REFRESH

The Easy Way To Tell If Your Relationship Needs Work

It comes down to asking one question.

21/09/2017 7:50 AM AEST | Updated 21/09/2017 8:00 AM AEST
Getty Images
A doorway is a good a place as any to discuss if your union is doomed.

Newsflash: you need to put in effort to make your relationship work. That's not to say that loving your other half should be a chore, but just like with work or other projects, the more you put in the more you get out.

There are some proven things you can do to make a good relationship great, but what if you suspect your relationship might need some help? Working that out comes down to assessing one simple thing.

"In one sentence, if there is an emotional and physical distance between you," relationship expert Melissa Ferrari told HuffPost Australia.

"Do you feel lonely in your relationship? Perhaps you lead increasingly separate lives -- you're more roommates than lovers, and don't make time for each other -- and when you do spend time together, you don't feel like your partner listens or pays attention to you."

Taking the time to consider if there is distance between you, however small, might answer some questions as to how you have been feeling.

Stanley Dia Unsplash
Love takes work.

"If you feel that your partner is withdrawing from you, this is bound to make you feel emotionally unsafe and insecure. Maybe you don't trust your partner anymore, and suspect that they might be having an affair. This insecurity might also lead you to keep having the same fights over and over again," Ferrari said.

The distance may be physical for some couples.

"Lack of affection is another red flag. If you have stopped being intimate or stopped touching each other -- whether it be hugging, handholding or kissing."

Unresolved fights and underlying resentment might be at the root.

"Resentment is at the root of many relationships that may be in trouble. Do you criticise your partner for everything they do and don't do? Do you badmouth your other half in front of friends and family? If you find fault in everything your partner does and resent them, this is certainly a warning sign that there is trouble in paradise," Ferrari said.

If none of the above ring true to you but you still feel like there's distance, ensure there's nothing more sinister going on.

"Of course, any signs of addiction in your partner like drinking, drugs, reckless spending or gambling needs to be taken very seriously."

Getty Images
Acting like this isn't going to get you back on track. Instead, follow the below advice.

So, now you've realised that there might be a little distance between you and your other half, how can you go about closing that gap?

"You can work on this by paying attention to your partner, and regularly checking in with them. Regularly ask your partner if 'everything is OK' and scan them for their feelings. Not only does this show that you care, it nurtures the relationship, encourages open communication and diffuses negativity," Ferrari said.

Another idea is to see a counsellor proactively.

"Couples wait an average of six unhappy years before getting counselling. Many times, the built-up resentment has by then become too overpowering and one person may have already given up.

"So my recommendation is to do a yearly check-up with a couples counsellor. I have several 'happy' couples who come to see me as an insurance against tougher times. Most of us do yearly health checks with doctors and dentists, so why shouldn't we take our relationships just as seriously, especially as they do have a big impact on our overall wellbeing?" Ferrari said.

Sneksy via Getty Images
Believe it or not, this can be a positive and proactive environment.

If you feel relatively happy but feel that the distance might be coming from your partner, bringing it up with them can be hard.

"This can be tricky. If you suspect your partner is cheating, you could approach it gently by saying, 'I have noticed our distance of late, I could be way wrong but I feel very insecure about us and the commitment we have to each other' or 'I am feeling insecure and anxious about our relationship and feel concerned it could create distance between us, would you come to couple therapy with me to work this through?'

"Any kind of hard confrontation or accusation is not advisable as you may be wrong, and this could upset your partner. Staying with 'I' statements is always more effective that 'You' or blaming or accusing statements," Ferrari said.

If you notice something in your partner that is more like a mental health issue or addiction, Ferrari suggests approaching it from a place of care and concern.

"You could say, 'I have noticed you seem upset, absent or pre-occupied lately' or 'I have noticed you seem to be sleeping a lot lately and less interested in things we used to do' or 'I care deeply for you and our relationship, I would like us to see a couple therapist for some help'."

Every relationship goes through rough times, but that doesn't mean it's doomed. Ferrari suggests using these time to put your relationship first over everything else that's going on, to get it back on track.

"Dr Stan Tatkin, who is a leading American couples counsellor and author of Wired For Love, talks about 'The Couple Bubble' in his book. Essentially, this means that the couple commit to placing their relationship first and foremost, creating a safe and secure place for both.

monkeybusinessimages via Getty Images
That's better.

"It's not encouraging co-dependency, which is driven by insecurity or fear, but instead, within a couple bubble, dependency becomes a strength. It's the two of you against the world, and you always have each other's backs. Being in a couple bubble means committing to agreements, such as not threatening to leave a relationship when things get tough, and to aim to relieve the other of any distress," Ferrari said.

Having agreements like these are great buffers for when the tougher times arrive.

"It's kind of like depositing emotionally in to your 'love bank', so that when times are difficult you both have the resources to draw on."

Paying close attention and engaging with each other every day will help heal your relationship difficulties and keep you both connected.

"Doing things like not paying attention to your partner, not checking-in with each other daily, or ignoring your partner in favour of your phone, are all things that can deeply affect your relationship. Feeling ignored or unloved is 'threatening' to a relationship. It's hard for a relationship to survive consistent threat."

"So, my best advice is to take care of your relationship. If both pay genuine attention to the other, this will create a relationship that can survive the tough parts because you both have preserved your connection and therefore you two as a 'couple' is still well and truly intact," Ferrari said.

More On This Topic