Signs That Your Relationship Might Be In Trouble

Are you feeling somehow disconnected from your partner? Or unfulfilled in your relationship? Wondering if you'd be happier alone or with someone else? These thoughts and feelings happen to most people in relationships at some point or another, but in many cases, relationship dissatisfaction is fleeting and goes away with time. When you're in a relationship with someone, especially for a long period of time, it's normal to go through ups and downs. Spoiler alert: It turns out what Disney movies taught us about romance isn't quite accurate, and relationships aren't all rainbows and butterflies 24/7. After all, "Relationships that work are the ones that are worked on," as psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, PhD. said (via Brides).

However, not all relationship issues are created equally, and some require a bit more work than others. With that said, we're here to illuminate some telltale signs that your relationship might be in trouble.

A lack of compromise

A relationship without compromise can leave one partner feeling like they're constantly making sacrifices for the other partner. This is not only an unpleasant and unfair situation to be in, but it can also indicate deeper issues, like selfishness. An inflexible partner may be unwilling to change views or habits regarding children, social life, finances, and household chores. They may say things like, "This is just the way that I am." But, according to psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. (via Brides), "Unless we become skilled in the fine art of compromise, our relationship can quickly degrade into feelings of dissatisfaction and discord. Not to mention a disillusioning sense of being all alone in the relationship."

So, if lack of compromise is an issue in your relationship, you may wonder if it's fixable. And the answer is yes — as long as both people are willing to communicate about the problem effectively and are willing to compromise. Seltzer offers a few tips for couples learning to compromise, including communicating using "I" statements — saying, for example, "I'm feeling like my desires are ignored," instead of the more accusatory "You don't care about what I want!" Another tip is to really listen to your partner's — rather than only thinking of your side of things — and consider what is fair for both of you. And finally, remember to check in with each other often to make sure both people feel good about the choices you're making as a couple.

Focusing only on your feelings

Both people in a relationship should be concerned about the well-being of themselves and their partner, including being in tune with their wants, needs, and feelings. If you find yourself only thinking about how you feel about many situations — or if you believe your partner only thinks about how they feel — this can indicate an issue in the relationship.

In a healthy relationship, partners have empathy for each other and an interest in each other's inner world. There is a mutual concern about how one another is doing and feeling and a general interest in each other's lived experiences. However, in an unhealthy relationship, one partner may find that their partner does not seem interested in how they're doing or what they're feeling. They may try to express their feelings and find that their partner does not listen or care, or the uninterested partner may never ask questions that make the other partner feel like they care. And this can lead to much bigger issues: According to psychotherapist Beth Sonnenberg (via Oprah), "Once you think that your feelings don't matter, won't be heard, or are not worth sharing, you open the door to harbor negativity and resentment."

Disrespectful or hostile behavior

If you don't have any glaring problems in your relationship, like lying, cheating, or violence, you may be thinking everything's fine. But even small signs of disrespect, like snarky comments and eye-rolling, can indicate problematic relationship patterns. You may not think facial expressions can have that much of an impact, but eye-rolling, in particular, is a red flag, according to psychology professor Janice Kiecolt-Glaser. That's because eye-rolling (along with critical remarks and other contemptuous behavior) is a sign of hostility — and, according to Kiecolt-Glaser, "Hostility is a hallmark of bad marriages" (via Ohio State News).

Relationship coach Shula Melamed says disrespect in a relationship boils down to one partner not giving the other "the same reverence and consideration they would want for themselves" (via Well and Good). Whether this manifests in "small" things, like eye-rolling, or bigger things, like name-calling and being intentionally hurtful, dealing with a disrespectful partner can be "stressful, exhausting, and isolating," according to Debra Roberts, LCSW and relationship expert (via Real Simple).

Unresolved arguments

You and your partner keep having the same fight, again and again. Maybe you repeatedly ask for them to keep up with their household chores, only to be let down, or maybe they constantly bring up a mistake you made in the past, still holding it against you in the present. Each time you hope that the argument will be solved, it inevitably resurfaces.

