There are two sure signs that the relationship is disintegrating, or even ending.
A. Drifting Apart. At some point in time partners stop doing the things they used to do together and slowly move apart, through boredom or falling out of love, which is a natural consequence of individual evolution. They begin to seek different friends, develop new interests and grow in different directions, depending on their feeling of fulfilment. However, though new directions are inevitable, drifting apart is not. Couples can grow together by taking an interest in, and encouraging, each other; making sure they keep up with one another and maintain the attraction. The best way for that is by doing as many things together, while allowing some space for individual pursuits.
For example, in our family we used to play board games and quizzes, go for runs together and eat meals together in a close knit way. All that gradually stopped as the children grew up and did their own thing, especially after they left home. As I became more involved in my business and my writing, and my husband became more introspective, we drifted apart, finding little in common as our needs lost their congruence. This was inevitable, as we had also stopped talking to each other in any meaningful sense. In such a situation, it is not long before other friends and interests fill the widening gap. When we parted, I could not remember even one major thing we had shared for years, not even a bank account. Sad, really, for such a long marriage.
Separation can creep upon a couple unawares, especially when they become 'too busy' with work and other commitments to spend quality time together. If you cannot remember, right this minute, the last time you shared an activity together, one which you both enjoyed, then there is danger looming.
B. Cultivating Outside Friendships. This includes telling family or friends about your problems but not addressing them with your partner. Talking to others at times of conflict is not a productive way to handle problems, and it can result in additional problems emerging. For instance, your partner may feel betrayed that you have revealed sensitive information to others that has caused him/her to be embarrassed or uncomfortable around them. Also, if you paint a negative picture of your partner or your relationship, others may get a distorted view, which may change their attitudes and behaviour toward you both. Worse still, others are likely to remember your conflicts long after you and your partner have gone past them, which can only damage friendships. Instead, work on improving your communication skills. If you need help, seek out the assistance of an objective third party. In short, stop complaining and start asking. If you must talk to your friends for support, try to seek some balance and present the good side of your spouse as well as the negatives.
There are other signs that foretell a worsening relationship, but these two, in particular, sound the death knell and need to be dealth with as early as possible to save the partnership.
©Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH) 2011
Emotional Health and People Management Consultant
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"