How Healthy is Your Relationship?
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Every Relationship Has Strengths…
and Opportunities For Growth.
Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, BCC
Founder & Clinical Director of Growing Self
Even though this may have seemed like just another random online quiz, you just took a real relationship assessment. In fact, this quiz is a (very) short version of a much longer relationship assessment tool that we Growing Self couples counselors often give our clients to quickly identify a couple’s strengths, and create a roadmap and action plan for successful couples counseling.
A real relationship assessment like this one you just took will never give you a “score” or tell you if your relationship is good, or bad. That would be both irresponsible, and untrue. We take a much more nuanced, thoughtful approach to relationships here at Growing Self.
Relationships, like the people who create them, are living, evolving, complex things capable of growth — and always changing. Even taking this assessment could have changed your relationship, believe it or not, because it may have led you to think about things a little differently as you were responding to the questions.
No responsible marriage counselor who believes in people’s strength, love, and competence to learn and grow would ever tell you “How your relationship is.”
instead, I’ll walk you through your strengths and growth opportunities. We’ll look at where you two already excel, and where you have a chance to learn about each other and perhaps modify your current approach so that you both feel more loved and respected.
As we go along, I’ll also be highlighting recommendations and resources for you, so that if you do have problem areas or growth opportunities, you’ll have some ideas to help move you forward. (Recommendation #1: If you haven’t already, consider listening to the “How Healthy is Your Relationship” episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast” together to understand the core concepts of a healthy relationship, and how to put them into place.
Now, on with your assessment results!
Your Relationship’s Strengths
There are key domains of a positive partnership:
- Emotional Safety
- Kindness and Generosity
- Shared Goals and Values
How you answered the questions related to these domains can give you insight into the strengths of your relationship, as well as your growth opportunities.
Emotional Safety (ES) is the foundation of every relationship. Feeling loved, respected, secure and fundamentally accepted by your partner is a necessity for having a strong relationship. If couples have a strong sense of mutual trust and love, they can often transcend other obstacles. Conversely, if their foundation of emotional safety is shakey they’ll often have problems in other domains of their relationship as a result, like communication or teamwork.
You were asked to rate the following Emotional Safety (ES) questions as “True or False:”
- I feel liked, loved and respected by my partner.
- I trust my partner’s loyalty to me, and commitment to our relationship.
- My partner is usually kind to me.
- I feel like my partner understands me, and accepts me for who I am.
- I can be emotionally vulnerable with my partner without being judged, rejected or punished.
If You Answered:
Emotional Safety is a Strength of Your Relationship:
If all of these statements are true for both of you, it means that the foundation of your relationship is strong, even though you may have some details to work out or relationship skills to buff up on. You trust each other, you’re both committed to this relationship, you respect each other for who you are, and it feels safe to be vulnerable with each other.
When you have trust, commitment, respect and acceptance, your relationship can overcome many obstacles. Furthermore when you do run into rough patches (as all couples do from time to time) your basic sense of trust and security will sustain you, and give you the motivation and commitment to resolving inevitable conflict together constructively.
Another core strength of couples with high levels of trust, commitment, and security is that they are more likely to invest time and energy into maintaining a high-quality relationship with each other. The strongest couples are the ones most likely to engage in relationship enhancing activities like reading relationship books or listening to podcasts together, attending relationship workshops or classes, or investing in private couples counseling together.
You Have a Relationship Growth Opportunity:
If you answered “False” on Emotional Safety Questions 3, 4, or 5, it means that there are some unresolved issues that may be eroding the fabric of your partnership. When couples are in a space of disagreement or have unresolved hurt or resentment, they begin to lose their ability to be kind, generous, tolerant and accepting of each other.
Instead they begin to feel disrespected, or that their partner is critical of them or even unkind to them. This gets in the way of having emotionally safe, constructive dialogue to resolve the issues and move forward. Over time, if left unchecked, this can lead to partners losing trust in each other and even coming to doubt their relationship.
Recommendation: Consider openly discussing the issues that are breeding resentment and eroding the goodwill of your relationship. Come to the conversation with an open mind, a willingness to hear each other, and an intention to meet your partner’s needs. If you try to talk about these important issues and, rather than having a constructive dialogue it disintegrates into an argument, this is an important sign that you could benefit from the support of a good couples counselor to resolve these issues for once and for all.
