When there is a lack of intimacy in a relationship, a relationship crisis becomes a reality. Sometimes we misuse the term to describe temporary difficulties accompanied by arguments in a relationship. An argument over pizza toppings or the colour of the sofa is not a crisis. It is characterised by emotional distancing over a period of weeks or months. A relationship crisis is a state of affairs, whereas an argument takes the form of an incidental event. Although many of us would prefer to avoid a relationship crisis, this is unrealistic. Everyone evolves, so the romantic relationship also evolves. When one partner gets a promotion, the other’s life changes. We overcome relationship crises more easily when we are connected by deep feelings based on mutual respect. Then we feel the need to work out an agreement. Emotional maturity, patience, empathy and the ability to admit fault are all conducive to making a compromise. How do we get out of a relationship crisis? This issue will be discussed by me later in the article.
Symptoms of a first relationship crisis
The first crisis in a relationship usually occurs when we move from a state of infatuation into the maturing stage of true love. The realisation that a partner has flaws proves to be quite a shock for some of us. Suddenly we notice things that previously escaped our attention. We begin to be annoyed that the other person prepares their breakfast quite loudly, thus waking us up on Sunday mornings. We don’t understand why she puts things off until later, even though she could get them done right away. When does the first relationship crisis occur? It usually happens after 2-3 years when we decide to move in together. Meetings where we have watched films, had sex and eaten delicious things have their own rules. They usually take place in a relaxed atmosphere because they are occasional, so it doesn’t bother us so much that our partner puts the condiments away in a different place than we do. These inconspicuous differences become annoying when we share a flat with another person. The first relationship crisis, when we have built a deeper bond, is usually resolved through open communication based on mutual respect. We get to know each other’s needs, agree on a compromise and function according to agreed rules.
Relationship crisis – the test
The symptoms of a relationship crisis often vary depending on the specific situation. Sometimes we avoid our partner’s company. At other times we attribute bad intentions to him/her.Sometimes we are unable to forgive him/her for certain things. I have included some questions below. If you give a lot of affirmative answers, it is a sign that your relationship is probably going through a crisis.
-Have you been uncomfortable with your partner for some time?
-Do you prefer to entrust your concerns to people other than your partner/partner?
-Have you become indifferent to the fate of your partner and his/her problems?
-Do you avoid the company of your partner, e.g. by staying longer at work?
-Has there been a loss of mutual desire and sexual abstinence in your relationship for some time?
– Do you feel mainly difficult emotions such as anger, grief and sadness when thinking about your partner?
-Do you avoid making plans with your partner?
Reasons for a relationship crisis
When a relationship crisis is quickly recognised and its causes identified, it is much easier to save the relationship. When we pretend that the problem does not exist, we do not get any closer to finding a solution. Usually, resentment towards the partner grows and we accumulate more and more difficult emotions, which one day may find an outlet and result in an explosion. Recognising a relationship crisis at the beginning of a relationship, we usually have enough positive feelings for the other person within us to try to communicate. Below I outline its most common causes.
Lack of intimacy in the relationship
When infatuation subsides and we move into conscious love, the ability to build intimacy plays a key role. Initially, we are brought together by desire, which is managed by chemicals. When said bonds are no longer released, it all depends on our emotional maturity and commitment to the relationship. Initially, we try to talk a lot and learn as much as possible about our partner’s needs. We know he doesn’t like cumin, so we don’t add it to the cabbage soup. As time goes on, attention from the partner starts to be distracted by various issues, including child-rearing and career development. Furthermore, we assume that because we have got to know the other person well, we know everything about them. Meanwhile, her approach to life is also evolving, shaped by different events. A lack of closeness in a relationship can be recognised by the fact that we exchange messages about how to organise our life together, but we do not talk about emotions and needs.
