Relationships are great. Until they’re not. Then they’re really really bad.
It can take one blazing row or misguided comment to turn that all-consuming feeling that your partner is a gorgeous, infallible person to their touch making you recoil in disgust. But for some couples it’s not quite so clear cut. Irritatingly, it is can be hard to decipher whether the unnerving feeling that you might not be with the person you’re best-suited to is just a niggle that can be worked through - or if it’s the first in a series of death knells for your relationship.
At the same time, there are clear warning signs that a relationship is not only nearing it’s end, but harmful.
“One immediate sign is if a partner belittles the other and treats them with disrespect, privately or publicly,” says Barbara Bloomfield, Relate counsellor and author of Couple Therapy: Dramas of Love and Sex.
“Another sign of emotional abuse can be a partner who is very charming and nice in public but who changes completely once the front door is closed. One of the first signs of domestic abuse is someone not wanting their partner to see friends and family or to work outside the home. This kind of behaviour tends to come on gradually and is a sign of a controlling partner." In those cases, saying "goodbye" is the only option.
Aside from that, apparent warning signs like struggling to think of literally anything to say to the person you are attached to or even not wanting to have any physical contact with them doesn’t always spell the end. Some people need help with learning how to communicate. In other occasions, a person's childhood experiences or upbringing can make them less dependent on touch.
“But if neither has anything to say to the other, yes, that feels like an incompatible relationship,” warns Bloomfield.
Even considering how life would be without your partner or with another person doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed. In fact, argues Bloomfield, it’s “very healthy” to daydream about alternative scenarios for your life. After all, there's nothing positive about suppressing your imagination and you're a human being not a robot. Acting on it, however, is - obviously - generally ill-advised.
“We all imagine different futures and this can be a good way of reminding yourself about what you value about your current set up," says Bloomfield. "I always ask clients who are puzzling: ‘Can you achieve what you want to achieve in life and stay in this relationship?’”
However, fighting the same battle repeatedly is most often the universal sign that at least one member of a partnership has something deeper to work through, or that there is an issue that can't be smoothed over.
"If you find yourself having the same argument all the time, that’s a sign that you’d benefit from professional help,” advises Bloomfield. “There’s usually an unconscious element in why we choose our partners, sometimes the reasons are not so healthy and so it’s important to become more aware of why we might be repeating the same patterns."
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