Moving in with your partner
This is one of the biggest steps you can take in a relationship. It’s partly symbolic, saying that if all goes well, this is just how it’s going to be until one of us dies. It’s a big ask for everyone involved, sharing space and dramatically increasing the amount of time spent with each other, as well as the initial stress of the move. Living with a partner is wonderful, but it represents a point of no return. There is only the future ahead, the terrifying, heartbreaking and beautiful future.
Suddenly becoming long distance
Long distance relationships take a lot of maintenance to keep all parties happy and fulfilled. The most successful ones tend to start with them meeting in person first, then deciding to enter a relationship knowing that distance will be a huge factor. The opposite, having been with somebody for a while before work or life choices require one partner to move away, is a little more destructive. In that instance, neither have had to exercise their long distance thinking muscles before. It takes an awful lot of effort from both parties to make it work.
When one of you gets a promotion
Anything that is a positive life milestone can also cause problems in a relationship that is already built on uneven foundations. Promotions are a recognition of a lot of things: hard work, an earned status and power. All of these can cause strain or insecurity in a partner, and of course the financial aspect ties into this too. Money and marriage is a well-researched topic, suggesting that the healthy handling and communication of earnings and savings is linked to better outcomes.
Taking your first holiday together
Sun, sand and complete isolation in a foreign area: a recipe for an absolutely wonderful time, sure, but the logistics of the situation are often what cause couples issues. The booking, packing and travel arrangements are always full of ups and downs, but the actual time spent alone with your partner forces the confrontation of disagreements you would have had anyway, only in sweltering heat after walking 45 minutes to find a restaurant that isn’t packed. Adverse conditions like that make even small disagreements harder to effectively mediate.
Meeting their family for the first time
Family dynamics are every bit as varied, complex and full of quirks as a romantic relationship, so it’s important moment when you introduces your significant other to the people who raised you. Your family members are the people who, for better or worse, helped make you who you are. It’s a magical moment, but incredibly volatile. A mistake here needs to be laughed off, genuinely, by at least three other people to avoid lasting harm. That takes real comedic finesse, so have a couple of lines prepared.
Talking about your past trauma
There is no all-encompassing way to define trauma, as life events effect everyone in unique ways. Regardless of the size or comparative severity, if something you dwell on effects you, it can be difficult to convey that properly to your partner. It takes finding the right place and time, figuring out the best way to express yourself and any expectations, and relying on the other person to be understanding and compassionate. Each of these things can be anxiety-inducing on their own, and in combination create a situation that acts as a catalyst for serious change in the relationship.
Getting your first pet
A furry (or perhaps feathery or scaly?) friend can make a great new addition to your growing family unit. Pets offer company, comfort, and give you something to care for and build a schedule around, but they’re also a big responsibility. Sometimes they get sick, sometimes they misbehave. They can cost a lot and require learning and growing to help meet their needs. Factor in the time commitment, and the pet becomes something else you and your partner must plan ahead for, sharing responsibility and love for an adorable, but very dependent loved one.
One of you gets sick
The research on this subject varies, but trends point out that illness within a relationship is more of a gendered issue. ‘Men are seven times more likely to leave their partner if they get sick’ is a popular statistic quoted, originating in a 2001 study specific to the diagnosis of brain cancer. Alas, additional research since has shown that men are overall more likely to leave their partners if they become seriously ill. Suddenly asking if they would still love you no matter what has much higher stakes.
Meeting your partner’s exes
Obviously, if your partner has chosen to keep an ex in their life, that’s their decision and you should respect that. You can raise concerns and ask questions, but you’re not entitled to an answer. You should respect and trust your partner enough to not feel threatened or insecure, and if you don’t, there’s a problem. That’s the logic, but we human beings aren’t always logical, particularly when it comes to something as personal as your relationship. Mistakes are bound to happen, and it takes a strong bond to navigate these kinds of issues.
Popping the question
It’s the big question. But should it be? Marriage as a societal concept is often considered of paramount importance: the end goal of a relationship, and the beginning of something more. Marriage rates in the US have been on the decline for most of the 21st century, with about 40-50% ending in divorce. This coincides with, among other things like increasing economic insecurity, women gaining more rights to self determination and financial freedom. This could suggest a large percentage of proposals are accepted out of societal pressure and lack of alternatives. Not a healthy start to holy matrimony.
