How to Know If Something's Wrong with Your Relationship

Tara Blair Ball

These questions can give you an idea of whether your relationship could be in harm’s way.

Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

The people who are in dysfunctional relationships are usually the last to know. We normalize, rationalize, justify. We tell ourselves that this is how it’s supposed to be, and we look to movies, books, social media, and/or other dysfunctional couples to compare ourselves to.

I should know: I was in one myself for almost 10 years.

At that time, I wasn’t able to admit it was what it was. Even though I was a Relationship Coach and often helping couples move past their own dysfunctional relating skills, I was blind when it came to my own relationship.

We need distance to judge things reasonably, objectively, and I couldn’t while living in that dysfunction day to day.

If you’ve landed on this article, you might have encountered something in your relationship that’s made you wonder about it. Maybe you fight in a way that makes you feel ashamed and guilty. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you felt happy.

If so, here are some questions to ask yourself. I encourage you to try to answer these with a simple “yes” or “no.” When you add a “but,” you’re likely justifying or rationalizing. If you stick to black and white answers, you have a higher likelihood of seeing the truth for what it is.

1. Is being with your partner and unhappy better than being alone?

We often stay in relationships out of fear. Fear of being alone, fear of feeling or “confirming” that we’re unlovable. Fear that no one will love us quite the same way we believe this partner loves us.

2. Is it better to be with other people than it is to be alone with your partner?

Many dysfunctional couples hide or cover their issues with intimacy by spending a lot of time as a couple around other people. They might have lots of couple friends, host a lot of parties, spend a lot of time as a family with their kids, or have roommates/relatives that live with them.

It can be easy to ignore there are issues if you actively avoid ever being alone together.

3. If you let your partner know what you have done or what you are feeling/thinking, do you believe they’d abandon you?

A feeling of abandonment can push us to do a lot of unhealthy things. We may keep our partner at a distance by not be totally honest or forthcoming or succumb to self-sabotaging behaviors.

While we think we’re protecting ourselves from being hurt, we’re actually hurting our relationship’s chance at true intimacy.

4. Is it easier to hide or medicate your feelings than express them to your partner?

Feelings are scary, especially when they may be something like, “I’m scared you’ll leave me” or “I’m scared I’m not good enough for you to love.” Many of us might turn to drinking, drugging, or other withdrawal tactics to avoid sharing what we really feel.

5. Is being enmeshed and totally dependent on each other your idea of “being in love?”

If we’re afraid of being abandoned, someone always being around us can feel like love. But real love requires both people to eventuall be able to individuate.

If you’ve been dating longer than a few months, you should no longer still be locked into needing to be around each other all the time.

6. Do you find it extremely difficult — maybe even impossible — to ask for what you need?

If we grew up in a dysfunctional family, we may have.

7. Are you able to be emotionally intimate with one another?

Many of us were raised to believe that sex is the only way to have intimacy, but it’s only one way, and not even that great of one either. Intimacy should be our ability to be and feel totally naked around another person with our clothes on.

Intimacy is often described as, “Into me you see,” which means we’re entirely vulnerable and open with another person. We feel safe to share our deepest darkest awfuls.

8. Do you avoid problems?

Conflict is necessary in relationships. Avoiding them often means dishonesty (with yourself and your partner) and feats of manipulation. Without admitting there are problems, there can’t be solutions, and it’s how you navigate those problems that say a lot about how you are as a couple and whether or not you’ll last.

9. Do you feel that you or your partner are solely responsible for fixing the problems in your relationship?

Relationships cannot be one-sided. Neither you nor your partner is 100% responsible for fixing the problems in your relationship. Even if one of you commits a betrayal of your relationship’s trust, it has to take the two of you to work through it.

10. Do you believe you and your partner must agree on everything and enjoy the same things?

You and your partner are two individuals. In a healthy relationship, you will be two whole people walking on the same path as each other, not clones.

If you answered “yes” to two or more questions, it’s likely that you, your partner, and your relationship need help. Answering “yes” doesn’t mean your relationship is unfixable. It doesn’t mean it’s irrevocably broken and there’s no hope.

It simply means that you need some help.

Dysfunctional relating skills are learned, often first in our families. If you and your partner don’t know how to relate any better, then you’ll both be stuck repeating the same patterns over and over again.

Use these questions as an indicator of whether you should reach out for help, and then do so by booking an appointment with an individual or couples counselor or Relationship Coach or looking into book recommendations to deal with better communication skills.

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Certified Relationship Coach and Writer. E-mail:

Memphis, TN

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