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No relationship is perfect, but there may be warning signs in relationships that you should pay attention to in order to prevent the relationship from deteriorating. Here we look at what warning signs in a relationship are and what you can do about them.

What are warning signs in a relationship?

In a relationship, certain warning signs can indicate underlying problems that can lead to deeper conflict or even the end of the relationship if not addressed. Constant conflict over the same issues with no sign of resolution, where partners avoid important conversations, feel misunderstood, or lying are some examples. Problems also arise when there are gaps in support, where one partner does not feel supported or feels that their partner is not available for emotional support.

Isolation from family and friends, controlling behaviours over personal decisions or finances, a noticeable decrease in intimacy, and a general disinterest in each other’s lives and needs also point to potential problems. In addition, avoidance behaviours, such as avoiding spending time together or participating in joint activities, indicate a lack of commitment to the relationship. Even more serious signs such as emotional or physical abuse, including verbal insults and physical violence, are clear warning signs. In case of violence, it is important to seek outside help immediately.

If these warning signs are present, it is critical to take them seriously and consider seeking professional help through couples therapy or counseling.

A study conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) found that 71% of women and 62% of men who went to couples counselling were satisfied with the type of counselling they received. The study also found that over 80% of participants would recommend counselling to others.

What can you do if you experience warning signs in a relationship?

If you detect warning signs in your relationship, it is important not to ignore them. Start by initiating an open and honest conversation with your partner about the problems you have observed, and approach the conversation with empathy to avoid accusations. It is also important that you take time for self-reflection to understand your own part in the dynamics of the relationship and consider any changes that may be needed. Setting clear boundaries is crucial to managing harmful behaviors, and this means clearly expressing what is unacceptable and the consequences that follow if these boundaries are not respected.

In many cases, couples or individual counselling can offer guidance and support in navigating through the challenges of the relationship. A professional can help identify underlying problems. It is also important to build a support system of friends and family who can offer additional support and perspective.

Finally, it may be necessary to seriously evaluate the health and prospects of the relationship. It can be a difficult decision, but considering whether the relationship is healthy and worth continuing is crucial to your long-term well-being. Addressing warning signs early and constructively can prevent future problems and pave the way for a stronger and more satisfying relationship.

What are the four horsemen in a relationship?

The Four Horsemen is a metaphor used by Dr. John Gottman, a relationship researcher, to describe four destructive behavioural patterns that can contribute to relationship endings. These behaviours are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling, and are considered particularly harmful to romantic relationships. Gottman’s research has found that when these behaviours become chronic in a relationship, the likelihood of separation or divorce increases significantly. This can be prevented by becoming aware of patterns and with couples’ therapy.

What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is psychotherapy that helps couples resolve conflicts, improve communication and strengthen their relationship. It is suitable for couples in all relationship types and focusses on addressing issues that affect the health of the relationship. In therapy, the couple works with the therapist to understand the core issues, improve communication, manage disagreements and strengthen their relationship.

This involves exploring the history of the relationship, improving the expression of thoughts and feelings, addressing specific problems such as finances or parenting, and developing conflict management strategies. Couples therapy is valuable during crises like infidelity or major changes, and the goal is to help the couple understand what is best for them, whether that means staying together or separating in a healthy way.

The therapist acts as a neutral, supportive and objective party who helps the couple navigate through their problems without taking sides or placing blame. Seeking couples therapy can be a powerful step towards revitalizing a relationship and building a stronger, more fulfilling future together.

Treatment for relationship problems

Couples therapy begins with initial sessions where the therapist gets to know the couple and their challenges, followed by setting joint goals to improve the relationship, such as better communication or conflict management. The work phase focuses on developing communication skills, resolving conflicts, working through emotional issues and introducing positive behavioral changes, with active input from both partners. The process ends with an evaluation and a plan to maintain and improve the relationship further.

The therapist’s role is to guide and support the couple through this process, where the couple’s involvement is crucial for success. Couple therapy aims to provide insights and tools for a stronger and more satisfying relationship. There are several different approaches to couple therapy. Here are two evidence-based approaches that are commonly used in couples therapy:

1. Integrative behavioral therapy for couples (IBCT)

IBCT aims to help couples accept the irreconcilable differences between them and work on increasing closeness and understanding by improving emotional acceptance and empathic communication. The method combines behavioural changes with acceptance strategies. It is an evidence-based approach, meaning that it has been shown to produce good results in research and is a further development of cognitive behavioural therapy for couples.

2. Emotionally focused therapy (EFT)

EFT is a method that focuses on strengthening the emotional bond between partners by exploring the emotional responses that underlie the couple’s interaction patterns. The therapy helps couples identify and express their underlying emotional needs and learn to meet each other’s needs in a more satisfying way. EFT is an evidence-based approach that has been shown to produce good results in research.