Resources: Check out “Stop Arguing and Start Understanding,” “Empathy: The Key To Connection“, and “How to Be In Love With Your Partner” for some direction on how to restore the respect, trust and emotional safety in your relationship.
This is a Relationship Warning Sign:
If you answered “False” on more than three of the items in the Emotional Safety section, your relationship may be in real trouble. If your foundation of trust, respect, and commitment is broken, many things are going to feel difficult about this partnership. The smallest disappointments or misunderstandings can easily mushroom into vicious fights (or icy silence) if one or both of you is feeling insecure or disrespected in this partnership. Unless you take action soon, your partnership may fail.
Recommendations: Emotional safety is often the major, underlying issue in a failing relationship. Unfortunately, things like increasing trust, respect and commitment don’t typically resolve on their own, and can be difficult for a couple to repair without the support of a professional couples therapist. Consider exploring options to get some help. You can go as a couple, or you can go alone if your partner refuses. A good couples therapist can help you identify ways to strengthen your relationship unilaterally…. or support you in making difficult decisions about what is best for you and your family.
Resources: Check out, “Relationship Compatibility,” “Sorry’s Just Not Good Enough: How to Repair the Trust in Your Relationship,” and “Signs Your Relationship is Failing” to get some clarity about what may be creating the disconnection and hostility between you (as well as some direction for how to move forward from here.)
Good communication (C) is essential to having a good relationship. Why? All couples have things that come up that they need to work through: Misunderstandings, problems they need to solve together, and learning about each other’s thoughts and feelings are all vital to having a healthy partnership.
If couples can talk through things productively, they can work through every issue. Conversely, if communication is challenging (aka, leads to fights, hurt feelings, frustrations or feeling misunderstood) it is very difficult to connect, much less grow together.
You were asked to rate the following Communication questions as “True or False:”
- Even if we have conflict sometimes, we are good at calming down and eventually having a productive conversation about our differences.
- We can disagree with each other, and still be respectful towards each other’s positions.
- I trust that we can talk about important issues without either of us over-reacting, and becoming hostile, defensive, or rejecting.
- We can listen to each other and stay relatively calm even when we have different perspectives.
- If / when things get heated we are good at taking breaks, and then continuing our conversation when we both feel calmer.
- When my partner has an issue with something happening in our relationship, they talk to me about it in a way that feels collaborative and respectful. (And I do the same).
If You Answered:
Communication is a Strength For Your Relationship:
No one communicates perfectly all the time. However, if you answered “True” to five (or all) of the questions in this section, chances are that — even if it’s not always perfect — your communication is solid overall.
You both generally do a good job of keeping yourselves calm, and maintaining respect for each other even when you disagree. When things do get heated, you can take breaks and hit the “reset” button before your interactions become hurtful. Your ability to communicate well is a huge strength of your relationship because when you can talk constructively you are able to solve inevitable problems as they arise. Keep up the good work!
Communication is a Relationship Growth Opportunity:
If your answers were “50/50” in this section, it means that — like many couples — you have some work to do around communication. All couples struggle to communicate sometimes, especially when the topics at hand are emotionally laden for one or both partners. While your responses indicate that there are times you’re both able to maintain your composure and keep things constructive and respectful, even when strong feelings come up… there are other times when you struggle to.
If either of you are feeling like it’s not safe to talk about certain topics, that you may be rejected or criticized instead of heard, or that crucial conversations are potentially going to disintegrate into arguments, it takes a real toll on your relationship. In an evolving partnership, things come up that need to be responded to, agreed upon, or at least negotiated. If you can’t consistently do that, it means that there are unresolved problems between you. If left too long, these can fester and grow into resentments and hurt feelings that may eventually drive a wedge between the two of you.
Recommendations: Consider intentionally working on how you communicate with your partner. While you can’t control the way your partner communicates with you, you can control the way that you communicate with them. And, thankfully, your ability to remain calm, respectful, open to their ideas, and willing to be responsive to them is likely to encourage them to do the same for you. When you put energy into listening and understanding (rather than being understood) it can increase the likelihood of having a positive conversation instead of a fight.
Resources: Check out the podcast, “Communication Problems and How to Fix Them,” to help buff up your communication skills. You may also consider investing in some communication coaching with a professional couples counselor, in order to improve your skills in this area.
