5 Relationship Red Flags Everyone Misses, Experts Warn
These signs of trouble in a relationship can be hard to spot but should not be ignored.
When you've been in a relationship for a while, it's easy to let certain things slide. Maybe your partner isn't as affectionate as they once were, or they've stopped picking up after themselves around the house. It could even be that they no longer participate in a treasured tradition of yours, such as giving you a hug when you get home from work. Thankfully, not all of these behaviors are warning signs your relationship is headed toward a split. To discover those, we asked therapists and relationship experts for the red flags that are easy to miss. Read on to find out what you need to be on the lookout for.
One or both of you rejects certain calls for attention.
The concept of "bids of invitation" was created by psychologist and relationship expert John Gottman. Essentially, bids are calls for attention that can be accepted or rejected.
"Bids are verbal or nonverbal, physical or intellectual, sexual or non-sexual, funny or serious," says Saudia L. Twine, PhD, licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist. They can include telling your partner something you've been thinking or feeling, asking a question, inviting them to do something, or giving them a kiss, smile, or chuckle. "Couples that are not doing well do not respond to bids of invitation," says Twine. "In fact, they either can never identify them or they purposely disregard them because they do not want to connect with their significant other."
To fix this issue, each partner needs to be aware of the times during the day when their S.O. is trying to connect. "Couples who recognize bids of invitation are … communicating the message that 'I love you, I want to be there for you, how can I be here for you, etc,'" says Twine. "These are things that validate an individual and make them feel loved, cared for, and supported."
You never fight.
Screaming profanities at your S.O. is not OK, but if you never disagree at all, it may be a red flag. "When couples say they don't fight, I always consider this a sign that the relationship is not as strong as you might think," says Nicole Rainey, licensed mental health counselor and found of Mosaic Creative Counseling, LLC. "Avoiding conflict or disagreements isn't the sign of a healthy relationship and couples that say they don't fight often mean they each keep things stuffed down and don't communicate their issues out loud." When their true feelings are stifled, resentment can grow.
Rainey notes that disagreements are normal and essential to creating a healthy relationship. "Learning to fight fair and fight calmly is actually a sign of a healthy relationship," Rainey says. "When couples know how to fight or disagree while still giving their partner dignity and the benefit of the doubt in the conversation, that is a sign of healthy communication." Learning to find solutions together will greatly improve your bond.
You assume your partner would never do something.
This can be as simple as assuming your partner would never skydive or as serious as assuming they'd never cheat or walk out. "If a person believes their partner would 'never' do or think this or that, it means they might have an idea of their partner instead of seeing them as a whole, complex person," says Alli Spotts-De Lazzer, licensed marriage and family therapist. "Further, that kind of thinking can cause a person to miss both subtle and overt signs due to their own mindset."
Fixing this issue is easy: Stop assuming things in absolute ways. "Even a thought-revision to 'I don't believe my partner would X' can help," says Spotts-De Lazzer. "For a relationship to be authentically strong, we need to see each other in realistic ways instead of idealistic ideas about who a person is."
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You hide your doubts about the relationship.
Be honest: Do you think your person is the one? If your inner voice says no, it's a major red flag. "People can have recurring thoughts of doubt that they downplay in their mind and don't openly share because they think it is their own problem and something they need to figure out," says Matthew Brace, licensed marriage and family therapist at Therapy Embraced. "Within the relationship, things may seem fine but one partner may be preoccupied with unwanted thoughts of doubt and feeling stuck on what to do." When these thoughts go unaddressed, it can lead to disconnect within the relationship.
To improve this issue, the partner with doubts must fess up—and the other partner must take it in stride. "If someone shares their doubts and their partner responds in a reassuring and understanding way, it will strengthen the relationship," Brace says. "However, if someone shares their thoughts of doubt and their partner responds critically, it will likely create distance in the relationship and potentially confirm the assumptions of doubt."
You lack eye contact.
If you feel like you haven't looked your partner in the eyes in weeks, you'll want to take note. "As a general rule, humans engage in eye contact with people they feel closer to or are attracted to," says David Helfand, PsyD, licensed psychologist and owner of Life Wise. "If you notice your partner is avoiding eye contact it might mean something is happening beneath the surface that needs to be addressed." You can also ask yourself the same question: Am I avoiding eye contact and why?
Helfand says this issue can be resolved through eye gazing. "Many couples feel closer to each other spending even just a few minutes two to five days per week looking into each others' eyes," says Helfand. This can be done during sex or simply sitting on the couch after work. "It is a powerful way to rebuild a connection with a loved one and can have profound effects on the relationship and each person's individual wellbeing," he adds. You'll feel more connected in no time.
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