Like a romantic movie, your relationship started off with days spent together, flowers and walks at sunset. But a year or so in and it is starting to look decidedly shaky.
Trained counsellor Terry Delaney, who has 35 years experience in couples work, says that although it’s normal for relationships to experience turbulence, you should exhaust all avenues to reconnect before deciding to bail out.
‘It’s become something of a cliché… Most couples [who visit me] say they communicate, when in fact what they mean is they talk. Communicating involves listening, feedback and questioning. True and effective dialogue is not about making the statement: ”Here I am, now deal with it.”
So what are some of the scenarios that might make you think that it’s curtains for your relationship?
* He’s just not that into you – He’s become emotionally and physically unavailable and you spend more time texting him than being with each other. This could lead to feelings of isolation and rejection, especially when you both live on Island.
You have to face the possibility that his not spending quality time with you may mean he is losing interest. If you’ve become a ‘friend with benefits’, the chances are that his distance may be his way of letting you know that he has already moved on.
But before you break off the relationship though, Delaney suggests you talk frankly with each other about your needs.
‘Ideally, an individual’s needs should be defined early on in a relationship so they can have those needs met and placed alongside those of their partner.
‘Failure to do so often leads to unmet or unrealistic expectations which can cause tension,’ he says.
* While you were sleeping – A boyfriend who regularly stays up half the night or even crashes out on the sofa after spending several hours glued to the laptop is someone you may be thinking about deleting out of your life.
If he is evasive about his viewing habits but is fastidious about deleting his websites browsing history, he may not be the right man for you.
Terry says this scenario opens up two questions: ‘The first is about technology and the extent we use it in our personal lives. Even things like Facebook, which can be a rewarding way of keeping in touch, can be a problem if his girlfriend of 18 years ago gets in touch. He needs to tell you straight away and be clear about what is going on.
‘The other thing that frequent Internet use raises is the need to discuss the difference between privacy and secrecy. People have the right to privacy, even in a relationship, but when does that become secrecy? These are huge concepts to deal with,’ Delaney suggests.
* Pride & Prejudice – Couples don’t need to agree on everything, but respecting each other’s differences in the big issues like religious observance and joint finances is crucial.
‘On most things couples can agree to simply disagree,’ the counsellor says. ‘But when it comes to issues that are wrapped up in your core value and belief system having different viewpoints can negatively impact on the entire relationship.’
He says: ‘You need to discuss these [important] things early on [in your relationship]. For instance, if you watch a movie on parenting, discuss the movie’s portrayal and give your opinions about it, certainly before you start making a long-term commitment.’
* High Fidelity – Being passionate is one thing but when your boyfriend continually hassles and pressures you to do things that you are uncomfortable with; all the signs are there that he might not be the one for you.
If your refusal is met with withholding intimacy, abusive behaviour and prolonged sulking jags, he’s not someone who you may seriously want to put down roots with.
‘Getting to the source of the issue is difficult when it impacts on your feelings of self worth,’ Terry suggests. ‘Seeking out unbiased professional help can lead to resolving a problem that had seemed insurmountable.’
* 10 things I hate about you – If your partner is emotionally or physically abusive and refuses to seek counselling for his behaviour, then you may feel beleaguered and frightened.
Someone who tries to prevent you seeing family and friends may in time be able to resolve anger management or abandonment issues if he seeks trained medical intervention.
‘Manipulative, anti-social behaviours are often grounded in past relationships,’ Terry suggests. Rather than dealing with them alone, a therapist’s subjectivity and mediation skills can often help couples work towards healthier, more supportive relationships.
* Failure to launch – If intimacy from him is continually absent from your relationship, despite you trying to spice up your lives, leaving you alienated and unloved, then don’t retreat into your shell, try reaching out.
Stress, financial problems and simply growing older can bring on mild depression while health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes and hardening of the arteries can sometimes result in the decline of the male libido.
‘What I find helps in most cases is for the couple to each ask what is best for the relationship. It’s amazing how this simplifies the process and can result in you both making a determined effort to get to the heart of the issue, whether that means visiting a GP [if it’s a medical complaint] or a therapist [if it’s a psycho-sexual issue],’ Terry says.
* As good as it gets – Hey, nobody’s perfect. If you’ve tried working through your problems, but it’s continually a case of two steps forward and three steps back, you may reflect harder on what part you may be playing with your relationship woes.
Make sure you are not comparing your boyfriend with an old flame of yours.
‘It can sometimes be a case of a boyfriend not living up to an idealised view of an ex-partner or doing something which reminds you of an old flame in a negative way,’ Delaney says.
‘Is a relationship that finished several years ago influencing your perceptions of the current one? If this is the case, you need to work on resolving aspects of your past so you can move forward meaningfully with your current partner.’