Relationship crisis after the birth of a child
The young person who comes into the world is completely vulnerable and requires a great deal of care from both parents. Fathers are increasingly supporting their female partners in caring for the child. Unfortunately, they cannot share all the responsibilities with them because they are constrained by their working lives. Women tend to be heavily involved in raising their offspring, so their partner sometimes takes a back seat, as does their sex life. When a baby arrives in the world, it is difficult to find time for shared passions, watching films or longer conversations. It is worth making every effort to set aside at least a quarter of an hour for each other and to spend it on strengthening the bond with each other. A woman will feel better if she tells her partner about her needs, e.g. for a few hours’ nap. Often an agreement can be reached and the newly minted dad is happy to take care of the baby to give his partner a break. Sometimes women feel pain during intercourse due to the changes that have recently taken place in their bodies. Fortunately, physical intimacy can be practised in a variety of ways, such as cuddling or kissing. By remaining open to the other person’s needs, it will be easier to resolve a relationship crisis after the birth of a child.
Relationship crisis before marriage
Every major change in life is often accompanied by a crisis, as it requires the development of new habits and patterns of behaviour. Initially, we do not know how to find our way in a previously unknown reality. A relationship crisis before marriage often stems from fear of the change that is about to take place. We still associate marriage with great responsibility and want to be sure that we are getting married to the right person. We feel anxious about finding ourselves in a new role. Added to this is a loyalty crisis. Over the years, we have followed the unwritten rules of our family of origin. When we plan a wedding, we sometimes go against the wishes of our parents and grandparents, which makes us feel guilty. We balance loyalty to our partner with fidelity to family traditions. If none of our relatives have had a civil wedding, we may feel the displeasure of those closest to us when we and our partner plan a ceremony at the registry office.
Marriage crisis after children move out
The departure of children from the family nest for many couples represents a test of closeness. If our romantic relationship was based solely on raising our offspring together, the young couple’s independence often results in a sense of emptiness. Fortunately, a crisis in the marital relationship after a child has moved out can be resolved. It is never too late to rediscover your partner, his or her qualities and find common passions to help rebuild closeness.
Relationship crisis due to financial problems
Some changes such as marriage, the birth of a child and moving out bring with them developmental crises. Sometimes we experience them due to unexpected circumstances, such as job loss or rising interest rates on loans taken out. Fortunately, financial difficulties are often overcome. The bad streak eventually passes, we find employment, get a raise at work and continue to walk through life together, no longer quarrelling over money.
Types and stages of crisis
There are two main types of relationship crisis: natural (developmental) and situational. Every change in life involves the development of a new state of dynamic equilibrium. It usually takes some time before we reach it, because we often do not know how to find our way in previously unknown realities. Developmental crises, which include the honeymoon crisis and the baby flying out of the nest, are natural. Most of us face them at some stage in the relationship. Situational crises, on the other hand, arise as a result of, among other things, infidelity, deterioration of material or housing situations, etc. In the following, I will discuss a selection of these. I will also outline the successive phases of a relationship crisis.
Types of relationship crisis
The onset of a relationship crisis often eludes us because we assume that we are only dealing with temporary difficulties, e.g. a drop in libido, lack of time and energy. It is difficult for us to judge whether our partner is avoiding intercourse because he or she feels tired because of work or perhaps because of a routine in the bedroom. Our doubts will only be dispelled by a frank conversation. Open communication based on mutual respect works in all circumstances. It is the best solution for both developmental and situational crises.
