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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

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!
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.