Are rough patches in relationships normal? How often do couples go through rough patches, you may ask. Every relationship goes through its ups and downs. Whether it’s brand-new love, or you’ve been dating for a while, or married for 20 years, going through a rough patch in a relationship is common to lovers of all ages and kinds.
But what do you do when you’re going through a rough patch in a relationship? Do you ride it out, do you throw your hands up dramatically and storm out, or do you go to a corner and sulk? Since we’re pretty certain many of you are wondering what to do during a rough patch in a relationship, we asked clinical psychologist Devaleena Ghosh (M.Res, Manchester University), founder of Kornash: The Lifestyle Management School, who specializes in couples counseling and family therapy, for some tips on how to get through a rough patch in a relationship.
4 Signs You Are Going Through A Rough Patch In Your Relationship
“The biggest red alert that you’re going through a rough patch in a relationship is when it looks like everything is going well, but one or both partners are feeling a constant, unidentified sense of unhappiness. This state is extremely difficult to identify and be aware of because one instantly feels guilty or fearful of upsetting the apple cart,” Devaleena says.
To break it down, there will be signs, whether obvious or subtle little niggles, that you show up when you’re going through a rough patch in your relationship. Before you get around to fixing a broken relationship, try and recognize the signs.
1. You’re fighting a lot more
One of the signs that you’re hitting a rough patch in a relationship is that you start to fight a lot more. The frequency of the fights and arguments increase. Now, fights happen in every relationship, so it’s important not to see every disagreement as a giant rough patch in the relationship. But if little things about your partner are irritating you, if you’re snapping at them over forgetting to use a coaster or breathing too loudly, chances are you’re going through a rough patch in the relationship.
2. Physical intimacy is at an all-time low
When things get rough in a relationship, physical or sexual intimacy between couples decreases. We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again. The importance of sex and desire is huge in a loving relationship – they make it stronger and more intimate. So, if your activities in the bedroom have dropped considerably, it’s very likely a symptom of a deeper rough patch in the relationship.
3. You’re bored
This is a sure shot sign that you’re going through a rough patch in a relationship. Are you waking up feeling like nothing’s worth fighting for anymore, especially your relationship? Do you blank out when your partner starts telling you about their day? Well then, it’s possible that the spark has gone out of your love affair completely and you’re thinking about how it’s all a big snooze.
4. Your faith in them is waning
Trust issues come up as a major warning sign when you hit a rough patch in your relationship. It’s not just about worrying that they might be cheating on you, or having an emotional affair. It’s also that you no longer trust the connection you have, and you’re wondering if you even have a shared future together.
Don’t be disheartened. Hitting a rough patch in a relationship is quite normal. If not anything else, these rough patches are reminders that your relationship needs work and that both of you will have to put in a considerable amount of effort to build a fulfilling and healthy relationship. Don’t see it as a failure. Know that it’s not a sign of the relationship ending. You can move on after a rough patch in a relationship if you’re willing to work together as one unit.
Navigate A Rough Patch In A Relationship With These 8 Expert Tips
“The first thought to go through most people’s minds at these times is, ‘is it normal to go through a rough patch in a relationship?’” says Devaleena. She adds, “It is completely normal and happens in most relationships after the initial euphoria is over. Getting to know the real person can be challenging and it’s tough for even the most practical of us to stop idealizing our partners. That’s really when rough patches start to set in.”
‘Rough patch or end of relationship?’ you might be thinking. Well, they say you need to take the rough with the smooth when it comes to life and love. But a little help doesn’t hurt when you’re navigating a rough patch in a relationship. So, here are some tips when you’re wondering what to do during a rough patch in a relationship, or asking yourself, “is it normal to go through a rough patch in a relationship?”, or thinking “how often do couples go through rough patches in a relationship?”
Related Reading: 15 Signs Of Relationship Compatibility Between You And Your Partner
1. Specify bad behavior
It’s easy to say, ‘My partner is driving me crazy!’ It’s a lot harder, and a lot more vital, to identify exactly what it is that’s driving you bonkers. “Be specific when discussing behavior you don’t like. That way, there are more specific options and tools to fix it, or move on from it,” advises Devaleena. Stop a moment and ask yourself. When you’re fuming over how careless they are and you’re yelling at them about how they don’t care about you, what is it, really?