Developmental crises that accompany life changes
Every relationship goes through developmental crises because they are inherent in its nature. We all change over time and our needs and priorities also evolve. The latter we often adapt to the current circumstances of life. After how many years does a relationship crisis kick in? It is difficult to give a definite answer to this question, as every relationship is characterised by different dynamics. Usually the rose-tinted glasses fall off after 2-3 years, when the infatuation passes and we start to enter the stage of true love. Emotional maturity makes it easier for us to come to terms with the lack of butterflies in our stomachs, we appreciate the mutual interest and care. A crisis after 3 years of a relationship is a common occurrence, as each party consciously chooses to be with a man whose flaws they can clearly see. At this stage it becomes necessary to work out a number of compromises, including cohabitation. Developmental crises also include the crisis of the first child, which I discussed in detail earlier in this article. The arrival of a young person changes the lives of their parents. These have less time to nurture a bond and a romantic relationship, because initially the child is completely dependent on them. It is only up to us to carve out a moment for deeper conversation and a little tenderness. If we have been concentrating on raising our children for years and somewhere along the way the romantic side of life for two has slipped away, we feel a void when our children move out. Increasingly, we wonder whether our relationship makes sense now that the strongest glue in the relationship has disappeared. Fortunately, nothing stands in the way of rebuilding closeness and exploring the erotic sphere of life.
Crisis due to a partner’s infidelity
Infidelity usually causes a crisis in a relationship. How do we start trusting again a partner who has let us down? This is an extremely difficult task, which is why so many couples come to me for professional support. Every situation is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all prescription. When we experience betrayal, we often not only lose trust in our partner, but also our self-esteem. We react differently to painful experiences, which is why some of us end the relationship and others fight for it. If we know that we won’t trust again, and we will always remind our partner of the betrayal during an argument, the first solution may indeed be the best option. Interestingly, many couples do not give up, but look at infidelity as a wake-up call that informs both parties of the weaknesses in the relationship. The hardest thing to do is to share responsibility, as this arouses internal resistance in the betrayed person.
Crisis due to relationship burnout
In the 21st century, there is a lot of talk about burnout in the context of various aspects of life. Usually, we automatically link this term with professional activity. We think less often about burnout in a romantic relationship, which we can also experience. Symptoms of relationship crisis that arise in this case usually include the belief that we no longer have anything in common with our partner. We assume that we will no longer experience anything unique or exciting with the other person. We perceive our partner’s behaviour as predictable and boring. How do you solve a relationship crisis? In many cases, it helps not only to talk, but also to have fun together. Going on a camping trip, spicing up your sex life, booking a puzzle room – all these things break the routine and take the romantic relationship to the next level.
Crisis due to a failed sex life
At the beginning of a relationship, we rarely leave the flat to have a romantic dinner or meet up with mutual friends. The phenylethylamine secreted at this time makes it impossible for us to take our hands off each other. It fuels desire and promotes a rich sex life. Unfortunately, when its levels drop, it’s all about our ability to stoke the flame so that it doesn’t go out. Routine in the bedroom makes rapprochement schematic and therefore unexciting. By introducing variety, we will chase away boredom. By trying out different sexual positions, places, disguises and erotic toys, we will experience many wonderful raptures together. How long does a relationship crisis last? The example with erotic life perfectly illustrates that a lot depends on ourselves. At any time we can talk about sexual fantasies and make them come true.
Phases of crisis development
Jurg Willi is a Swiss psychiatrist who distinguishes 4 phases of a relationship crisis. Each phase will be discussed in more detail below.
Crisis in the phase of creating a stable relationship
Although in the beginning we can’t stop thinking about our partner and feel extremely euphoric, at some point anxiety sets in. We start to wonder if he/she is serious about me. We want to enter a phase of relationship stability, but we don’t know if the other party wants this too. We analyse her behaviour and wonder if she is equally committed to the relationship. The crisis in the stable relationship phase often arises when we want to make the relationship more formal. E.g. to introduce the other person as your partner, to live with them and to bring them to dinner with your parents. When the goals turn out to be aligned and stabilisation occurs, the crisis is resolved.
Crisis in the realisation and development phase of a relationship
A relationship usually dies when it is not developing. When we feel that we have reached a wall and are unlikely to jump over it, thoughts of a break-up arise in our minds. We want the romantic relationship to keep up with the changes that are taking place in our lives. When we become ready to start a family, we want to live together, sometimes also to formalise the relationship and make a conscious decision about a child. The problem arises when one party already wants to start the next stage and the other party does not feel ready for it. The divergence of needs in a relationship requires a compromise to be worked out.
