as possible.
The fact that you even feel that you need to do this means that your relationship is in trouble.
These distress flares are easy to see when you know what to look for.
When your relationship is in trouble and you catch these signals right at the start they become nothing more than a blip on the radar of love. But left to fester and they can create real damage to even the most forgiving of hearts.
Recognize the dangers, deal with the signs and relax as you and your partner build your Fortress of Solitude together.