The idea of a relationship is rooted in love. People expect a whirlwind romance, drama, a legendary happy ending like those zany Hollywood rom-com movies. But, relationships are rarely that glossy or dressed in haute-couture. A strong relationship foundation requires work every day.
Consider the foundation of a relationship like that of a building. If you don’t have a good one, whatever you develop on it will crash. And then, you will be held accountable for the offense of not loving enough. There will be a trial and tears. Ultimately, the relationship will go to the gallows.
That brings us to the question: What does a healthy relationship foundation look like? To answer the questions on basic relationship foundations and signs of its weakening, I have consulted clinical psychologist Devaleena Ghosh (M.Res, Manchester University), founder of Kornash: The Lifestyle Management School, who specializes in couples counseling and family therapy.
What Comprises The Foundation Of Relationship
“When the foundation of your relationship is strong, you get to be yourself, you do not really need to put on an act, there is honesty and communication without the fear of being judged and partners get each other,” says Devaleena.
A couple customizes little things in a relationship that are personal to them. Many couples consider it a healthy way of building a relationship foundation. They pay attention to details and win over one another.
For instance, Julia told us that she and her partner of three years, Armie, have done a few things consistently to maintain their relationship foundation. “Since the beginning of our relationship, we have not been stuck in roles or tasks. We rather manage intuitively,” Julia said.
“We clear out daily tasks, like cooking and cleaning, without much discussion,” Armie said. “And, there is never a feeling of doing a favor to the other. We do it for both of us. Our ultimate aim is to score some free time at the end of the day to watch absolute garbage television.”
A solid relationship foundation requires a conscience. There’s maturity in understanding that the things one does in a relationship are for the betterment of the bond as a whole and not for another person. But, some people indulge in making grand gestures to show their love. When that fails, there is crying and fighting, blaming and nagging followed by a funeral of love. It is attended by uncertainty and the thoughts of solitude. You’ll notice them at the funeral because they are quite unappealing.
8 Signs Your Relationship Foundation Is Weak
“Lack of support, jealousy, controlling behavior, resentment, dishonesty, disrespect, emotional neglect, lack of financial transparency, and blame game are a few signs which point at the weak foundation of your relationship,” says Devaleena.
These problems will start sending cracks in your relationship foundation. The cracks will create spaces for fights. You will take the sorrows from your quarrels to work and ultimately to the bar.
But, are you fighting a lot? Are you questioning what the foundation of love is? If yes, then your relationship might need rethinking. Here are a few signs of a weak relationship foundation.
1. A need to control indicates a weak relationship foundation
When a partner feels a need to tell the other to stop doing certain things, it shows how shaky the relationship foundation is. Let them be, for your sake. Because if you start controlling, you will breach the promises of personal space in relationship and comfort that are a part of your relationship foundation.
Shailene, a middle-school teacher, had to quit her relationship with Allan, a yoga instructor, because of his controlling nature. “I had a girlfriend before Allan. I am friends with my ex-girlfriend today. I count it among my more mature relationships,” she says.
But, Allan would always want to know which friend I am meeting. When Shailene would honestly confess that she was meeting her ex-girlfriend, Allan would be visibly upset.
“My ex-girlfriend has dined with us. She is acquainted with Allan. There has never been an odd moment between me and her that showed intimacy yet Allan would be displeased,” explains Shailene.
She added that Allan was suspicious. Once even an argument broke out where he accused Shailene of meeting the friend in secret – which in Allan’s dictionary meant the beginning of an affair.
Things went sour when Allan installed a stalkerware app on Shailene’s phone to track her activities.
In the United States, 6-7.5 million people are stalked every year, stated a report from the Stalking Prevention Awareness and Resource Center. One in four victims of stalking stated that they were spied upon through some form of technology.
When Shailene found out, she approached the police against Allan. The need to control will not just wreck the basic foundation of the relationship but may veer into the dangerous territory of crime.
Related Reading: Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships – 10 Characteristics
2. Too dependent on partners
If the relationship foundation is strong, both partners can spend time independently as well as together. Independence contributes toward a healthy relationship foundation. However, if that is not the case, partners may feel abandoned while doing things on their own.
Dependency can create problems while developing the foundation of a long-lasting relationship. You are clingy if you depend on your partner for anything. You may end up becoming forlorn if you decide to wait for them to join you in everything.
Remember, you aren’t a character from a Victorian-era novel – you cannot spend time waiting and pining for lovers. Acceptance is the key to dealing with too much dependency. Accept that your partner can enjoy an evening without you. Enjoyment and thrills are unique to every relationship – be it among friends, families, and partners.
“Practice self-sufficiency and build patience to overcome dependency on a partner,” says Devaleena, adding, “You need to recognize your issues, work on your self-esteem and improve your social skills.”
3. You keep secrets
You would share something with a close friend, but not with your partner. You feel guilty for hiding that secret from your partner, but would rather not share – are you afraid of being judged? If yes, we have a communication issue at hand that can harm the development of a long-lasting foundation of a relationship.
It is because you have a certain image of your partner or you are afraid that they might not understand your secret is why you prefer hiding it.
Lena, a home chef, had similar fears. Her partner of five years, Hadley, has been awfully judgmental of Vietnamese cuisine. But, Lena had been wanting to learn how to make beautiful beef pho (a kind of a stew) and prawn summer rolls. So, she enrolled in Vietnamese cuisine classes but kept it a secret from Hadley.
