Every relationship has its own special dynamic, but experts say these signals suggest that you or your partner have stopped dealing with stuff that you probably need to address. By Nicole Yorio Jurick, REDBOOK.
"My husband stopped going places with me--family functions, work events, dinner parties." - Meredith T., Philadelphia
"If your spouse skips out when you want him by your side, it's easy to feel like he doesn't care about your needs or interests," says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., author of Finding Love Again. But don't assume the slight was intentional. "Couples often have different expectations about what they should and shouldn't do together," she says. So if attending family parties as a duo is important to you, make that clear, and if he'd rather stay behind, find out why. It may be that your uncle hits him up for cash, or your weeknight work events leave him exhausted the next day, meaning his desire to stay home has to do with the people or the situation--not you or your relationship, Orbuch explains. Then, figure out ways to make things work for both of you, like promising to speak with your uncle in advance or ducking out of work events by 9 p.m.
"Whenever I walked in the door, my husband greeted me by yelling-about the phone bill, disorganized cabinets, anything and everything!" - Judy L., Pittsburgh
Fighting does not mean you're heading for Splitsville. In fact, the number-one predictor of divorce is just the opposite-habitually avoiding conflict, according to The Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. However, constant squabbles are no good, either, so it's important to break the cycle of negativity, says Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love author Marcia Naomi Berger. To make any fight less heated, take a sanity break when things start to get tense. "When we're angry, our brain loses its ability to problem-solve. It takes 30 minutes to return to rational thinking," Orbuch says. If you feel your heart beating in your chest or you start coming up with hurtful things to say--or sense your partner is--suggest taking a breather. You'll come back better able to tackle the issue from a levelheaded place.
"She invited my in-laws on every vacation instead of having us spend time alone together." - Nate S., Charlotte, NC
In some big families, a the-more-the-merrier mentality is par for the course, but it needn't be the case every time. "Spending too much time with others dilutes the connection between partners," says Jamie Turndorf, Ph.D., author of Kiss Your Fights Goodbye. Think about it: You didn't fall in love by spending time with an audience, and doing fun, relationship-building activities is what will help you continue to grow and bond. Rather than blaming your partner, tell him why alone time is important to you--and how you feel when you don't get it. Then, come up with a new activity you'd like to try together, ask him to the same, and commit to spending a certain amount of time together--10 minutes a day to chat, a weekly date, or a long weekend away every six months--to give you a reason to fall in love again and stay that way.
"He always spent money on things without telling me-on tools, electronics, etc. The tipping point was when he bought his mom a car and didn't understand why I felt angry and betrayed when I found out." - Sonya S., Palo Alto, CA
Fighting about money? Welcome to the club. It's the number-one reason why couples argue, according to a survey by the American Institute of CPAs. "But for most couples, money fights are about something deeper," says Deborah Price, author of The Heart of Money. For example, if your husband spends on his needs rather than on the relationship--maybe you both need a new car or a vacation--you'll likely feel hurt and unvalued. "Talking openly about your issues, fears, and hopes about money is key to preventing misunderstandings," Price says. Set aside a time beyond your monthly budget meeting (yes, you should be having those, too) to discuss those things, and promise to listen without judgment or anger. It'll help you stay on the same page, financially and otherwise, and ensure that money issues don't become a source of resentment.
"I started confiding in friends and family about our relationship issues instead of dealing with them directly with my husband." - Tracie T., San Francisco
Though it's totally reasonable to want to unload on close friends or family, doing so can backfire, big time. First, your confidantes almost always take your side because they want you to be happy, says Divorce Busting founder and marriage therapist Michele Weiner-Davis. While that vindicates your feelings, it does nothing to help your relationship. Since talking to your spouse is always best, try asking yourself, How would I approach my husband differently if I truly believed he was going to get it? Weiner-Davis suggests. Our expectations of how a conversation will go often drive results--hence why we talk to proven-to-be supportive friends. "Placing that same confidence in your spouse makes you more open to his perspective and less likely get defensive or angry," she says.
"Whenever I gave her a suggestion--about a problem she was having at work, about a new restaurant we should try---she would get defensive or brush it off. But when someone else offered the same input, she thought they were so smart and helpful." - Paul G. Chicago
The issue here is respect. When people don't get it, they lash out or get defensive, says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples. In this situation, the wife might feel like her husband doesn't respect her choices, leaving her battling her sense of self-worth and the validity of his suggestions. And since she responds by not respecting her husband, the cycle continues. If respect is becoming an issue in your relationship, you need to focus on getting back on the same team. Make it your joint goal to focus on solving problems rather than fixating on who is right or wrong. Then, before you make a decision, as yourself, Is this good for both of us? "Once you agree to be teammates, not adversaries, respect will naturally follow," Schwartz says.
"We started going to bed at different times to avoid having sex." - Tracy T., New York City
If you have to be up at 6 a.m. and your husband's alarm doesn't go off until 9, it's natural that your sleep schedules are different. The question here is one of intent--and the whole thing is further complicated by the paradox that men need sex to feel connected, whereas women need to feel connected to desire sex, says Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity. To get that sexy bond back, start by changing your mind-set. "Shift the focus from What do I want? to What does the relationship need?" Haltzman says. Then, instead of thinking of it as giving sex, look at it as getting sex. "That will help you feel turned on by the prospect, rather than having it feel like another chore."