Is it the way they rumple the newspapers and leave them lying around? Is it that they refuse to come for a hike with you on Sundays because they’d rather sleep in? When you manage to pinpoint what it is that hurts or angers you, you’re in a better position to understand and rectify it. And there’s every chance your partner regrets hurting you in the first place.
“My partner and I were forever fighting about how he put his own needs over mine,” says Jason. “Once I sat down and thought about it, I realized it was things like how he would always put the heater at the temperature he liked, how we always went to a restaurant he had picked, etc. But I’d never vocalized how I felt about it, so he had no idea. Once I spoke up and we talked about those things, it was much better.”
2. Be attentive to your feelings
Devaleena reiterates that the constant, niggling feeling of unhappiness or dissatisfaction in a relationship is one of the major relationship red flags that should not be ignored. It’s hard to accept that you’ve hit a rough patch in the relationship. You’ll be thinking that maybe it’s a phase, maybe if you say nothing, it’ll just go away on its own. Why voice feelings that will make things unpleasant or bring up grievances.
The thing is, paying attention to your feelings is the healthiest way to go at this point. Rather than sitting silent and letting your feelings boil and fester underneath a calm exterior, it’s better to acknowledge what you’re feeling and maybe talk it over with your partner.
A lot of these feelings that come up could be uncomfortable, or messy. But, maybe, sometimes you need to make a mess so you can clean it up properly. Let’s face it, relationships aren’t always easy or organized, and even true feelings of love can’t be put away in neatly labeled boxes only to be taken out when you have time and mind space.
If you’re wondering how to fix or move on after a rough patch in a relationship, we recommend you pay attention to your feelings, make the mess, and then clean it up together.
3. Bring back the attraction
What to do during a rough patch in a relationship? Hello, attraction, you slippery little devil! This comes up especially if you’ve been together for a while, or if you’re in a rough patch in a long-distance relationship. The initial pull – both sexual and psychological – that you and your partner had for each other, is bound to lag a bit over the years. Especially if you’re living an ocean apart.
“My partner was working in Singapore, and I was in New York. Given the time difference and the nature of our work, it was tough to keep up the relationship. It got to a point where we could barely remember why we got together in the first place,” says Kate.
Weekly date nights, getting intimate, snuggling on the couch when you get a chance – all of these are chances to bring back the attraction you felt in the first place. Swap your sweatpants for silk boxers sometimes, or lacy underwear. Hold hands at the supermarket, go to the park for a picnic on Sunday. Routine and ‘real life’ tend to get in the way of romance sometimes. It’s up to you to make the time.
“In a long-distance relationship, especially, couples face tougher times and more challenging situations more so because they are also constantly hankering for each other’s company. Therefore, it’s important to make sure both prioritize each other, keep communicating and are also real about each other’s schedule, rather than being over-demanding. Trust and communication are key, as always,” Devaleena says.
4. Actively listen to your partner
Just as joy in a relationship takes two people, so does a rough patch. If you have a long list of grievances about your partner, they probably have some things they’d like to tell you, too. This is exactly why you need to actively listen to your partner when things get rough in a relationship so that you can move on from it.
Now, no one likes to be told that there are things about them that need to be changed or improved. But remember, unless your partner’s a twat (in which case, dump them), they’ll be gentle and tell you what’s bothering them and how you can work through it.
Being a good listener is important because you’re not just hearing the words, but realizing the deeper meaning behind them. Also, says Devaleena, a lot of relationship troubles stem from childhood trauma. If your partner comes from a house of divorce, it’s possible they have trust issues, or a fear of being abandoned.
So, if they’re constantly grumbling about you working late or not spending time with them, what they’re really saying is, “I’m afraid you might leave me too. I feel like you’re moving away from me”. Active listening needs to be a two-way street, with both parties keeping an open mind and understanding that this could be a tough, but sure road to repairing that rough patch in the relationship.
Related Reading: 11 Expert Tips To Communicate Better With Your Partner
5. Focus on the good stuff
A rough patch in a relationship often begins or intensifies because you’ve forgotten the things you like about your partner and the relationship. In fact, forgetting the good parts can lead you to wonder if you’re going through a rough patch or end of the relationship. This is different from bringing back the attraction since you’re not just thinking about the physical features that attract you, but also what they and the relationship contribute to your life as a whole.
“My partner’s really good with my family,” says Selena. “I’m not close to them and conversations between us are either heated or awkward. But Jason, my partner, somehow makes things comfortable and always has my back. When we hit a rough patch in our relationship, this was one of the things that kept me going. Whenever I thought, ‘rough patch or end of relationship?’ I reminded myself of the way he backs me up all the time.”
