Every couple longs for eternity. Unfortunately, forever challenges all couples regardless of how they started, what they have survived and the best of intentions. Being able to spot when things are coming off the rails in a relationship will allow everyone to assess what needs to be done to salvage it and if they wish to invest the time.
Area One: Communication
Communication is held up as the best barometer for telling the status of a relationship. Part of this stems from how pervasive an aspect of the whole relationship communication turns out to be. So how can a couple tell if trouble is brewing in the arena of communication?
All Is Quiet: Long, uncomfortable silences charged with tension define the time spent together. This may occur because one of the pair feels no desire to expend the energy to engage in healthy communication.
Swimming in the Shallow End: When discussions happen, the topics remain light or non threatening. Short and unemotional answers replace detailed explanations of troubles at work or pleasant things noted in the world.
Explosive Endings: If deeper conversational topic arise, couples on the brink devolve in to yelling and name calling rather than pursuing the underlying issue. It is often surprising how much energy those who want to fight can find.
Area Two: Affection
Affection takes many forms. Some of the most obvious center around the physical. While a good space to begin the search, couples concerned about the health of their relationship need to look beyond the easiest to disguise. Couple in failing relationships may seek physical pleasure when nothing else works.
Loss of Physicality: Outside of intimate physicality, couples nearing the end find no comfort or pleasure in the touch of one another. They are less likely to hold hands, hug, kiss or snuggle. These little gestures demonstrate how far apart they are.
Inequality of Time: Healthy couples spend time with one another and apart. Conversely, unhealthy relations tip towards more time apart. It can have reasonable explanations, but the separation shows how disconnected the partners are.
No Kind Acts: Recalling a time where love bloomed and blossomed, these couples may have made a cup of tea, offered a foot rub or other gestures just because. Every couple, even the harried, need to reach out in special ways. If such things evaporate, the couple needs to be concerned.
Area Three: Future
Couples nearing the end report findings themselves on a relational treadmill from which they cannot remove themselves. Seasons of staleness in long relationships are natural for a brief period and all couples face them. As thing wind down, one or both of the partners see no future with this person. They might even begin planning for life without the other person. Such behavior might manifest as searching for apartments in another area of the city, applying for work in another region or living a separate life. A couple not growing toward a future together, in some form or fashion, dies where they stand.
When the end comes, being honest and having a talk can be the hardest thing to do. Couples would prefer not acknowledge this because of feeling like failure or not knowing what is next. Ultimately, things ending respectfully eases the transition to the next phase. Everyone would rather feel strong and healthy moving forward, so have the talk.