EVEN relationships that appear rock solid can end up crumbling – but are the signs trouble is on the horizon always obvious?
The pandemic has seen divorce enquiries skyrocket by 95 per cent – with the majority from women, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Our panel of relationship experts reveal where many long-term couplings come unstuck – and what YOU can do to save your relationship.
IF your parenting styles differ it can cause resentment.
Relationship coach Dr Pam Spurr says: “Real trouble starts if you find that one of you is ‘fun dad’ or ‘fun mum’ and the other picks up the slack.
Being the one constantly getting the kids to eat properly, go to bed on time and do homework can lead to bitterness.
“My client Becky* did all the parenting jobs because her partner Tom*, who didn’t see anything wrong with being the fun dad, thought helping meant tiring the kids out before bed.
“It was frustrating for Becky, so I recommended she ask him for specific help like: ‘Can you run the bath.’
It can be even more destructive if one parent simply disappears to their favourite pastime like the pub, or even scrolling through social media.
“The partner left juggling all those parental duties may decide they’re better off as a single parent without the stress of trying to chase the uninvolved parent.
“It’s helpful to make a weekly rota where you take turns with the things that are trickier as parents – like bath time and bedtime.
“Remind each other that no one gets it right all the time, compliment each other and ask for praise if you feel they overlook the things you do well.”
DO you or your partner spend too much?
Or perhaps you have different priorities when it comes to what you do with your combined income.
Relationship coach Mandy Mee, founder of @themmeagency says: “If you’re not on the same page about spending, it can have long-term effects on your relationship and affect compatibility.
“I worked with one couple where the partner had bad spending habits related to drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, which led to a divorce as the addiction was not treated.
“The partner put their relationship at risk by pawning household valuables and going over limit on credit cards.
Money might not be an issue at the early stage of your relationship, but further down the line when it comes to purchasing a property, investing in career goals, or family planning, financial disagreements can lead to a loss of trust, causing resentment, and bitterness.
“If your partner is more financially conscious and practical, allow them to deal with the finances in the relationship or learn how to budget and spend wisely.
“Or if you’re better at managing money, assess your strengths and weaknesses in the relationship.”
AFTER being in a relationship for many years, sex is bound to dwindle, right? But it can also be a big red flag.
Kate says: “When the sex stops, tension builds. You’ll find yourself becoming annoyed by each other over small things like housework, chores, or even how they chew their food.
“There’s a reason for this – oxytocin, known as the love hormone, is released every time you touch your partner.
“It raises feelings of trust and affection, and helps to smooth over any irritations.
“I worked with a couple in their forties who’d been together 20 years. Menopausal problems had caused Sarah* to stop wanting sex with Darren*.
“Soon Sarah found it hard to be around him, everything he did would annoy her.
“The solution was to build back up to sex gradually. Or you might be as emotionally strong as ever, with a secure bond, but still miss the passion and excitement of sex.
“I’d recommend a step by step plan to reconnect. Starting with holding hands, then kissing, snogging, massaging, foreplay and finally sex. Start ‘dating’ your partner again.
“Ensure you touch them every day – even just by snuggling on the sofa – to get your oxytocin flowing.”
YOU may not have cheated on your partner, but have you ever had an emotional affair?
Getting close to someone new can have devastating effects, even if things don’t turn physical.
Kate says: “Cheating isn’t just about sex. It’s anything you do with another person that you wouldn’t want your partner to know about.
“Emotional infidelity – sharing your innermost feelings with someone else – can be the worst type of betrayal.
“I almost fell into that trap when my husband and I moved house.
“One day a man I’d worked with years ago messaged me on Facebook and we soon opened up about our lives. He was supportive and complimentary, whereas my husband was tired from work.
“I liked the fun, upbeat ‘me’ I was with this man, rather than the snappy, lonely housewife I was at home.
“But when my husband asked why I was smiling at my phone. I realised he’d be heartbroken if he knew I’d been talking to another man. I blocked him.
“I opened up to my husband about feeling lonely and we moved back to my home town. Now we have a weekly date night and share our innermost thoughts.
“I’d advise anyone in the same situation to prioritise their other half and open up to them.”
HAS your partner done anything to erode your trust in them?
Or have you given them a reason to doubt your honesty?
This could spell the end of your romance for good.
Relationship counsellor Alex Mellor-Brook, co founder of Select Personal Introductions, says:
“Trust takes years to build up and it allows a relationship to thrive, helping you both to develop and grow without seeking attention elsewhere.
“White lies people often tell range from financial, addiction, job related, gambling and cheating.
“One couple I worked with had a wonderful life together and had recently renewed their wedding vows. Then he got a job that took him away from family life.
“In that time he became very close with one of his co-workers, who offered him support and attention while he was away.
“Boundaries were crossed and and eventually they divorced. “
Learning to trust each other again can be difficult, but it is not impossible.
“Take turns planning date nights to allow your partner to prove they know what you like.
“Or face your fears and tell each other small secrets to help you gain that trust again. Each secret you tell and is kept, more trust will be gained.”
NO FIGHTING SPIRIT
MOST couples argue from time to time, but have you given up going to battle altogether?
This could be a sign you’ve lost your passion. Relationship coach Sami Wunder says: “While constant fights are, of course, a problem, not having any disagreements is also problematic. It points to ‘emotional suppression’.
“For example, my client had a great marriage on the surface, both contributing to the household and raising their two daughters.
“But she felt like she was growing apart from her man. The sex was down, the passion and romance was dying out.
“Neither of them wanted to start an argument, for fear of rocking the boat of their ‘perfect’ marriage.
Over time, this led to many resentments and unmet needs being swept under the rug, slowly eating away at their romantic connection.
“I recommended that she needed to acknowledge her negative emotions, so she could express them to her husband, this allowed him to air his own frustrations.
“If you never fight with your partner, it’s worth considering if things really are perfect, or could it be that you’re suppressing your emotions and letting resentment build up.
“This self-awareness is the first step for nurturing healthy, fulfilling romantic relationships.”
DO you spend lots of time with your partner, but only when you’re alone?
Visiting friends or family without your other half could be a cause for concern.
Relationship expert Kate Taylor says: “Having separate social lives and only spending time together as a couple is an issue.
“One friend and her partner looked like the perfect couple – but you never saw them together. They shared a home but their social lives were separate.
He was into cycling while she spent her free time seeing loved ones.
“They wanted to maintain their independence within the safety of a relationship. But when one of her parents got ill, he resented having to give up his hobbies to help the family, so he moved out after ten years.
“She expected to feel lonely, but his absence made no difference as he’d hardly been there.
“Couples need independent interests, but socialising together – like taking turns to spend time with each person’s circle of friends or attending important events like Christmases or work functions as a pair – will strengthen your relationship.
“The more you blend your lives, the stronger and more resilient you’ll be, because you’re a team.”
*Names have been changed