The first thing to know is that you're not alone if you can relate to this situation. In fact, renowned relationship psychologist John Gottman found that "2/3 of relationship problems are unsolvable" (via Gottman). Despite how common it is to have so-called "unsolvable" relationship problems, there are some arguments that can be solved. So, if no arguments are ever getting resolved, that indicates a real issue.

However, like many relationship issues, better communication and a willingness to change can help you and your partner learn to resolve arguments — and maybe even the ones that seem unsolvable. LCSW and relationship expert Debra Roberts said (via Real Simple), "If people are motivated to change, capable of change, and willing to show up to do the work, then a good therapist can help (you) learn healthier behaviors and ways of communicating."

Withholding affection, communication, or sex

Disharmony is normal in relationships, to an extent. Relationship expert Esther Perel said (per The New Yorker), "I think that couples, by definition, go through harmony, disharmony, and repair. This is a dance we do no matter what."

But when one or both partners have a habit of withholding things that they know the other partner wants — like affection, or validation, for example — this can be a bigger issue and may indicate imbalanced power dynamics in the relationship. LMFT Holly Brown said about emotional withholding (via Psych Central), "Emotional withholding is about keeping control in the relationship. Often, people find themselves in a dynamic where they're always pursuing their partner's affection. They're always trying to prove they're good enough." 

If this sounds familiar, this pattern can indicate that one partner is trying to maintain a sense of power in the relationship, according to Brown. Partners who want to hold all the power may withhold other things, like their feelings, communication, or sex. Ultimately, this is an unhealthy dynamic for both partners and can make one partner question their value and worth. If this ongoing issue doesn't improve with communication and other interventions, remember that you don't have to stay in an unhealthy partnership like this. "You ... deserve better. You deserve love," Brown writes.

Passive aggressive or aggressive behavior

A passive-aggressive person is defined by the NYU Medical Center (via Psychology Today) as someone who "may appear to comply or act appropriately, but actually behaves negatively and passively resists." An aggressive person is overtly critical and negative, while a passive-aggressive person is negative and critical in a more subtle way. In either case, this behavior is not a good recipe for a healthy relationship. One reason passive aggression is problematic, according to therapist Darlene Lancer (via Brides), is because it affects communication. "Because you can't have an honest, direct conversation with a passive-aggressive partner, nothing ever gets resolved," Lancer said.

And dealing with an aggressive partner can be equally problematic since aggressive people will often take a blaming approach and say things like "This is all your fault" or "I don't care what you have to say" (via Very Well Mind), instead of communicating fairly and effectively.

Controlling behavior

We can all be a bit controlling or bossy at times, but if controlling behavior is a constant in your relationship, this may indicate a problem. Controlling behavior can come in the form of a partner demanding to know where you are at all times, a partner who has all the control of finances and doesn't allow you any financial autonomy, or a partner who tries to dictate your behavior and make decisions for you (via Psych Central).

In severe cases, controlling partners may also attempt to isolate you from friends and family to prevent you from being close to other people. Often, controlling partners try to gain power over their partner due to fear and abandonment issues (per Psych Central). However, controlling behavior can easily harm a relationship if it's not addressed. According to relationship expert and therapist Marina Harris (via Ask Men), "Control issues are so harmful because at the core is a lack of trust. Over time, this erodes the foundation of a relationship until there's nothing left to stand on."

Infidelity or secret relationships

It may seem a bit obvious, but it's worth mentioning that cheating is always a red flag in relationships. The effects of cheating can be devastating for the relationship and for the individuals in it, negatively affecting self-esteem and self-worth and increasing self-doubt. "It's not unusual for people to wonder what they did to make their partner cheat, or why they weren't enough for their partner," marriage and family therapist Saba Harouni Lurie said (per Insider). "It can also make you doubt your intuition and make it difficult for you to trust yourself, especially if you had no misgivings about your partner before the truth came out."

While infidelity can be a sign of trouble, it doesn't necessarily mean that the relationship can't be salvaged. Relationship expert and psychotherapist Esther Perel said (via The Guardian): "Many affairs are break-ups, but some affairs are make-ups. Sometimes the relationship that comes out is stronger and more honest and deeper than the one that existed before because people finally step up."

