Six Question Relationship Check Up


It’s the beginning of another year and a time when many people are taking stock of their fitness, the health of their bodies, and pocketbook.

While it might seem more confusing or daunting to give our relationship a check-up than it is to get a check-up at the doctor’s office, checking in and assessing the health of a bond is just as important and it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Here are a few questions to help determine if your relationship needs some extra TLC or if emergency care is needed.

Is give and take in balance in my relationship? 

An imbalance of give and take in a relationship means that one partner often takes on the role of the giver who doesn’t get anything in return and the other person takes on the role of the taker who doesn’t give back.

This could be about sex, money, time, responsibilities, emotions or any other commodity within the relationship. The problem is these roles don’t allow either person to be authentic and can leave one person drained and used. If you see this pattern in your relationship, be aware that serious imbalances can destroy your relationship and your well-being. It’s time to set boundaries with your partner and be honest with yourself about where you’re “giving” in order to get validation or attention, or where you’re “using” instead of taking care of yourself.

Generosity is a must, but giving until you’re empty or using others is an ineffective way to get your needs met; both only result in feeling even emptier. The healthiest relationships are interdependent instead of one party relying completely on the other.

Is there clear communication in my relationship?

It’s so easy to forget that relationships are mirrors and so easy to think of our partner as someone who isn’t on our side, that problems communicating are the veritable common-cold of relationships. It’s normal to have some communication snags and misunderstandings, but do you fight a lot about little things? Do you avoid discussing real issues? Do you feel like it’s your responsibility to change your partner’s behaviour, opinion or feelings? Does worrying about being likable make it hard to express yourself clearly? Do you find that you’re secretly afraid to know what your partner thinks? Do you brood about things, make assumptions and go on the attack when something is bothering you? Do you withdraw or expect that your partner should know what you’re feeling? If you answered yes to any of the above, you and your partner might simply need to learn more effective ways to communicate your feelings.

Simply being willing to listen to what your partner is thinking or feeling (no matter what it is) is so much more effective than avoiding, fixing, convincing or fighting. Allowing yourself to express your feelings (without blame) is more effective than hiding your emotions, starting a fight, or attempting to control how your partner feels about you. If you practice both listening and expression, you’ll feel closer to your partner and communication problems will fade. You’ll be able to tackle challenges or problems together as a communicating team.

Does my relationship have a secret?

Each partner is entitled to private thoughts and experiences and independent growth can make a relationship even stronger. However, big secrets can be toxic to a relationship. Staying silent and staying “safe” can be a disease that negatively impacts your relationship in the long run. If you are holding in the truth about something that causes you discomfort or which could disrupt your relationship, consider the weight not sharing adds to your daily life together. Are you able to function as a participating partner in the union or are you so fraught with guilt or fear that you can’t open up? Does your secret create stress, disconnection, and ongoing fears that cause you to withdraw? If so, your secret is eating up your relationship from the inside out. It’s time to get help in order to communicate and resolve the issues you face. The only way someone can truly love us is if we love ourselves enough to be honest with ourselves and others.

If your partner is hiding something from you, you may notice patterns of avoidance and (for example, always being busy with work or friends leaving little time to sit down and talk). You can’t control your partner’s willingness to share or open up, but you can be in charge of your own openness and willingness to communicate. Often a partner is afraid to discuss things because it will result in shutting down or anger. The more you are willing to be honest in your relationship, the more your partner will too. It might seem scary to discuss issues that are painful or which could cause hurt feelings, but doing so can often cause great growth and healing.

Does my relationship have time for connection?

The passage of time can either create powerful bonds in a relationship, or create damaging ruts and routines. It’s all too easy to use friends, hobbies, work, childcare or being “busy” as a buffer from intimacy. Spending time together in a balanced way is the food that feeds a relationship. One-way or in-name-only relationships that exist only in cyber-space are fantasy relationships. It’s crucial to play, communicate and create together. One word of caution though; not all time spent together is quality time. There are couples who plan lots of activities together and who are always on the “go” but they may be just as disconnected as a couple who doesn’t have time to spend together because they’re not really engaging on a deeper level. Couples who spend all their time together can also be disconnected and not really using that time to bond. Sometimes the best gift you can give your partner is not a perfect activity, or your warm body sitting there on the couch … but rather your real presence when they need you.

Is my relationship able to change?

Life changes and relationships change, it’s a fact of life. The romantic, giddy feelings of first love transform into a different form of love and bonding as time goes by. Life circumstances change over time; jobs come and go, children grow, hobbies change, bodies change, finances and emotions change. The most solid and healthy relationships view change as an opportunity to handle challenges, bond, and know each other even more deeply. Ask yourself if your relationship is able to endure big and small changes. If you find yourself doing a lot of comparing to the past or “you used to…” or “back when things were…” your relationship may need a dose of mutual flexibility, forgiveness and relating in the present instead of holding on to the past. The past may have changed, but you don’t really WANT it to be the old way after all. It’s only by going forward that we can do better, repair what doesn’t work, and grow!

Do I have a relationship emergency?

This last relationship check-up question is the most serious one. A relationship in the emergency zone is one that is harmful to health and well-being, and like any other emergency – it can only escalate and get worse. If your partner removes choices (what you do, what you consent to) or resources from you (like clothes, money, friends or family) or if your partner uses jealousy, isolation, belittling or criticism as a weapon, you are in an abusive situation. If you are suffering from physical and mental attacks in your relationship, you need immediate help to stay safe and reestablish feelings of worth. A qualified, licensed and trained mental health practitioner can help you restore balance, safety, and even save your life. No matter how trapped you feel, there is legal and emotional help for you.

Abuse isn’t the only harmful relationship emergency. If your relationship forms a lifestyle in which you can’t be healthy (for example: a partner who enables a drug or substance addiction) or if your relationship creates an environment where you can’t take care of yourself anymore, your relationship is in the emergency zone.

Lastly, is your relationship directly harmful to someone in your care? Friends do not need to approve of your romantic choices, and neither do family members, but at the same time if your relationship is physically or emotionally damaging to someone in your care (like a child), you are in the emergency zone . For example, a person who seems loving and nice to you but is terrifying, abusive, sexual or bullying to your child represents a red-flag for the health of your relationship and could pose an actual danger to your child and to you.

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