Finding out you’re pregnant
Discovering that a baby is on the way is often a huge cause for celebration. If the two of you aren’t on the same page when it comes to children, however, this could be a major hindrance in your relationship. One may be ecstatic, the other full of fear. How you deal with these mixed emotions moving forward is the true test of any couple.
When the baby arrives
Having a baby changes your life, and your relationship, forever. While you have your own little bundle of joy, you also have to deal with sleep deprivation, endless responsibility, and a drastic reduction in free time – including time for one another. This can put a huge strain on your relationship, ultimately making or breaking some couples.
Organizing a wedding
23% of men say that organizing a wedding was the most stressful moment in their lives, according to a study by Kalms. With interfering mother-in-laws, maid of horrors, and bridezillas, it’s easy to see why. Sometimes planning for the happiest day of your life can turn into a waking nightmare.
Financial worries are stressful as it is, let alone when you’ve got another person to consider. Money burdens, particularly if you’re trying to run a home together, can throw a spanner in the works of any relationship. Bill-splitting, overspending, and previous debt are all things to seriously consider when shacking up with your partner.
Experiencing a loss
Mourning the death of a loved one is the hardest thing anyone has to go through. If your partner loses someone dear to them, it can also take a toll on you. Their personality can completely change overnight, leading to depression and mental health issues. Supporting anyone through this difficult time is a tricky, delicate affair.
Your first big fight
Your first big fight – or, rather, how you deal with it afterwards – can set the tone for a relationship moving forward. If you or your partner still clings onto the argument months later, secretly harboring a grudge or making passive-aggressive remarks, it’s unlikely that your connection will survive in the long run.
It can be a difficult hurdle to overcome if your spouse suddenly becomes unemployed. While they are likely to struggle with self-esteem issues because of the setback, it can also be hard for you. Having your partner constantly being at home and not contributing to the shared pot can slowly build a sense of resentment, and could ultimately lead to the relationship’s downfall.
Having a joint bank account
When partners merge their finances together, it can create trust issues, suspicion, and frustration. While it’s a huge step to take as a married couple, it could pave the way to disaster. If one is a careful saver and the other an over-spender, a sense of friction is likely to emerge. Constantly nagging or questioning spending habits can create a huge conflict in your marriage.
Overcoming the honeymoon period
The honeymoon period typically lasts between six months to a year. When it’s over, those magical feelings of excitement fall to the wayside, replaced by the mundane day-to-day. For some couples, this can signify the beginning of the end – never quite able to recapture the emotions they once had.
Meeting each other’s friends
Meeting your boo’s pals can be almost as intimating as meeting their family. If they don’t like you – or you don’t like them – it can be a tricky path to navigate. Your partner’s friends were in their life before you, after all, so failing to form decent connections with their buddies can lead to issues further down the road.
Saying “I love you”
Saying “I love you” to someone for the first time is terrifying, magical, anxiety-inducing and exciting all at once. It’s the first step in being truly vulnerable with your partner, and how they react sets the tone for the entire relationship. If they mumble it back without making eye contact, or say it out of obligation, your relationship is probably doomed before it’s truly begun.
Crying in front of one another
Allowing your partner to see you cry for the first time can either strengthen or weaken your bond. Depending on their reaction, you’ll know how they deal with other people’s vulnerability, a key signal in how they’ll support you as your connection develops into something deeper. If they’re emotionally cold, it’s unlikely that the relationship will survive.
Experiencing the first pang of jealousy
Jealousy is a killer when it comes to relationships. If left unresolved, experiencing that first pang of envy can put a permanent wedge between you and your partner – spawning arguments and feelings of bitterness. Whether it’s how they talk to other men or women, or becoming jealous of their career success, the only way to resolve these issues is through open and honest communication.
Spending the holidays together
The holiday season is supposedly the happiest time of the year – but it’s also the most stressful. January 3rd has even been nicknamed ‘Divorce Day’, the date when most couples split. From interfering family members to financial stresses and hectic schedules, Christmas can be a pivotal point in your connection.
Your first joint contract
Getting your first joint contract with your partner is a gigantic step. It’s legally binding, showing that you’re committed to one another for the long haul. Whether it’s renting an apartment together or getting out a loan, the extra layer of allegiance can cause some parties to crumble.
