7 warning signs your relationship is on shakier ground than you think

A relationship warning sign, or red flag, ultimately is in the eye of the beholder.

For some people, it’s a red flag if their person is bad about returning texts and phone calls, whereas others couldn’t be bothered. I like to pick my battles, and texting isn’t one of them.

Maybe for you, it’s a red flag if your partner hates cats (this would be a dealbreaker for me), is chronically late, or is a workaholic. We all have our pet peeves.

But some red flags are universal warning signs and should never be brushed off. Abusive behavior is a red flag in any relationship and should never be tolerated.

Trusting your gut feeling is key to spotting red flags. If you think it could be a sign that your relationship is foundering, save yourself time and tears by addressing them immediately.

Here are some warning signs that your relationship could be in trouble.

1) Preoccupation 

Remember when you would count the minutes until you could see your person? When you reconnected, your first priority was focusing on each other and catching up. 

Those were the days.

But, once familiarity sets in, sometimes our bids for attention, connection, and affection seem to miss the mark.

This happens because one or both partners are preoccupied with matters other than the relationship, which prevents them from being fully present when they’re together. 

It can feel as if your person just isn’t interested in what you’re saying. Is it any wonder you’re feeling dismissed and unimportant? Communication is poor to non-existent.

2) Communication breakdown

Communication is the foundation of every successful relationship. Feeling heard while openly sharing your dreams, feelings, and worries with your partner is therapeutic and comforting. 

But when your union is in trouble, sometimes you might find yourself on the giving or receiving end of dismissive, curt responses.

This behavior signals impatience and seeing any bid for connection as a burden. 

When the couple is preoccupied with personal issues and starts snapping at each other, they are sending a clear signal that they don’t want to interact at all.

Couples with good communication skills let each other know when they have a lot on their plate and might be distracted by matters unrelated to the relationship. This way, no one feels neglected or shunted aside. 

Without this kind of honesty, your partner has to try and read your mind or risk an undeserved dismissive reaction.

3) Secrecy 

Transparency and honesty are crucial components of every healthy relationship. Open communication helps couples to understand each other deeply and set their expectations.

Secrecy, on the other hand, is the intent to withhold information to keep your options open, unbeknownst to your partner.

Secrecy is not the same as privacy, which everyone is entitled to whether in a relationship or not. 

Privacy is the right to keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself as you resolve them from within. Secrecy is deception, which is another thing entirely.

If you question your secretive partner, they are usually evasive and defensive. This leaves you feeling insecure about your relationship and wondering why what you see isn’t lining up with what you hear. 

4) Stagnation

pic1737 7 warning signs your relationship is on shakier ground than you think

When your relationship is brand spanking new, discovering new things about each other is the key to excitement, desire, and continued interest. In new relationships, this continuous flow of new information keeps both partners interested in, and interesting to, each other. 

It’s common for partners in committed relationships to learn everything about one another and then stop seeking new adventures together.

If you’re saving the more exciting parts of yourself for outside of your relationship, this could be a sign that something is seriously amiss. 

Couples in healthy relationships challenge stagnation by seeking new experiences together.

Or, one or both people may have cultivated interests outside of the relationship but bring those experiences back home to share with their partner.

When you start to get bored with your relationship, ask your partner to participate in new activities you can do as a couple. If your person repeatedly puts you off or even ignores your requests, your relationship is in danger.

If those entreaties are consistently ignored over time, the relationship will begin to stagnate.

5) Arguing

One of the strongest indicators of a healthy relationship is successful conflict resolution. Couples who know how to identify problems without prejudgment generally learn from their disagreements and avoid repeating the same mistakes. 

These couples don’t waste their time endlessly rehashing the same arguments over and over again.

When they are both calm, they debrief by going over what happened, take accountability, and discuss ways to do better in the future.

But when you don’t resolve your issues together, it can lead to withdrawal and festering resentment.

6) Lack of affection 

Most people want physical contact in a romantic relationship.

It’s rare for two people’s desire for physical intimacy to line up perfectly, so most long-term couples strive to find a balance that works well for both people involved.

But sometimes these agreements begin to slip, and the partner who feels neglected will likely express their concern. 

If the other partner is legitimately preoccupied with stress caused by illness, work problems, or some other crisis, the couple can amend their agreement until they can reestablish their usual physical relationship. 

But if the shift in affectionate behavior is a pull-away initiated by one party while the other is wondering what they did wrong, that relationship could be headed for trouble.

7) Lack of trust

Trust is another indispensable ingredient in any well-functioning relationship.

After all, if you don’t trust your partner implicitly, why are you even in a relationship with them?

If your relationship lacks trust, it can open the door for negative thoughts or feelings, including suspicion and jealousy. If left unaddressed, it can lead to bigger problems down the line, such as emotional, or even physical, abuse.

Final thoughts 

Red flags unfurling in your relationship might be sobering, but if you’re willing to do the work, facing these challenges can help you move forward as a couple—or show you that it’s time to cut your losses.

Once you’ve identified potential red flags in your relationship, there are a few questions you’ll need to ask yourself, including whether you should walk away from the relationship or try to salvage it, and how you should address these red flags with your partner.

Relationships aren’t easy, and being in a bad one is its own kind of hell. You deserve to be loved the way you need to be loved, so don’t be afraid to hold out for what will make you truly happy.

Picture of Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

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