PHOTOGRAPH: Andriy Popov, 123rf.com
Azah Yazmin, relationship therapist at Bright Consulting, based in Malaysia
Warning sign #1: The last time you had sex was a month or two ago.
There are many reasons why couples stop having sex frequently. It could be distance, for example, where one of your travels frequently for work. Or, it could be physical exhaustion brought on by health issues, or a hectic, busy life.
Whatever your reasons, if your relationship lacks emotional safety – connections formed with your husband – and sex takes a backseat, this is a relationship red flag. A simple way to determine whether or not you have this crucial emotional safety is to ask these questions:
1. “Are you there for me?”
2. “Do I matter to you?”
3. “Are you emotionally connected to me?”
4. “Will you come when I call?”
5. “Will you be there when I need you the most?”
6. “Will you cherish me?”
7. “Do I come first to you?”
If all the answers are ‘yes’, then it does not matter how frequent or pleasurable sex is. But if the answers are mostly ‘no’, you need to start thinking about ways to repair the connection.
Ask each other how sex feels now, when both your bodies have changed with age, then talk about what turns you both on and what you find sexy about each other. Start by building a safe, playful vibe around sex, so it’s not a loaded conversation. Explore your desires together and make it fun.
Warning sign #2: You get bored or annoyed whenever he talks about day-to-day things.
Try to listen past the facts and pay attention to the emotions your husband is trying to tell you. Being emotionally responsive calms him down, and also builds mutual security and trust. Emotional love ebbs and flows: happy, stable couples do quarrel, but they also know how to tune into each other and restore emotional connections after a clash.
When we feel our relationship is threatened or we’re unable to voice our needs, we tend to either push our partner to respond, or shut down and move away to protect ourselves.
No matter what words we choose, what we are really saying is, “Notice me. I need you.” Step back for a second and understand that these strategies don’t work –they only pull you further apart from him.
Warning sign #3: You focus more on our kids.
How often have you heard your husband complain that he has lost you to the kids? And how often have you defended yourself, saying he shouldn’t be jealous of his own children and you’re just doing what you have to?
When you’re preoccupied with your family as a whole, it’s easy to overlook what each of you really need, which is emotional support. Make time for each other, even if it’s just 15 minutes to talk about your day-to-day life.
Communication is the key to a fulfilling relationship, and when you’re in sync, you’ll be able to work out something that benefits the both of you.
Warning sign #4: You always turn to your friends or co-workers for advice.
When you are in a loving relationship and comfortable with each other, it’s healthy to get to know your colleagues and spend time with your friends. But if you always turn to them for support instead of your husband, and he feels deprived of your affections, it’s an issue you have to work on.
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Check in with him every now and then about how he feels when you go out with friends, or when you put in extra time on an exciting new project. Acknowledge his feelings and reassure him – in words and actions –of your love and support.
Rather than being needy and co-dependent, encourage each other to be an individual in the relationship. Research shows that maintaining your own identity while being securely attached to your spouse is better for your well-being. You become more independent, resilient and happier.
Warning sign #5: Your once-healthy and active husband no longer cares about his physical appearance.
The health benefits of being in an emotionally secure and unambiguous relationship are mind-blowing. When you have this bond, you can deal with almost anything life throws at you. You feel better about yourself, you’re more confident about your place in the world, and deal better with stress.
So if your husband is neglecting his physical appearance, try to create a safe emotional environment for him to talk about what is happening to him. When he opens up to you, respond by acknowledging his feelings without judgement.