This is a Relationship Warning Sign:
If you answered “False” to most of the questions in this category, your relationship could be on thin ice. If poor communication is a pattern it can become increasingly toxic to your partnership. If you’re feeling like it’s not (emotionally) safe to talk about things, important conversations usually deteriorate into fights, or that your partner is going to reject or dismiss your concerns if you bring something up, it’s nearly impossible to connect around important things and resolve issues productively.
If these communication problems are left unresolved, over time you may become vulnerable to a “pursue / withdrawal” pattern in your relationship.
In this stage, one of you feels persistently hurt and upset and becomes increasingly angry and reactive. The other increasingly feels like unreasonable demands are being made, and becomes dismissive, rejecting, and / or emotionally withdrawn.
The biggest problem with serious communication issues is that when a negative pursue / withdrawal cycle takes hold, a couple can not effectively work together to resolve problems, or even improve their communication. When they attempt to talk about an issue it often becomes so heated things fall apart, with people storming off or becoming hurtful towards each other. This can leave one or both partners feeling hopeless, or worst yet, like positive change is impossible for the relationship.
Recommendations: The best thing you can do in this situation is to get involved with good couples counseling. A competent marriage counselor or couples therapist will “hold the space,” creating an environment that supports both of you in talking to each other in such a way as to help you both listen and understand — without the risk of it turning into another fight.
When you’re able to understand each other’s feelings, then you’re able to restore your connection and find solutions together. In addition to helping you resolve the core issues, a good couples counselor can also teach you communication skills that will help you avoid becoming defensive, hurt or angry with each other in the future.
Resources: Check out “How to Communicate With Someone Who Shuts Down” and “What to Do When Your Partner is Always Upset” for more information on what causes negative communication patterns and how to resolve these dynamics.
In addition to enjoying each other, every couple in a long-term relationship needs to learn how to work together as a team (T). While maintaining a household, parenting, and attending to daily tasks of life may seem hum-drum, these are crucial aspects of any successful partnership. When couples have significantly different ideas about what needs to be done, and who should do what (and when!) conflict will arise.
When couples are on the same page about how to run their shared lives together, they deepen their connection and sense of shared purpose. Ideally, both people feel that they are contributing equally, they “have each other’s back” and are supported by each other.
You were asked to rate the following Teamwork questions as “True or False:”
- We have agreements about how we should handle most aspects of our shared life together, including parenting, work / life balance, priorities, and each of our roles and responsibilities.
- We both feel that we are contributing equally to our shared life together, although we may have different ways of contributing.
- We both believe that each other’s opinions and ways of doing things are equally valid, and we both make space for each other to do things “our way.”
- We are good at compromising and finding concrete solutions to problems if one or both of us feel like something isn’t working in our day-to-day partnership.
If You Answered:
Communication is a Strength
If you answered “True” on all the questions in the teamwork category, it means that you and your partner are on the same page about how you operate your lives together. You are good at agreeing upon what needs to be done, and accepting your part in the responsibilities of your shared life. You’re also likely good at negotiating things with each other, so that you both feel your needs and preferences are being respected.
Furthermore, agreement in this area points to fundamental compatibilities in your personalities. High levels of teamwork in a relationship are also associated with high levels of trust, and good communication (as well as a more satisfying sex life, believe it or not!)
Your ability to work as a team is a real strength to your relationship, particularly as you transition into increasingly demanding chapters of your shared life together. As your life circumstances evolve and new issues arise including having children (or more children), taking on a challenging new career role, relocating, managing a larger household or growing financial resources, caring for aging parents, and dealing with the inevitable “stuff of life” your skills in this area will ensure your partnership remains in balance for both of you.
Teamwork is a Relationship Growth Opportunity:
If your answers were 50/50 True / False in this category, it’s likely that you’re feeling some frustration and friction in your partnership. One of you may be feeling like the other person is not completely pulling their weight, and/or one of you is feeling that your partner is overly controlling about what needs to be done (and how, and when).
Either of these circumstances can lead to resentments, that can begin to erode the goodwill and positivity of your relationship. It’s important to make changes around how you work as a team, in order to prevent resentment and negativity from building up to toxic levels.
Recommendations: Consider sitting down and having a heart to heart about what needs to change in terms of your partnership in order for both of you to feel like you’re each contributing equally to the workload. If you don’t currently have an explicit plan in place that outlines what you both agree needs to be done, and who is responsible for what, it’s time to negotiate one. Just remember that both of you should have equal say around how you operate your shared life together.
