Wondering if you might need help for your relationship?

Published in Blog by Tavistock Relationships on July 14th 2023

If you're wondering about it, it's likely to be true. Often, we suppress our innermost thoughts and feelings about our relationship because something else 'much more important' requires our attention. From work meetings to school runs, after-school activities to family commitments, almost everything in our daily lives can somehow rank higher than taking stock of the current state of our relationship.

Of course it may be that you and your partner have opted to ignore the possibility of a problem because there isn't enough time to address the issue properly. Alternatively, you might have got so used to not resolving problems that it's just become the norm. Or it could be that one or both of you finds that admitting that your relationship might benefit from professional help is too daunting or embarrassing. None of these feelings are uncommon. Whatever your reasons though, if you've found that no matter how busy you are, the niggling feeling that things are not quite right won't go away, there's a reason for that.

But while a lack of time and investment into the relationship are the last things many couples think of when trying to pinpoint what’s going wrong in their relationship, the reality is that - much like the way plants require both sunlight and water to thrive - relationships need time and effort to survive life's ups and downs.

Four tell-tale signs your relationship might need help

1. A lack of communication

You might think that discussing schedules and deciding who will do the school drop-off or attend your child’s dental appointments is communication and, to a certain extent, it is. After all, you're talking and planning things together, so it must be communication, right? But when was the last time you had a quality interaction with your significant other where you shared your thoughts, feelings and opinions?

Did you feel heard or were you left frustrated? How do you think your partner felt? Or are you both too busy to have those kinds of conversations?

The more you push those feelings down, the more the resentment will grow, creating emotional distance and increasing conflict.

If you're finding that you put your irritations and resentment aside because there just isn't any time to resolve the issues, it may be time for a rethink. The more you push those feelings down, the more the resentment will grow, creating emotional distance and increasing conflict. If communication is lacking between you and your partner, it can impact your ability to restore and re-establish a connection between the two of you.

2. Quality time is missing

Juggling work, children, your own increasingly elderly parents, chores and social commitments can leave couples with very little time for themselves. Have you found that there isn't any time left over for you and your partner? Has it become too much of an effort to focus on your relationship? This is an issue that many couples face after pouring all their energy into everything else around them.

It's a very common issue that many couples face, but that doesn't mean you should be complacent about it. Sadly, if you resign yourselves to not spending quality time together as a couple, you can expect the closeness between you to dissipate and your relationship to weaken.

3. Unresolved issues

Do you find that the same issues rise to the surface every time you argue? Or do your arguments remain unresolved, going around in perpetual circles? Sometimes working through a problem can prove too daunting for a couple, so it's easier to push them aside (get busy with other things) than to address them head-on.

Of course, most if not all relationships have their challenges, but it's how a couple is prepared to handle them that can be the ultimate deal-breaker. Finding a way through an issue is important because the negative feelings associated with unresolved problems can feed resentment and contribute to the failure of a relationship.

4. No intimacy

Do you and your partner struggle to factor in the time needed for intimacy? And by intimacy, we’re not just talking about sex. In fact, intimacy includes both physical and emotional intimacy, and without one, the other suffers. So how does it work? To feel connected to your partner, you need quality communication (sharing thoughts, feelings and emotions).

When you feel connected to your partner, the desire for physical intimacy (handholding, hugging, kissing, sex) increases.

When you feel connected to your partner, the desire for physical intimacy (handholding, hugging, kissing, sex) increases. Without communication (emotional intimacy), the connection is lost, and physical intimacy can peter out.

Why it's important to invest in your relationship

If you're wondering if you might need help for your relationship, then this is the evidence you need that your relationship is important to you. However, it's important to remember that even though a lack of communication can lead to emotional and physical intimacy issues, relationship problems can be caused by deeper, underlying problems.

For example, childhood trauma, bereavement, illness, the arrival of a new baby and other life transitions such as retirement or redundancy can all trigger issues in a relationship. As a result, investing time and committing to resolving problems as a couple can go a long way to ensuring your relationship regains the strength it once had.

Is therapy the answer?

Seeking relationship support is never a bad choice. Often it provides the space that a couple needs in order to talk openly about and reflect on problems that have been hampering their happiness for some time. In short, the sooner a couple seeks help, the less likely it is that issues will have the chance to get a stranglehold on the relationship. As a result, the difficulties which many couples struggle with when they eventually admit their relationship needs help can be avoided.

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