Since we were little, we were surrounded by the images of a ‘perfect relationship’. Take for instance the Disney movies – the prince saves the princess, they kiss and live their forever ever after. The same thing happens in the media – the relationships are being idealized so much, that when a couple breaks up, many people don’t want to believe it. Comments like “If X and Z break up, I will stop believing in love”, can be found on every famous couple’s profile.
The truth is that even the healthiest relationships can end. But it doesn’t happen overnight – usually, there are red flags that might suggest something is wrong. “Some of them may be playing out right in front of you and you’re either too busy or too oblivious to realize.” say the experts from Survive Divorce.
So what are those red flags? What can suggest that a relationship is falling? Well, you just have to keep reading to find out.
Criticism is the first red flag that you need to look out for. Criticism is complaining, but in such a way that does not target your partner’s behaviour, but rather their personality or character. However, you need to remember that there are two types of criticism – destructive and constructive.
In destructive criticism, the other person aims to make you feel bad, and the comments are often deliberately harmful. The aim of constructive criticism, on the other hand, is to point out where you made a mistake, and have can you improve so that you won’t make it again. You must recognize which type you are dealing with.
For instance, sentences like the sentences like “there are no clean plates, and I’m hungry” or “It frustrates me that you don’t help around the house” are fine. However, the sentences like “You are so lazy” or “you’re so useless, you missed your turn doing the dishes again” are a definite example of criticism.
Lack of communication and becoming unresponsive is another red flag that you need to look out for. How long has it been since you talked about something else than how your day was? When you talk, do you and your partner express yourselves mutually? If your partner only answers you briefly or wants to change the subject, especially when it’s something emotional or the conversation is getting deep, then something is probably not right.
One of the things that couples should do from the beginning is being open with each other – doesn’t matter if it’s about their emotions, hobbies, future hopes or even sexual desires. Of course, you might not want to reveal your darkest secrets on the first few dates, but it’s always exciting to find out new things about your other half.
Be aware that sometimes the negative emotions your partner is feeling can be expressed in a non-verbal way, by giving the so-called ‘silent treatment’.
Defensiveness is the third red flag that you need to look out for – it makes communication between partners almost impossible. It is a natural reaction when we feel like we are being attacked. When you are defensive in an argument with your partner, you show that you don’t care about what they are trying to say, and instead of listening, you begin to make excuses and blaming your partner. An excellent example of defensiveness is this situation:
A: “Did you throw away the trash like you said you would?”
B: “I didn’t have time – you know how busy I am! Why didn’t you do it?”
As you can see, B is basically refusing to take any responsibility for what they were supposed to do, and they are putting all of it on their partner – A. Defensiveness will not only not help in mitigating the argument or conflict, but it will make it escalate. “It’s not me, it’s you” as some would say.
Being contemptuous is nothing more than showing disrespect to your partner. Contempt can be expressed in various ways – it can be hostile humour, sarcasm, mimicking, name-calling, or body language – for example, sneering or eye-rolling. Contempt is poisonous to a relationship – a contemptuous person wants to make sure that their partner knows who is superior.
An excellent example of contempt is this situation. A is a very punctual person and likes to be everywhere on time, while B is always late. When A shows a disrespectful behaviour, they might say something like:
“I learned to read the clock when I was six. When are you going to do that?”
Or this example – the couple is always fighting about not having sex. When A wants to use contempt, they might say something like:
“We haven’t had sex in months. Were you too busy flirting with that girl in your office? Why don’t you ask her to be your girlfriend instead?”
Furthermore, contempt is not only destructive for your relationship. It also affects your physical, emotional and psychological health. Research showed that couples in whose relationship there is contempt, are more likely to catch infectious illnesses such as a cold or flu.
Red flags are usually not that hard to see. However, in most cases, people are oblivious to them because they don’t want their relationship to crumble. Of course, criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling happen from time to time, then probably there is nothing to worry about.
However, if they happen regularly, then you should think if the relationship has any future. If you don’t want to, seeing the red flags might make the break-up easier to cope with. But it’s always easier to see the red flags in other people’s relationships than in our own, isn’t it?