'Are there ways of predicting how a relationship will work out and is there anything you can do to improve a relationship that has gone sour?' A

Step 1: Recent research has found that friends and flatmates are considerably more accurate at predicting the outcome of a relationship than couples themselves. So you might want to ask your trusted friends what they really think of your relationship to help you recognise the reasons why it has become bitter. At the University of Washington, a Professor Gottman has identified the six portents of relationship breakdown, which are: harsh disagreements, personal criticisms, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling and negative body language. If your relationship contains these components you might want to rethink the way in which you relate to each other.

Step 2: Even the strongest relationships falter at some stage. Fortunately, some do improve over the years and Gottman has examined why they succeed. Couples who happily stay together communicate warmth, love and respect, regardless of circumstance, throughout the day, every day. Before parting they enquire what the other will be doing and when reunited, they share the events of the day in a relaxed conversation. They frequently show each other affection touching, holding and kissing infused with tenderness and tolerance, and volunteer genuine mutual admiration daily. They also make time every week to be alone together on a "date", where they renew their interest in each other.

Sep 3: The best predictor of future performance is past performance, so whatever pattern of relating has become established will probably endure unless you make an effort to overcome the difficulties that led to your relationship faltering. If you can accept what you cannot change and change what you can, there is a chance your relationship will recover. Remember that there is no need for recrimination if your relationship is not to be. Some things just don't work out, but we can all take from our relationships, however brief, the realisation that through connecting with another we have had the precious opportunity to have loved and learnt, and that is fortunate indeed.