Talking about the future
Having that first discussion about the future with someone you love is a huge moment in your life. If the two of you want completely different things, it can stop the relationship in its tracks. Living together requires compromise, making agreements not every partnership manages to reach. Acknowledging your partner’s needs and desires can make or break a relationship.
Having a second child
One child is just about manageable, but two completely changes the game. The extreme demands of parenting are essentially doubled, with parenthood strains, a lack of intimacy and money woes intensifying. Having another child is a huge, life-changing event, and is something that should be carefully considered and discussed.
Buying a house
If moving in together is a big step, buying a home as a couple is monumental. With hefty mortgage payments to worry about and no landlord to fall back on if the boiler busts, the two of you are solely responsible for your new environment, adding a constant undertone of responsibility and stress to your kinship.
Your children leave the nest
Empty nest syndrome can spawn crippling feelings of anxiety and worry. Constantly fearing about how your children are faring out in the world can leave your partner feeling neglected. It’s a common occurrence, with the Office for National Statistics in the UK discovering that number of over-50s who separated had risen by 33% in 11 years, the leading cause thought to be children leaving home.
Addictions get involved
Addictions can completely change the dynamics of even the strongest relationship. If your partner turns to the bottle night after night, you may feel as though they’re choosing the drink over you. Whatever the addiction may be, it’s a hefty burden to carry – and choosing between supporting your spouse or walking away isn’t one to be taken lightly.
Your spouse cheats
Cheating is one of the leading causes of relationships disintegrating. Figures show that roughly 15-20% of married couples cheat on one another, ending the marriage in disaster. Stats provided by the American Psychological Association state that infidelity is the reason behind 20-40% of divorces in the US.
Going back into education
Going back into education is a great way of furthering your self-development. However, it can also add a strain on your relationship. You’ll suddenly have less time for your partner, focusing instead on your studies, which can lead to increased stress levels. The balancing act can damage a relationship beyond repair if you haven’t built a healthy, stable foundation.
Changing your career can be a financial burden for your partner. Temporarily reducing the money you bring home each month, your spouse may feel the need to pick up the extra slack. It could also trigger a sense of resentment in your partner, who may be secretly jealous of you pursuing your dreams.
Living as a married couple
Saying your vows is one thing, but living life as a married couple is an entirely different ballgame altogether. Becoming husband and wife – vowing to stand alongside one another until death – is one of the biggest commitments you’ll ever make. The day-to-day reality may fade in comparison to the fantasy, and could eventually contribute to the ever-increasing divorce rates.
Experiencing a midlife crisis
Midlife crises are usually spawned from not feeling sufficiently fulfilled in life, and are surprisingly common. Your spouse may feel overwhelmed by the thought of their own mortality, leading to some erratic life choices. Some people may pin the blame on their marriage or relationship, seeking a sense of independence to experience all the things in life they fear they’ve missed out on.
The stress of moving homes can have a hugely detrimental effect on your relationship, with research citing it’s more stressful than divorce. Failing to properly label boxes, misplaced possessions, and a lack of planning may all seem like trivial issues, but they can lead to unresolved arguments and impending feelings of animosity.
Considering couple’s therapy
Couple’s therapy is the obvious choice when your relationship is on the brink. However, if your partner is unwilling to come along, it’s a huge red flag. Furthermore, if your partner is unable to admit any fault on their end it can only further the divide, leaving you feeling all the more isolated.
You share the same friend group
If your friend group merges into one big collective, your partner may feel as though you’re encroaching on their personal life. Without setting up clear boundaries from the offset, your spouse could begin to think that you’re stealing their friends, leaving them with no room to explore their own identity beyond your constant company.
Is it harmless flirting, or emotional adultery? Although getting emotionally involved with another person doesn’t cross the boundary of physical cheating, it can still leave the other party feeling alone and insecure. Lines can easily become blurred between you and your other half if you don’t have an open channel of communication.
You start noticing their annoying habits
Once you’ve shacked up with your spouse for a while, their annoying habits that you once turned a blind eye to may develop into deeper problems. Slacking on housework, slurping their tea, or partying too hard on the weekends can leave you feeling disrespected and unloved, and left unchecked this could lead to the relationship unraveling.