Each method has its own strengths and may be more or less appropriate depending on the couple’s specific situation and needs. There are also other methods such as the Gottman Method, other couple therapies and literature that can be helpful in learning more about relationships. Many couple therapists use a combination of these methods to best address the couple’s unique challenges.

12 common questions and answers about warning signs in a relationship

What are warning signs in a relationship?

There are several different warning signs in a relationship. Constant conflict, communication problems and lack of trust from cheating or lying are some examples. There can be a lack of support, isolation, controlling behaviours and avoidance behaviours. Psychological and physical violence are also strong warning signs.

What can you do if you see warning signs in your relationship?

If you notice warning signs in your relationship, it is important not to ignore them. Open and honest communication, self-reflection and clear boundaries can be helpful, as well as couples therapy if necessary. If there is violence, you can contact the police on 000 or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 (24 hour service or a women’s shelter.

Do warning signs in relationships mean that a relationship should end?

Relationships are complex and warning signs do not necessarily mean the end of the relationship, but they should be taken seriously. You can work on it and go to couples therapy. If there is violence, you should take it very seriously and seek support immediately.

What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help couples understand and resolve conflicts, improve their relationship and communication, and strengthen the closeness of the relationship.

How does treatment for relationship problems work?

Treatment often starts with an assessment phase to identify problems and patterns. This is followed by an active treatment phase where work on tools and strategies to change patterns is central. Finally, there is a closing phase where the treatment is summarized for further work after the therapy.

What is IBCT?

IBCT (Integrative Behavioural Couple Therapy) is an evidence-based therapy that aims to help couples accept the differences between them and work on increasing closeness and understanding by improving emotional acceptance and empathic communication. It combines behavioural changes with acceptance strategies.

What is EFT?

EFT (Emotionally Focussed Therapy) is an evidence-based therapy that focusses on building and strengthening the emotional bond between couples by exploring and reshaping the negative patterns of interaction that contribute to conflict and distance in the relationship.

Are there any signs that a relationship will not last?

Relationships are changeable and although there may be warning signs, it is possible to change patterns and behaviours in a relationship. If there is violence or if a partner is not willing to work on the relationship, it can mean that the relationship may be difficult to maintain.

My husband is mocking me, what should I do?

If there is a pattern of communication in the relationship that leads to abuse, it is important to address this and set boundaries. If you find it difficult to do this, it can be good to go to couple’s therapy to get outside help.

What are the four horsemen that can contribute to a separation?

Dr. John Gottman, a relationship researcher, has identified four destructive behavioural patterns that can contribute to the end of a relationship. These behaviors are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling, and are considered particularly harmful to romantic relationships.

My partner has mental health problems, can we go to couples therapy?

If you have problems with depression or other mental health issues such as addiction, it is important to seek help for this separately from couples therapy. These problems often need to be addressed before or at the same time as couple therapy to get a good result.

Where can I seek help?

If you want to go to therapy, we recommend that you contact a licensed psychologist or therapist who works with couples. You can book a first appointment with one of our therapists here at Lavendla. We make the difficult easier.

Treatment for relationship problems with Integrative Behavioural Therapy for Couples (IBCT)

Integrative behavioural couple therapy (IBCT) is an evidence-based form of couple therapy that aims to help couples improve their relationship by accepting each other and increasing the couple’s emotional closeness. IBCT combines traditional behavioural therapy techniques with a focus on both change and acceptance. Here is how a treatment with IBCT usually works:

Initial phase

  • Assessment: Treatment begins with a thorough assessment of the couple’s relationship, including their current problems, relationship history, and each party’s perspectives and experiences.
  • Feedback session: The therapist provides feedback based on the initial assessment. This phase often includes discussions about the couple’s strengths as well as areas that need development.

Work phase

  • Focus on acceptance: IBCT emphasizes the importance of accepting unbridgeable differences between partners. The therapist works with the couple to help them understand and empathically accept each other’s needs, desires, and patterns of behaviour that cannot be easily changed.
  • Emotional closeness: By encouraging openness and communication, the therapist helps the couple increase their emotional closeness and understanding of each other.
  • Behaviour change: Although the focus is on acceptance, IBCT also includes strategies for behaviour change. This may involve developing new communication skills, solving problems, and working on improving daily interactions.


  • Evaluation of progress: The therapist and the couple together evaluate the progress made during therapy and discuss any future steps or continued support.

IBCT focuses on helping couples develop a deeper understanding and acceptance of each other, which can lead to a more satisfying and sustainable relationship. By balancing acceptance with active change efforts, IBCT aims to reduce conflict, increase closeness and strengthen the emotional bond between partners.

Written by melissa

Melissa is a Certified Kinesiologist who focusses on a client-centred, holistic and integrative approach to health and wellness. She has extensive experience in managing stress, anxiety, fears, phobias and trauma in her clients. Melissa uses visual and auditory feedback to directly access and solve the cause of psychological stressors in the body so that optimal well-being and balance is achieved.