A couple waits an average of 6 years between first feeling dissatisfied with their relationship and seeking help. The greatest problems are normal life transitions that they do not successfully adapt to such as having a baby, moving, changes in employment, and ageing. When your individual lives or the dynamics of a relationship go through adjustment periods, how can you tell the difference between a relationship hiccup and a sign that you’re moving into dangerous territory?
1. The quality of your conversations.
In the beginning of relationships couples spend a lot of time looking into each other’s eyes, laughing, and sharing their emotional history. Over time, that material runs out. If couples don’t create new experiences, they tend to use fillers such as TV and friends. Matthew Kelly, author of “Seven Levels of Intimacy”, defines levels of connection starting with cliché, information and opinion to sharing dreams, feelings and fears. If the majority of your conversations are information and breakdown happens at opinion, your relationship may need help.
2. Spending less than 5.5 hours a week of quality time together.
According to Dr. John Gottman, who studied over 2000 couples in his “love lab”, couples who report feeling happy in their relationships spend at least 5.5 hours together of unstructured, face to face time. This is time not spent in front of a screen (i.e. TV, computer, phone etc.) and not discussing bills, kids or logistics. Relationships are like bank accounts and the time you spend together playing and laughing are like deposits, while the time you spend apart or fighting are like withdrawals. What’s your relationship balance? If you’re investing less than 5.5 hours a week you maybe headed toward relationship bankruptcy.
3. What we focus on grows.
Have you ever bought a new car and then you see it everywhere? That is because you are plugged into that frequency of awareness. Those cars were always there you just weren’t focused on them. Being in a relationship is vulnerable. When couples are not investing enough in the relationship they tend feel threatened. They then tend to focus on the negative behaviors of their partner as a way to protect themselves. If you have not said anything nice lately or heard anything positive from your partner in a while, you are in a red hot danger zone. This is a toxic environment that should be worked on immediately or it could lead to irreconcilable differences.