If it feels impossible to find middle ground that is respectful to both of your preferences, and your efforts to negotiate with each other disintegrates into a fight…. it may be time to call a marriage counselor.
Relationship Warning Sign:
If you answered “False” to most of the questions in this category, it’s likely that you’re feeling angry and resentful with each other much of the time, when it comes to your shared responsibilities.
When couples are significantly out of balance in this domain, two difficult things usually start to happen:
One person often is forced into the role of the “naggy parent.” This is usually because they feel that they are being unfairly saddled with the bulk of the household responsibilities, and a partner who seems not to care about the things that are important to them. The person who routinely shoulders more than their share of tasks may begin to view their partner in an unfavorable light, seeing them as “selfish and irresponsible” as opposed to a supportive partner they can count on. Over time, this can damage the trust they feel in their partner, and lead to increasing hostility that damages the emotional safety of the relationship.
The other person often begins to feel that their partner is overbearing, controlling, and never happy. They begin to feel that the enjoyment of the relationship is gone, and that their partner is “all business.” They may begin to feel that their partner is making unreasonable demands of them, which leads them to feel hurt, and even emotionally neglected. This often makes it more difficult for them to follow through with things.
If the two of you are in persistent “gridlock” and cannot create workable agreements, or one (or both) of you makes promises and then consistently fails to follow through, you may require the support of a professional couples counselor to help you 1) find middle ground and 2) create accountability for following through. You may each have different expectations of what your family life should look like, and what your roles and responsibilities are. Without negotiating a compromise, it will be difficult for either of you to enjoy other aspects of your relationship.
If you’re feeling very stuck in this aspect of your partnership, check out “Are You Trapped in a Codependent Relationship?” for ideas for how to shift this dynamic.
Kindness and Generosity
Did you know that research into what makes happy, healthy, enduring relationships consistently finds is that two things are more important than almost anything else? The magic ingredients are kindness and generosity. Being kind towards each other means acting in ways that are loving, affectionate and friendly. Being generous with each other means making each other’s feelings and preferences a priority, at least some of the time. When two people are intentionally showing each other love and affection, and being thoughtful about each other’s feelings, their relationship will flourish.
You were asked to rate the following Kindness and Generosity questions as “True or False:”
1: I care about how my partner feels, and I strive to show them that through my words and actions. (And I feel that they do the same for me).
2: I often touch or kiss my partner affectionately, and show them how much I love them in the ways that are meaningful to them. (And they do the same with me).
3: We do have some different interests, but I feel like we both respect the things that are important to each other.
4: My partner accommodates my feelings and preferences (even if it’s not their first choice) and I do the same for them, too.
5: We both enjoy our sexual relationship.
6: I enjoy hanging out with my partner, even if we’re just running errands or doing routine things.
If You Answered:
Kindness and Generosity is a Strength of Your Relationship:
If you answered “True” on 5-6 of the items in this category, it means that you and your partner put effort into being kind and generous with each other. You probably feel loved by your partner, and like your feelings are important to them. (And they likely feel the same way about you). Affection and goodwill is present in multiple domains of your relationship including the way you communicate, support each other, connect physically, and show each other love.
This is an enormous strength for your relationship, because when two people generally feel loved and cared for by each other their relationship is more resilient in times of stress, or when one of you is less thoughtful or kind than usual. For example, if 95% of the time you experience your partner as loving, thoughtful, and considerate, on the rare occasions that they are not you’re probably tolerant of them — chalking it up to their being “hangry” or having had a bad day, as opposed to feeling hurt or angered by it. This allows you to be kind and generous towards them during their down times, which is likely to generate feelings of appreciation for you (not to mention a willingness to give you a “pass”) on your rough days.
No one acts perfectly all of the time. But when you’re both working to show each other love and kindness most of the time probably feel pretty good about each other most of the time. This is a strength of your relationship — one that will sustain you through the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Kindness and Generosity is a Relationship Growth Opportunity
If you answered “True” on 3-4 of the questions in this category, it means that, while you do feel cared for and valued by your partner in some regards, you may also feel like you’re not being shown love in the way that you need it most. You might also feel like your partner is not always respectful of your feelings or preferences.
