This guest article from Psych Central was written by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
A red flag that your relationship is headed in the wrong direction is when you’re wondering why you’re in it in the first place, according to Daniela Roher, Ph.D, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist who works with couples in Arizona.
Couples often see red (flags, that is) whenever they’re unable to connect to positive feelings about each other and feel negative feelings, such as fear, anger, disappointment or resentment, she said. Other red flags include feeling unappreciated, unheard or under-valued.
“All relationships go through crossroads, often more than once,” especially if partners have been together for a long time, said Roher, who’s also co-author of Couples at the Crossroads: Five Steps to Finding Your Way Back to Love.
If you feel like your relationship is in limbo, instead of dwelling on how you got here – because everyone gets here – ask how you can get out of this spot and fix your relationship.
While Roher acknowledges that being at a crossroads is painful, she believes that if couples are willing to work, it also presents an opportunity to bond on a much deeper level. “We grow more by going through challenging times and learning [from] them,” she said.
According to Roher, “one of the most important elements in a relationship is the feeling of emotional safety.” It’s the idea that “I have your back, and you have mine,” and we’ll be there for each other, she said.
“When [partners] are in a difficult place in their relationship, that feeling of safety is gone, [and they] can’t communicate well,” she said. For instance, you might feel like your partner isn’t listening to you, doesn’t seem to care about you or isn’t attuned to your feelings. This makes it really hard to open up, reveal your feelings and try to solve the situation. However, this doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed, Roher said.
Even in the best relationships, partners feel really attuned to one another just a third of the time, she said. Think of the times, for example, when your spouse wants to talk but your mind is somewhere else (and vice versa).
Moving in the Right Direction
The first step in moving in the right direction is acknowledging that you love each other and want to work on your relationship, Roher said. When she starts seeing a new couple, Roher helps them reconnect to their positive feelings about each other. “When you hear your partner say they still love you, it creates hope.”
Sometimes couples can work on improving the relationship on their own. If you’d like to try, begin by rebuilding the emotional safety you’ve probably lost. Roher said that you can create some safety by talking about the least conflictual topics. Leave the big issues until you’re more comfortable together, she said. Also, reconnect by engaging in activities you both enjoy, she added.