Routine often creeps into long-established relationships and takes the joy out of living together. Repetitiveness encourages emotional distance, which is why so many people experiencing a mid-life crisis start to think about infidelity. It is worth remembering that a potential new partner seems exciting because we do not know him. His greatest asset is his unpredictability. Once we realise what our fascination stems from, there is a good chance that we will want to work on a permanent relationship. Sometimes all it takes is a break from routine, experiencing exciting things together, to rekindle mutual desire.
The marriage crisis of old age
When we retire, we spend more time at home. This encourages arguments and friction because we are not used to each other’s company for so many hours. Suddenly, we discover irritating qualities in our partner that we have not seen for decades of living together. You can’t spend every free moment together because it causes a crisis in the relationship. How to overcome it? The best way is for each partner to get their own space, such as their own study. It is also important to have friendships with other people and to have passions that are worth developing, regardless of age.
Unfortunately, fitness deteriorates with age. Sometimes one partner still has plenty of energy and enjoys going for long walks. The other is unable to accompany him or her because of joint problems. Sometimes he or she deteriorates so much that he or she needs care and attention.
Crisis in a long-distance relationship
We live in a time when the long-distance relationship is becoming increasingly popular. For some, this form of relationship suits them because they feel anxious about closeness. With the other party living in a different city or country, it is easier to maintain distance. Sometimes a long-distance relationship is due to necessity. Today, many people follow their jobs. Receiving a promotion and a transfer to another city, we want to take advantage of opportunities for advancement. Sometimes couples live together for a few years and then decide that one partner should leave because it is to shore up the family’s finances. Unfortunately, a common problem is the crisis in a long-distance relationship. Many of us feel alone when facing adversity on our own every day. We would like to have a loved one beside us to do the shopping when illness strikes. A long-distance relationship leads to emotional distance. Each of us is preoccupied with our own affairs, so there is often not enough time for a deep conversation on the phone. Unsatisfied sexual needs also come to the fore.
Living in different parts of the country or the world causes a relationship crisis. After how many years does this one become apparent? Many factors influence this. If two people who are afraid of intimacy meet, such a relationship can last for many years. When partners meet frequently, for example, a man working in another city coming home for the weekend, it is much easier to nurture the bond and fuel the feeling.
How long does a relationship crisis last – what does it depend on?
A relationship crisis is not an argument that is about day-to-day issues. It is a condition that persists over a long period of time, such as several weeks. It is up to you and your partner how quickly you resolve it. Couples who do not lack patience, empathy, understanding and respect, and whose affection has strong roots, usually cope better with overcoming difficulties. When we know how to fight for a relationship, we start our efforts with a conversation free of mutual recriminations. We don’t expect one exchange to change everything, but we show goodwill and a willingness to work out a compromise. A lack of emotional maturity hinders agreement. If we have a problem with open communication, we do not express our needs directly. Alternatively, we do it in an accusatory way, which makes the other party become defensive. When we lack patience, we give up more quickly and write off the relationship more easily. Fortunately, we can always work on regulating our emotions better. We need them all because they carry important messages. Unfortunately, sometimes we let ourselves get carried away with them, and our relationship with our partner suffers as a result.
What is the seventh-year syndrome?
Many couples hit a relationship crisis after seven years. It very often determines the further future of the romantic relationship. It has been observed that after a few years of living together, boredom and fatigue creep in. We perceive our partner much less favourably than at the beginning of the relationship. We cease to be sexually attracted to each other, so we wonder whether there is any point in continuing the relationship. We start to feel uncomfortable living together, which feels more like sharing a flat than the romantic relationship we experienced at the beginning. Many people wonder how to survive a relationship crisis after 7 years of being together and end up in couples therapy. When both parties are cooperative and committed, there is a good chance that with the help of an impartial professional they will resolve the problem.