That is not to say that your partner isn’t trying to be loving towards you. We all have different “love languages.” For example some people feel most loved when their partner does things around the house, while others may feel most connected through conversation, or spending quality time together. When people in a relationship make the common mistake of attempting to show their love through ways that might be meaningful for them personally (but is NOT what their partner is really craving) it can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction in the partnership.
Furthermore, when kindness and generosity are flagging in a relationship one or both people can run the risk of feeling that their partner is a tad selfish, and focused more on their own preferences and interests than that of their partner. People can also start to feel that they “don’t have common interests” or ways to bond. They may also experience a disruption in their sexual relationship. All of these things can lead to feelings of disconnection and loneliness in a relationship.
Recommendation: If either of you are feeling less-than cherished in this relationship, it’s worth exploring each other’s “love languages” and making showing love in ways that are important for your partner your priority. Find out what they’re looking for from you, and then make it a point to meet that need in the way that’s most meaningful for them.
Furthermore, adopting the attitude of, “If it’s important to you, that makes it important to me” will help each of you be more supportive and generous with each other — creating opportunities for connection around even your differences. If, despite repeated requests for improvement in these areas you feel like your partner is unable or unwilling to be responsive to you, it might be time to connect with a good couples counselor.
Check out, “How to Strengthen Your Relationship,” and “The Apology Languages,” and “How to Connect With Your Partner” for some ideas for how to strengthen your kindness and generosity skills.
Lack of Kindness and Generosity is a Relationship Warning Sign:
No one behaves perfectly all of the time, and in even the best relationship there are bound to be times that one or both people are thoughtless or self-absorbed. However, if you answered “false” to most of these statements, you’re feeling pretty unloved and disconnected from your partner most of the time. You aren’t getting important emotional needs met in this relationship, and you’re likely feeling uncared for by your partner.
This is a breeding ground for resentment and disconnection. Without taking steps to improve your relationship in this area, you’re likely to grow apart.
Recommendation: Although you can’t control your partner, you can control yourself. You may be able to change this dynamic by showing your partner kindness and generosity: responding to the things they’re asking of you, being friendly and affectionate, and supportive of their feelings and preferences.
If your partner is unresponsive to your overtures, and unwilling to reciprocate kindness and generosity in response to yours (or if you’re so angry that this feels impossible to muster up kindness and generosity towards your partner) it’s time to get help for your relationship. A good couples counselor can help you both identify your love languages, and hold you both accountable for following through with the loving, affectionate, and thoughtful behaviors every healthy relationship requires.
If your partner refuses to go with you, you might consider going on your own; either to get direction around how to improve your dynamic unilaterally…. or make some hard choices about what’s best for you in the long run.
Shared Goals and Values
In a healthy, dyamic partnership the shared vision, shared goals, and shared life that a couple works toward together creates a mutual sense of meaning and purpose. Going through life as a united “we” not only strengthens a partnership and a family, but can generate optimism, commitment, and deep connection.
Whether the cornerstone of your partnership is raising a family, building a business, practicing your faith, or expanding your horizons through your next great adventure, having common goals for your shared life (plus deep respect and support for each other’s individual goals) is a foundational strength for any relationship.
You were asked to rate the following Shared Goals and Values questions as “True or False:”
1: My partner and I are in agreement about what “family” means to us, and are in alignment around our goals for our family life.
2: My partner and I have similar values around lifestyle, leisure, health, nutrition, diet, exercise, etc.
3: I feel that I have the support of my partner in pursuing my individual interests and personal goals.
4: We are compatible with regards to our attitudes towards important things like finances, spirituality, and work / life balance.
5: Our hopes and aspirations for our children, our lives together, and our old age are compatible.
6: My partner and I have discussed the hopes we have for our shared future, and are working together to attain our goals.
If You Answered:
Your Shared Goals and Values Are a Relationship Strength:
It’s unrealistic to expect that two people should be exactly in alignment about everything all the time. After all, some differences make for a more interesting life. However, it’s important to feel like you’re going in the same direction overall, and have respect for each other’s differences. If you answered “True” to 5 or more of these questions, you two are on the same page in many important aspects of your shared life together. You have a similar vision for your family, your finances, and your hopes and dreams for your life.
Likewise, while the two of you are in agreement around your shared goals, you also do a good job of making space for each other to have independent values and goals. This is a significant relationship strength as well, because in a long-term partnership you both need room to grow and evolve as individuals in order for your relationship to truely flourish.