Lack of open communication

Many relationship problems are rooted in an inability to communicate openly and effectively. Sometimes, one or both parties resist open communication because it requires vulnerability; other times, one or both people just struggle to express their thoughts and feelings. Whatever the cause, a lack of communication can break down a relationship if it's not addressed. "Every relationship requires communication—and the quality of that communication is a predictor of how fulfilling the relationship is for both people," LCSW Darcy Sterling said (via Forbes).

Good communication involves active listening, asking questions, not raising your voice, and validating your partner's feelings. Ineffective communication involves interrupting, making threats, sweeping problems under the rug, yelling, and assuming how your partner is feeling. According to Sarah Epstein, marriage and family therapist, mastering good communication can help a relationship stay solid, even in rocky moments. "Healthy communication helps couples de-escalate a situation, stay calm under stress, use humor appropriately, apologize effectively and make partners feel heard and understood—even during very stressful moments," she said.

Violating personal boundaries

Boundaries are, according to Very Well Health, protections that we put in place to protect our mental, emotional, and physical space. An example of a boundary in a romantic relationship is asking your partner not to discuss matters with others that you've shared with them in confidence.

Someone who violates their partner's boundaries — whether this violation involves their partner's time, personal space, emotions, or unwanted sexual advances — is showing a lack of respect for their partner. "As a general rule, respect means that our partner treats us in all situations as an equal," psychologist Josh Klapow, PhD., told Bustle. "That means being courteous, communicating clearly, asking questions about our wishes and preferences, and treating us as they would themselves."

If your partner isn't respecting your personal boundaries, it's important to address the issue before it causes bigger rifts in the relationship. Clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly told Bustle, "This dynamic can be changed with conscious effort. Respect — like most key principles in relationships — is an attribute and a skill that can be honed with mindful attention."

Lack of autonomy

You and your partner do everything together — you're practically attached at the hip. You're friends with each other's friends and spend all your time together, and if one of you is in a bad mood, the other end up crabby too.

While this may seem like just a close relationship, it can indicate codependence or a lack of autonomy. When you only spend time with your partner and find that your emotions are always enmeshed, this creates a dynamic that makes it difficult to maintain a sense of independence. And while it can feel nice to be so close to your partner, it's not necessarily healthy for the relationship.

Therapist David Clow believes that this over-reliance on our partner can create unrealistic expectations and put pressure on the relationship. "We expect so much from our relationships these days," Klow said (via Oprah). "We want our partner to be a best friend, confidant, co-parent, and companion. Yet, this sets us up to be disappointed when our partner cannot fulfill our needs."

Values differences

Some people may stress the importance of sharing the same taste in music and having the same hobbies as your partner, but what can keep a relationship thriving more than shared interests is shared values. According to couple's therapist Gary Brown (per Elite Daily), "Having shared values means that you both believe in some of the same core things in your lives. Although each couple is different, it may mean that both of you value similar things, [like] marriage and family, the importance of trust and communication, the value of love and intimacy, perhaps similar religious and political beliefs, [and] contributing to the broader community."

It's not a big deal if you and your partner don't share all the same values, but it may be a red flag if you have very few shared values. If your partner wants kids, for example, and you don't, this can spell trouble; the same goes for major differences in other values, like spiritual and religious beliefs. After all, having the same core values in a relationship can help you "feel safe, comfortable, inspired, passionate, and connected" to your partner, according to therapist Katie Krimer (via Bustle).


One of the most straightforward signs that your relationship might be in trouble is dishonesty. This can come in many forms, from a partner who consistently tells white lies to one who keeps huge secrets. Whatever the case may be, dishonesty can erode the trust in a relationship — after all, lying is one of the leading causes of breakups (via Psychology Today).

According to psychologist Carla Marie Manly (via Bustle), "Dishonesty is one of the most disrespectful and destructive behaviors in any relationship." On top of breaking the trust between partners, it indicates a lack of respect and support. Even small acts of dishonesty are important to take note of, according to Manly. "People tend to rationalize overt lying or errors of omission," Manly said, but added that "dishonest behaviors are indefensible — and always a sign of disrespect." Of course, any relationship problem has the potential to improve if both parties are willing to work on it, and this includes dishonesty.