Relationships are supposed to be fun and relaxing, helping us to work through challenges and maintain good mental health. However, at times they can be difficult to nurture. At some stage, you could be having an amazing time and sharing wonderful moments. At another stage, little things start to annoy more than usual and arguments persist.
People facing relationship crises but are still committed to salvaging their relationships need to consider getting help.
In this article, we highlight some warning signs that your relationship may be going through a crisis. We also provide tips on how to deal with such crises.
Four Stages of Major Crises in Relationships
Couples who have long-term relationships experience several crises, mostly linked to major life changes. These changes allow parties to assess their relationship and decide whether to fix things or put an end to their relationship.
Here are the four main crises that couples in long-term relationships struggle with:
- One-year crisis — end of limerence, where couples start to see flaws in each other;
- Three-year crisis — as the relationship gets more serious and thoughts of moving in emerge;
- Ten-year crisis — when the focus is more on children and sexual activity declines;
- The empty nest crisis — when children grow up and leave the home, and there is a need to reinvent the relationship.
Signs That Your Relationship May Be in Crisis
It is important to say that trying to maintain an unhappy relationship can be exhausting physically and mentally. The stress associated with being constantly uncomfortable or upset can have serious implications on your overall well-being.
The question is, how do people can know if their relationships are going through crises?
While many people are able to identify when their relationships are going through a crisis, there are instances when problems can be less evident. Keep in mind that specific behaviors such as constant criticizing and complaining could be signs of problems in relationships.
Here are other additional signs to pay attention to:
- You are always criticizing one another;
- There is a lack of sexual intimacy;
- You keep arguing over the unimportant things;
- You live parallel but independent lives;
- You don’t want to spend time together;
- You don’t trust each other;
- You start considering having an affair.
In healthy relationships, we see our partners as the go-to people for emotional support when facing challenges. While you may confide in your friends and family, your partner is often the first person you call when faced with an emergency. If your spouse is no longer the first person your rush to call when you face an issue or to celebrate a success, then there could be an underlying problem.
Another sign that your relationship could be going through a crisis is that you have lost the desire to resolve issues. A tendency emerges where you fall into the trap of blaming each other constantly, failing to apologize or compromise. The warmth and closeness that you once felt for each other also decline.
Do you feel like the level of trust in your relationship has declined? Maybe you feel like you are no longer involved in the decisions your partner makes, or you make major changes in your life without first consulting your spouse. No one of you can enjoy feeling like you are a priority for your partner.
How to Deal with a Relationship in Crisis: 5 Strategies
You may have heard multiple times that even the best relationships face challenges. Also, building happy and strong relationships require work and dedication. In cases where there is a breach of trust, even more work is required. Challenges are part and parcel of any relationship and the objective is to work together towards a meaningful future.
If you have identified some of the signs indicated here and are concerned that your relationship may be in crisis, here are some steps you can take.
1. Create More Fun Memories
Happy couples with memories tend to have a better ability to handle challenges as they emerge. When you have more positive interactions, you can always look back on them and find a reason to fight for your relationship.
So, if you have started noticing that you and your partner may be facing more challenges than normal, try to work to tip the scale by initiating more fun times.
To make this a possibility, always remember that you and your partner are friends rather than enemies. Create time to go out on a date, have mutually satisfying sex, or take trips together.
2. Learn to Focus Inwards
Some people tend to blame others for their challenges. But you should understand that if your relationship is facing hiccups, you should start by focusing on strengthening your bonds. If the parties dedicate their energies outward, there is a risk that the couple may lose sight of what is important — teamwork.
Also, it helps to take full responsibility for one’s actions when at fault. When trust has been broken, it can be helpful if the partner who is at fault takes full responsibility for what happened. You should acknowledge how you hurt your partner.
Being defensive and sidestepping responsibility can only serve to exacerbate situations. Also, while it is important to take responsibility, don’t try to justify your actions or blame others for them.
3. Prioritize Effective Communication
If you have been hurt by someone you love, or you are the one who has caused the hurt, wait for tempers to cool before starting to get points across. Work on effective communication throughout your relationship, giving each other enough time to articulate views. Understand that complete honesty is important when a relationship is in crisis.
4. Provide Room for Reconciliation
When you have hurt your partner or have been hurt, work on your relationship. If it’s your fault, apologize unconditionally and give room for healing.
If you have been hurt, understand that, although you have every right to be angry, you should have a desire to make things work. We also recommend being honest and practicing radical transparency regarding what has hurt you.
5. Seek Professional Counseling
Trust, once broken, can have a detrimental effect on the quality of your relationship. If the breach is considerable, it may be important to engage the services of a professional therapist.
Counselors who specialize in relationship therapy can provide you with:
- Support and compassion
- Guidance for healing
- Strategies to deal with relationships crises
- Mental health help for both partners
- A safe place to vent and explore your emotions and feelings
Relationships require work, especially when there has been a breach of trust. Making decisions together and willing to listen are important starting points when it comes to dealing with crises.
Learn to manage your expectations and be honest about the direction you wish your relationship to take. Most importantly, learn to compromise and consider getting professional counseling help.
Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach.Read more