“I have been hesitant. I cannot experiment with food at home. I once thought of confronting him, but then decided to do it on my own. I feel like there is a burden on me,” Lena said.
Loss of frankness is a sign of a weak foundation of a relationship. It also indicates a lack of communication. Or you are just judging the situation and your partner too harshly. It is time to take the leap and reveal your secrets. Often, you cannot control what others think of you.
4. Arguments are nasty
There are differences and then there are arguments. “Differences pertain to basic values, and core beliefs – they are non-negotiable,” says Devaleena, adding, “Whereas arguments can be resolved.”
But, toxic relationship arguments will take you on a trip to regret-ville and leave around the corner of damage to relationship foundation street. Toxic arguments include blaming parents for upbringing, fighting over the same issues repeatedly, bringing in exes, and even suddenly, using a partner’s bad habits to portray them in a bad light.
Arguments often erupt when the communication factor fizzles out from the relationship foundation. When a partner feels that the other is not listening, they start pressing their point across.
A partner, who is in no mood to listen, will get irritated and will do something – unknowingly even – that shows a lack of interest. The attitude will mow down the field and the arguments will begin. The points of this match will be measured in the number of resentments that will build eventually.
To argue constructively is a skill that takes time to develop in a relationship. The partners need to be on the same wavelength. They need to communicate, discuss and debate issues as it is an essential part of building a relationship foundation. Communication demands comfort, trust, and a willingness to look beyond arguments.
5. Lack of intimacy
At the beginning of the relationship, you made love. You experimented in the bed. There was passionate rubbing of bodies that had synced with one another. Sex was an expression of love.
This spark, however, does not last long. It can hurt the intimacy in a relationship. Years later, you may have partners – tired or occupied with other thoughts – sleeping with their backs to one another.
“Dr. Dorothy Tennov, a psychologist, has done long-range studies on the in-love phenomenon. After studying scores of couples, she concluded that the average lifespan of a romantic obsession is two years,” says Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.
A sexless relationship rarely works. The lack of intimacy can highlight other voids in the foundation of a relationship. Partners must be able to suggest “let’s have sex” after a casual thought. It should reflect the ability to invoke passion in a relationship in the most mundane situations. That makes for a solid foundation of a relationship.
Related Reading: 9 Sexless Relationship Effects No One Talks About
6. No love language
Love language counts among the smaller things that define a relationship foundation. Different people express love in different ways. Physical touch, words of affirmation, spending quality time, acts of service, and giving or receiving gifts are a few recognized love languages among partners.
When partners do not recognize the love language of one another, they may end up hurting the relationship foundation. Moreover, if you don’t have a love language with a partner, it means you did not work on building the foundation of your relationship.
Stop being lazy. Find out what tickles your partner’s fancy or show them what tickles yours. Love languages keep the love alive. Partners need to be aware of the love languages in a relationship. Every act done to please must be received with enthusiasm. While gratification is not the constant goal, giving the partner what they need once in a while is not considered unhealthy.
7. They don’t prioritize you
They would rather work late in office, preening endless documents, than come home for a movie hour. Or, they always have friends waiting with a reason – beer, wine or a shopping trip. They will prioritize everything but you.
If your partner uses a lot of ‘I’ and ‘me’ in conversations instead of ‘we’ and ‘us’, you may have a classic narcissist in front of you. It is quite possible that they spend an obscene amount of time in front of a mirror or overtly groom themselves.
It perhaps indicates they have started enjoying other things in life, taking you for granted. They have forgotten than a strong relationship foundation needs sacrifices to some extent.
When a partner realizes they are not being prioritized even at the basic level, it can skew the emotional quotient of a relationship. It could create a sense of abandonment within the person.
Always remember, you both agreed to compromise and adapt while making a foundation for a long-lasting relationship.
8. Money matters
Financial compatibility is a thing. Couples need to know how to spend what they earn. It makes for a requisite foundation of relationships that last long.
Initially, partners may spend on one another, shower gifts, and arrange dates to win the other over. But as soon as a couple strikes comfort, money once again becomes a personal business.
Partners may later relent in contributing toward mutual expenses or the household if they are living together or married. Disputes related to money tap into some of our deepest psychological needs and fears not limited to trust, safety, security, power, control, and survival.
Moreover, when a partner later in the relationship refuses to spend, it may bring in the contrast of how they used to spend earlier. It may indicate waning interest. Money disputes can harm the foundation of relationships. Money earned by two people in a relationship cannot be considered as means to common expenditure.
Thus, it is essential to learn to split the cost right in the beginning. Those couples that live together must divide household expenses. Partners in a relationship must manage their finances independently.
That said, not all hope is lost if the foundation of your relationship weakens. You can always seek help to rebuild what is lost. After all, you do not want to be stuck with the “what is the foundation of love?” question forever. You should aspire to rekindle the romance and rebuild a solid relationship foundation.
If you feel that you may have skipped a few steps of strengthening the foundation of your relationship before taking things to the next level and now your bond rests on thin ice, know that you’re not alone. Licensed, experienced therapists on Bonobology’s panel have helped many couples in similar situations. You too could benefit from it. The right help is only a click away.