How to survive a relationship crisis – tips?
When you realise that you are experiencing a relationship crisis, you can take action to overcome the difficulties. It is not worth pretending that nothing has happened. The longer we delay having an honest conversation, the greater the resentment towards our partner will become. Usually, it all starts with one situation or sentence that remains in us like a scratch. Then further experiences occur, which build up and increase the emotional distance. For example, when a partner ignores a topic we have raised and starts his or her own, we feel angry. Often, we say nothing, hoping that the incident will not happen again. Unfortunately, the following days bring disappointment. In the end, we get the impression that we are living and living in a relationship with a selfish person who looks at the tip of his or her own nose and does not take our emotions into account. If you are wondering how to survive a relationship crisis, the advice in the following article may prove extremely useful.
Relationship crisis – how to talk?
How do you fight for a relationship? The best place to start is by having a frank conversation based on mutual respect and empathy. Silent days lead to a fading bond between partners. When we don’t speak to each other, we take away the opportunity to develop an understanding. The problem is that while we all know how to form sentences, we don’t always care about their tone. As a result, we rarely come out of the position of our own needs and emotions, and much more often play the role of accuser. For example, instead of telling our partner that we are sorry when he ignores topics we have started, we tell him that he is as narcissistic as his father. By attacking, we discourage him from engaging in dialogue. It is more difficult to bring about change in a relationship when our communications lack respect and empathy. Romantic relationships often stir up strong emotions, but it is worth regulating them to refrain from an accusatory tone. When a relationship crisis arises, it’s worth talking straight away, as each quiet day increases the emotional distance.
Try to be patient
A relationship crisis has built up over a period of time, so rarely is one conversation enough to resolve it by working out a compromise. Usually, the other party needs time to think about the issues that you have communicated to them. After a few days, it is worth revisiting the subject, as this is the only way to open up to new solutions that are beneficial to both partners. In addition, we are not able to raise all the relevant issues in one conversation. I encourage you to dose them up, as it is easier to focus on one problem than on several. An overabundance of topics to discuss overwhelms and makes the other party feel tired after a while. This makes further communication ineffective.
Don’t shy away from responsibility for a relationship crisis
We fail to acknowledge responsibility for a relationship crisis. We like to feel comfortable and protect our ideal image by blaming our partner for the problems. Until we recognise that we ourselves also contributed to them, we will not overcome the difficulties. Referring to the example above, the partner is acting inappropriately by ignoring the issues we raise, but we are making the mistake of not communicating the need to be heard. When both parties change their behaviour, they can overcome the crisis. At this point, I would like to point out that there are situations for which you are not responsible. Never let yourself be told that you deserve to have your partner use violence against you. If this one has occurred in your relationship, save yourself by ending the relationship. Although both parties are usually responsible for infidelity, don’t take responsibility for it if you see your partner struggling with a mental disorder, such as sexaholism or narcissistic personality disorder.
How do you resolve a relationship crisis and make a fresh start?
While the above advice on how to survive a relationship crisis has had the desired results for many people, sometimes we find it difficult to hear what the other party has to say. In some situations, couples therapy proves to be an invaluable support. The psychotherapist acts as a neutral observer and does not take sides. He or she shows us how to communicate in a way that is free of aggression and mutual accusations. He or she often also helps us to see unconscious problems that cast a shadow over our relationship. He asks questions, but also allows us to take the initiative. In her office, she creates a safe atmosphere that fosters communication. Couples therapy opens us up to different solutions, but it does not always end up saving the relationship. Sometimes it shows that the existing relationship needs to end.
A relationship crisis is inevitable; sooner or later it reaches every couple. For some, it occurs at the end of the infatuation phase. Others have had a successful and satisfying relationship for several years, but the arrival of a child turns their lives upside down. All couples experience developmental crises, those that rely on open communication based on respect find it easier to overcome them. A feeling that has a solid foundation makes us want to fight for the relationship and overcome temporary difficulties.