Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
It’s only natural that when trying to deepen a relationship, you’re on your best behavior. Alas, that leads many partners being shocked when, for example, after the wedding, sweetie changes.
Sometimes the change is obvious. The person gets skinny for the wedding and then soon blimps out. Other times, it’s less obvious. Before moving in, s/he was interested in what you’ve been doing and thinking but afterwards, it’s me first, take you for granted. Before the wedding, s/he put you on a pedestal and when there was disagreement, s/he managed to find common ground or other equitable resolution. Now it’s fire and brimstone. Before tying the knot, you were sexually compatible, now, s/he’s withholding. Early on, s/he claimed to be committed to career but soon after the rice was thrown, noises began about quitting and leaving you with 100% of the family’s financial burden. Before the wedding bells chimed, s/he didn’t seem addictive but soon after, substance abuse, spendaholism, or anger issues exploded in your face. Arggggggggh!
Of course, many couples don’t encounter such surprises—What ya saw was what ya got. But in my coaching practice, I have so often heard, “S/he changed completely! But there was no way of knowing!” Not necessarily. There often are warning signs.
Weight. It’s unfortunate that like most human characteristics, weight has a genetic component. So if your partner leans toward the chunky despite careful eating, there’s risk that later on, major weight increase awaits—It’s tough to be careful often enough about eating for a lifetime—You can be “good” for five meals in a row and, if you have the tendency to gain weight, a single “cheat” can be a net weight gain. Gain just a pound every two weeks and you’ve gained 26 pounds in just one year. And if a person is of normal weight but tends to pork out, as metabolism slows, exercise decreases, and the complacency sets in from your having committed “’til death do you part,” big weight gain is likely. Before the wedding, she may often enough resist, “I’d love some pizza or ice cream” but after the nuptials, “Aww, it’s just once.” Right.
Caring about you. An early warning sign is if you ask about your partner more than s/he asks about you, your going out of your way to please her, even to your detriment more than s/he does for you. For example, beware if after both of you have put in a long work day, s/he usually wants to be left alone for the evening while you’re more often asking about and really listening to your partner and offering to be helpful.
Disagreeing lovingly. It’s a good sign if, even when stressed, s/he rarely expands the argument but rather finds a way to kindly come to agreement. For example, you forgot your partner’s birthday. Does s/he say, “I understand, you’re swamped at work but I feel a little uncared about. Might I ask you to be a little more mindful in the future?” Or is s/he likely to shriek, “You are so selfish, so self-absorbed, so narcissistic. This is just one example. Remember, last week when I wanted to go see grandma and you said you wanted to watch the game?!?! Selfish! Egotistical! Narcissistic! And don’t you try to gaslight me, telling me that I’m crazy!!”
Sexual compatibility. Incompatibility can reign early in a relationship, for example, because he’s eager while she needs more time. But after the first, say, ten get-togethers, if one person is much hotter-to-trot than the other, beware. In the old days, low sexual desire was often caused by hang-ups religious or psychological but today, it more likely reflects a physiologically lower sex drive or a psychological issue so deep-rooted that it may be difficult to ameliorate.
Substance abuse. In the beginning of a relationship, abusers tend to hide their problem. Look for signs of such hiding, for example, their appearing under the influence but claiming not to have used. Ask questions neutrally so as not to reveal your perspective, for example, “Now, recreational pot is legal. What are your thoughts on that?”
Anger issues. Some people go from zero to 60 in two seconds. In the beginning of the relationship, you may see it start to happen but the person usually pulls on ropes of restraint although occasionally can’t. If yelling happens more than very occasionally, beware. And I believe that even one instance of being physically abusive to you is a serious warning sign.
Working. Some people claim that they intend to continue to bring in significant income during the marriage. Yet soon after the wedding, the person “changes” his or her mind or claims, for examplel, that the job market is bad, or that s/he needs to stay home full-time to be a (helicopter) parent. It’s worth probing this directly, again using a neutral tone: “How clear are you that you plan to keep working after we’re married? How about after we have kids?”
Spending addiction. We all occasionally buy things we don’t need or spring for a fancier version when a more modest one is fine. But if your partner seems too enamored of Beemers, Coach Purses, or $300 ripped jeans, beware. Spendaholism tends to reflect an emotional hole s/he tries to fill by buying stuff. But the hedonic treadmill moves ever faster until the person or the partner falls off.
Having had conversations about relationships with countless clients and friends, I still believe in love, indeed long-term relationships. Indeed, I’ve been with my wife for 45 years, but the love highway is littered with road kill. Being alert to these warning signs can help you find a relationship that thrives through the long trip.