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Is your relationship in trouble?

Approximately 40 per cent of separations in heterosexual relationships are initiated by the woman. In these cases, sometimes the decision to separate comes as a complete surprise. Many men do not recognise the warning signs that their relationship is in trouble, or ignore these signs in the hope that things will get better.

The experience of separation or family breakdown is distressing for all concerned. It is particularly devastating if you are taken by surprise and are not the one who initiates the separation – the person who initiates the break-up will usually experience greater distress beforehand.

Each relationship is as unique as the people involved. There is no sure way to predict whether a relationship will end. What one couple will put up with, can drive another apart. However, there are always clear signals that all is not well.

Watching for and recognising these signs, and acting promptly, is vitally important for the health
of your relationship.

Some common signs that your relationship may need attention:

  • Communication is minimal and often negative
  • Differences are criticised rather than enjoyed
  • You are spending less time together
  • One partner indicates the relationship is in trouble
  • One partner is rarely prepared to listen
  • Conflict leads to resentment, not resolution
  • There are fewer fun moments
  • Put-downs are more common than compliments
  • Humour is often at other's expense 

If you recognise any of these warning signs, have you been:

  • Burying your head in the sand and acting like nothing is wrong?
  • Blaming your partner for what is happening, hoping the problems go away or expecting your partner/wife to do something about it? 

Problems don't usually go away on their own if they’re not talked about. It is often during this time that someone makes the decision to leave. Responsibility for the health and wellbeing of a relationship rests with both you and your partner.

Some tips for getting things back on track

  • Make time to talk and connect on a regular basis
  • If your partner says she feels things are not OK, listen to her
  • Take responsibility for past behaviours and make changes, where appropriate
  • Pay attention to what is not said, as well as to what is said
  • Use “I” statements like: “I feel hurt when you say that”
  • Show interest in the other’s life; know what’s important to them
  • Be clear, but realistic, about what you need and want from them
  • Do something kind. The favour is often returned
  • Contact MensLine Australia for specific tools and information to assist you in strengthening your relationship.

Sharing a good friendship, enjoying one another’s company and having more positive moments than negative ones are signs of a good relationship. The tips above are about how to change the balance by maximising the positive moments and minimising the negative ones. It’s not fighting that damages a relationship, but how we fight.

If couples keep the quota of positive experiences high, and minimise the negative experiences by managing conflict in a healthy way, they are much more likely to enjoy a rewarding and resilient relationship. You may also find the MensLine Australia Managing Conflict tip sheet useful.

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Copyright © MensLine Australia 2011 

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User comments

30-May-15 07:24 PM
My relationship with my wife has detorited over time I have tried but she continues to reject me
MensLine Admin
25-May-15 03:22 PM
Hung, thank you for your post. We are quite concerned about your comments around hurting yourself & your children. If you can provide your phone number before 5pm, we would be glad to give you a call. We strongly encourage you to reach out for help. Call us on 1300 78 9978 or our Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If you are in immediate distress, please call 000.
24-May-15 06:46 AM
I am in the same situation with Wah in this category, I knew exactly how you feel, that is the only weakness I had in this relationship, I loved my kids more than anything in this world, but my wife knew my weakness, time after time she hurt me mentally to this day I could not take it anymore, I need help , [comment edited by MensLine]
16-Mar-15 02:43 AM
My partner and I have been through a lot. It's been hard on us both and now I'm struggling. She's threatening to take my kids away but I don't want to be with her. And I don't want to lose my kids.
19-Aug-14 02:47 PM
i have been having problems with my girlfriend for a long time now,i have been to counceling to help with my problems and have been trying to fix the wrongs i have made ,i have been trying to fix things but nothing works as i cant get my partner to listen to me,im lost to what to do and feel like my life has fallen apart,i just want us to be happy ,but im not ...
07-Jul-14 11:19 PM
Planned a trip with my wife to reconnect after a long period of strife and she has just invited her parents who will be nearby for a catchup lunch or dinner - there goes the romance!
Rob Brown
29-Jan-14 06:37 PM
Wow, I too wish I'd found this website, this article months ago, even two weeks ago. I afraid of losing my wife. We're separated only two weeks, we start marriage counselling tomorrow morning, but she's scared that I will resort to my old ways. I'm determined not to, my eyes are wide open now. I've been a shit husband and a distant father to our four children. Only my hard work and dedication will show her I'm worthy of her respect, her love & her trust again. It's going to be a long road to walk untill she feels comfortable to walk with me.
05-Jan-14 05:32 PM
Separation started ten months ago, Since then I have not seen my son and communication is scarce. I don't feel my wife is trying to hard to get him to speak to me. She always says it is his decision, and ultimately I agree. Having said this I don't think my wife is making much of an effort to promote a meeting. I've since met another woman and this relationship is not going well. Deja vu? One thing in common. Me
david mclaren
18-Jun-13 12:01 AM
I did not notice what was going wrong, now it is to late my wife won't talk to me or get involved in mediation, she made that very clear early in the separation, now our daughter, and her sons from a previous marriage have to suffer, along with pain her and I have to endure.
Calling for tips
06-Jun-13 11:23 PM
This is great to read ,but I don't Know what it is that l have done wrong, so many things that could be but l don't know, l think my time is nearly up , l need to talk with someone.
25-Aug-12 12:20 AM
I also realised this too late. There's still a faint glimmer but I don't know if it's enough for her.
10-Aug-12 12:14 PM
Thats my old nickname - but seems like forever ago. I want to keep my relationship with my wife - just don't know how. Can't understand what started going wrong or when. My 10th anniversary today. My wife didn't even mention it, although she knows it is. How do I know my wife still loves me or is just really angry at me ?
07-Apr-12 09:04 AM
Indeed, this should one of the subject in school. We have been taught skills to survive but nothing on building a better relationships!!!
11-Jan-12 04:02 PM
Oh how I wish i had found this site even just 2 months ago. Those common signs was our relationship to the letter. I feel sick just recognizing that i had my head buried in the sand for so long ignoring all the warnings. Now I have lost everything
22-Aug-11 08:31 PM
wow its in my face but was so blind all this time I shall work on these points to slowly correct myself & show others that I understand now what I have done to them in the past.