Even the healthiest romantic relationships take work and require a team effort to keep things moving forward. While the odds may be against you—it's a statistical fact that more relationships end than endure—there are warning signs that could indicate the relationship's demise is on the horizon. Darcy Sterling, Ph.D., executive director of Alternatives Counseling in New York City, explains in Psychology Today how the ends of relationships usually fall into at least one well-documented categories, from trust and communication issues to differences in values and life priorities. However, prior to the parting of ways, there is one indicator, she says, that "can predict, with amazing accuracy, the ending of your relationship story."
It all boils down to how you handle conflict—in other words, how you and your partner fight. All relationships have conflict, but how you navigate these contentions and the emotions that arise during them are accurate barometers for the relationship's health. If, in these heated moments, you or your partner treats the other with contempt, a breakup is likely down the road. Sterling describes contempt as "an energy of disgust that emanates from you during fights." It can manifest itself in dramatic ways like yelling loud enough the neighbors can hear to simply rolling your eyes and demonstrating an unwillingness to validate your partner's feelings.
However, an important distinction Sterling makes is that while we all feel contempt from time to time (reassuring that it's only natural, even with the one you love), the big difference is whether or not we express it. Because expressing this toxic emotion is such a strong indicator of whether a relationship will fail, Sterling names knowing how to have a fight—and refraining from expressing contempt—as the most important relationship skill you'll ever acquire—or, on the other hand, the costliest skill you'll have chosen not to learn.
Looking to foster a strong, healthy romance? Discover the one thing that strengthens the bond of relationships.