While you may have some differing views, overall your sense of shared meaning and connection transcends your differences and is an important source of meaning and purpose for both of you. You likely both feel that you’re building a life together that is mutually satisfying for both of you. Well done!
Shared Goals and Values Are a Relationship Growth Opportunity:
If you answered “True” to 3 or 4 of these questions, your relationship certainly has strengths… and also likely a fair number of frustrations. While you may be on the same page with regards to many aspects of your partnership, significant differences in your values around important things (family, finances, friends, health, etc) may create conflict too. Being far apart on important things can even lead to feelings of disconnection, or like you have to work around your partner instead of with them. Over time, not having shared values can erode the foundation of a relationship and create increasing feelings of disconnection over the years.
Recommendation: It’s time to sit down and have a heart to heart about what you both want out of life, and see what you can mutually agree upon — as well as what you both need to respect and support about the other person’s values that may be different from your own. Again, no couple will ever be in alignment on everything, but in order to have a solid working partnership you do need some sense of “common cause.” Use good communication skills to help your partner talk about what is important to them, and practice listening and understanding. It will help your partner do the same for you.
Relationship Warning Sign:
If you answered “False” on four or more shared goals and values questions, you may be doubtful that you and your partner are truly compatible, or have what it takes to stay together for the long haul. Check out this podcast,“Finding Your Soulmate”to learn more about true compatibility, and how to take steps back in the direction of respect and appreciation for each other. You might also consider getting some professional support see if it’s possible to find common ground, or get involved with your own counseling or coaching if it’s time for you to do some soul-searching around this relationship.
Now that you’ve gotten a snapshot of the strengths of your relationship, let’s take a look at some aspects of your partnership where there is room for improvement — your Growth Opportunities (GO’s). While no relationship is perfect, it is important to are important to address and resolve these issues before they create bigger problems that damage your relationship.
Questions 1-10 in this section measure common issues that many couples struggle with, but that — if unresolved — can grow into larger problems.
GO 1) “I often feel blindsided by arguments that seem to come out of nowhere.”
If this is true, it can indicate that there is something going on with your partner that you don’t fully understand. The issue may be one of communication but is more likely to do with unresolved resentments, hurt feelings, or lingering frustrations. Without real resolution, you’ll continue to be surprised by fights that don’t make sense to you — and that takes a toll.
Recommendation: In a neutral moment (not during a fight) ask your partner how they feel about the topic that surprised you, and put all your energy into listening and understanding their perspective. Then, make every effort to give them what they need feel better about the situation. Your next surprise may be how well they respond to your sincere efforts to address this issue meaningfully.
Resources: Learning about “bids for attention” may help you avoid conflict before it comes up. Also, learning how to recognize “primary feelings” can help you both avoid accidentally hurting each other’s feelings.
GO 2) “The same problems come up over and over again.”
When couples struggle to communicate well enough to solve problems (or have conversations, but fail to follow through with solutions) the same issues tend to come up again and again. This is certainly frustrating for both of you.
Recommendation: Learning how to have productive, constructive conversations rather than fights will help you resolve these issues for once and for all. Make a list of the “usual suspects” you fight about, and then identify solutions that will feel better for both of you. Commit to following through, and stick to your word.
GO 3) “My partner doesn’t make an effort to change.”
If you feel like you’re putting in all the work, and your partner is not responsive, over time it can make you have doubts about the sustainability of a relationship.
Recommendation: In a calm moment, talk to your partner and help them understand how important this is to you. Be sure to manage your own expectations, and not expect perfection. Also, try to notice if they’re putting in other efforts in the relationship, and acknowledge that. However if, after repeated requests, your partner is unable or unwilling to put effort in your relationship it may be time to look into competent marriage counseling. (If they won’t go with you, go by yourself.)
Resources: Check out “How to Stop Having The Same Fight”
GO 4) “When my partner becomes upset I just want to leave the room.”
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed during conflict and like you just want to get away, or shut it down, it can perpetuate problems in a relationship because you and your partner cannot talk through things to resolution. It can also lead your partner to become more upset and frustrated with you.
Many couples can get caught up in a “pursue / withdraw” dynamic where one person becomes increasingly hostile… and the other increasingly avoidant. Without breaking this pattern, it’s likely to get worse.