Every relationship has its good and bad points, Devaleena points out. When you’re navigating a rough patch in a long-distance relationship, or in a shared living space, it’s important to remember the small and big happy factors they bring to your life. If they’re necessary to your overall happiness and wellbeing, you know your relationship is definitely worth fighting for.
6. Detach for better perspective
When you feel like you’re hitting a rough patch in a relationship, detach yourself for a better perspective. We see better from a distance, especially when it comes to an intimate relationship. When you’re this close to someone, when you’re part and parcel of a relationship, it’s tough to see its plus and minus points with objectivity.
If you’re wondering how to get through a rough patch in a relationship, try and see your relationship as an outsider, advises Devaleena. Step back for a while from being a partner, and imagine you’re an impartial observer. How does the relationship look to you? What does the rough patch look like and what do you think needs to be done to fix it? Note that we’re saying “fix it”, not “smooth things over”.
Detachment is difficult in a relationship. You may need to get your own space for a while, if you’re living together, to see things more clearly. If you’re weathering a rough patch in a long-distance relationship, however, we suggest writing down your feelings for better clarity, since you’re already at a distance.
7. Rebuild trust
Trust issues are one of the most critical symptoms of a rough patch in a relationship. As Devaleena underlines, trust and communication are key to a fulfilling and long-lasting relationship, and the loss of trust will cripple even the healthiest connection. If infidelity is one of the reasons why your relationship has hit a rough patch, rebuilding trust is both important and difficult. But trust comes into the picture in other ways as well.
“My partner was never there when I was sick,” says Mandy. “That sounds like a whine, and he was mostly working, but the fact is he was never there. So, I couldn’t trust him to be there when I was down, or to take care of me. I knew he wanted to be there, and I knew he loved me, but he wasn’t present.”
Communication problems and trust issues often go hand in hand, says Devaleena. Whether you’re giving your relationship another chance after infidelity, or you’ve lost faith in the future of your relationship for other reasons, vocalizing your doubts and fears is the first step toward rebuilding trust.
Once things have been put on the table, you’ll be able to sort through them better. If you and your partner know the reasons why trust is failing in your relationship, working on them together becomes that much easier.
Related Reading: Top 9 Tips To Build Trust In Relationships
8. Don’t give up
If you’ve decided that your relationship is worth it and that no number of rough patches are going to break you up, you’ve found the answer to your ‘is this a rough patch or the end of the relationship’ dilemma. But what now?
Navigating a rough patch in a relationship isn’t always easy, warns Devaleena. Yes, you’ve decided you’re both going to work through it, but there’s a long road ahead and there will be days when you’ll want to give up and run off with the cute pizza delivery boy.
Rebuilding trust, practicing active listening – all of this takes time and patience. Neither you nor your partner are going to change overnight into perfect lovers; in fact, don’t even keep perfection as a goal. You’ll have to keep at the rebuilding, no matter how tough it seems on some days. Just make sure both of you are putting in equal effort, and that both of you are absolutely certain the work is worth it.
“Set your intentions for the relationship and improve communication,” advises Devaleena. “Two people in a relationship need to be on the same line of thought about what they value. And be willing to adjust to their differences rather than react from a state of ego whenever one is met with a contradiction.”
If you’re still wondering ‘are rough patches in relationships normal?’ remember that it is. Going through a rough patch in a relationship is normal and quite a common phenomenon. We can’t wish you a relationship free of rough patches, but we do wish you one with enough love, trust and guts to navigate those patches and come up triumphant. Good luck!
There’s no set number or time frame as such, Couples can go through rough patches at any time and it can last as long or as short as you let it. New couples may go through patches when they really get to know each other. Couples who have been together longer may also experience rough patches because they’re not prioritizing their relationship.
It depends on how fast you acknowledge it and then start working on it. If you brush your unhappiness or concerns under the carpet and pretend everything is fine, your rough patch will last longer. Address it, put in the work, and hopefully it shrinks and you’ll have a healthy relationship again.
Trust and communication are the most important factors to get through rough patches in a relationship. It’s also vital to keep at the work, rather than giving up when things seem tough. As long as you’re firmly convinced that your relationship is worth it, do everything in your power to rebuild and patch it up. So, the answer to ‘how to fix rough patch in a relationship’ is to keep at it.