Recommendation: Check out this podcast, “How to Communicate With an Angry Partner” for help in understanding what’s going on, and how to stay in the ring with your partner when they’re upset.
GO 5) “I feel frustrated with my partner’s lack of communication.”
See the above. In this dynamic, the more your partner withdraws from you the angrier and more emotional you’re likely to become. Of course it’s frustrating when you have to chase someone around, however the more elevated you become the more likely they are to distance themselves from you. Without intervention, this pattern tends to get more pronounced over time.
Recommendation: If your partner is always getting defensive, or refusing to talk to you, check out “How to communicate with someone who shuts down” to start turning this around. Focus on what you can do to be an emotionally safe person for them, and it will help them stay connected with you during tense moments.
GO 6) “My partner can become ‘punishing’ towards me.”
It’s not uncommon for one person to try to shape their partner’s behavior through punishment. (Giving them the silent treatment, being passive aggressive, or even being mean). This behavior can destroy the emotional safety in a relationship, and make it difficult to resolve issues constructively.
Recommendation: If you, or your partner, tend to punish each other when things get heated, it’s time to stop. Check out “The Power of Praise” for some ideas about how to help each other be the best you can be without being critical or mean.
GO 7) “My partner wants me to change who I am.”
When you’re feeling judged and de-valued it takes a toll on the relationship. While it’s important that you’re always making an effort to bring your “best self” to the table in a partnership, you also deserve to be respected.
Recommendation: If you’re persistently feeling like your partner wants you to be different in some way, try to meet that head-on. In a non-conflictual moment, ask them to tell you more. You may find that there are differences in values, or an unresolved issue around teamwork, communication, kindness and generosity, or emotional safety that needs to be addressed.
Listen to what your partner is saying, use the resources I’ve provided above, or consider connecting with a good couples counselor to help you make the changes that your partner is asking for. If you genuinely feel that their requests are unreasonable, it may be time to get involved in good marriage counseling or couples therapy to explore issues of compatibility, or at least address mutual tolerance and respect.
GO 8) “My partner wants things that I feel are unreasonable.”
If this is true for you, you may be wrestling with each other for power and control in this relationship. It’s important to negotiate with each other, and build bridges to the center that allow both of you to get your needs met.
Recommendation: Invite your partner to tell you more about why they feel the way they do, and dig deep to see if you can understand the noble intentions behind what they’re asking for. Doing so will make it easier to meet them in the middle.
If the things that your partner wants from you are deal-breakers, try connecting with a good marriage counselor to see if you can find mutually satisfying solutions.
GO 9) “It’s hard for me to bring things up because my partner becomes so upset when I do.”
Emotional reactivity can damage the trust and security in any relationship. If reactivity is so high that it’s not possible to have a productive conversation about important topics, consider seeking help together in order to stabilize the situation.
GO 10) “My partner can be manipulative.”
People learn how to get their needs met over the course of their life experience, and learning how to be manipulative can be one of those strategies they may have learned a looonnnng time ago. It may require the support of a good couples counselor to help them learn other ways of expressing their needs.
Real Help For Your Relationship
I hope that this assessment helped you get some clarity about your relationship’s strengths and growth opportunities.
If, after taking it and reflecting on your relationship, you feel that you could benefit from working with an expert marriage counselor, couples therapist, relationship coach, or premarital counselor, I hope you get in touch with us.
While the quiz that you just took is intended to provide you with general information about the state of your relationship, it’s not a replacement for professional advice or a thorough, professional assessment of your relationship.
If you’re serious about improving your relationship, we have a team of warm, smart, effective relationship experts who would love to help you. The first step in getting started is to schedule your free consultation session. You can talk about your hopes for your relationship, and your concerns, and get professional recommendations about what will move you forward.
If appropriate, your counselor or coach might recommend that you take our full (free) “Love Your Relationship” 200+ question assessment. Your answers will go back to your expert, who will use them to guide your effective work in couples counseling.
It’s one of many tools we have to support you in your journey of growth, together.Sincerely,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, BCC
Founder & Clinical Director of Growing Self
Connect With Us
Begin your journey of growth by requesting a free consultation meeting with the expert of your choice.
Not sure who to work with? Let us know your hopes and goals. We’ll provide customized recommendations about which experts would be a good fit, and help you schedule your first free consultation.