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When it comes to relationships, there are some obvious deal-breakers: you’re sweeping for dust bunnies and find a small cache of weapons under his bed; he bets on every game of chance from Pick Six to ponies; he spends more on porn than on groceries. And there are times when relationships simply run their course—one morning you both wake up and realize you’ve lost that loving feeling. Then there’s the murky area where many dwell. After chugging along for awhile, maybe your relationship has started to sputter or maybe you’ve just had your first big fight. And you wonder: Is this fixable? Is it him? Is it me? Or is it the relationship?
If you’re ready to take an honest look at the dynamics of your relationship, here are some tips to help you find some answers.
All About Me
Although it’s never fun to list your own shortcomings or innumerate your contributions to the relationship unrest, it’s important to hold up a mirror, particularly when your relationship is on life support. Rob Scuka, executive director of the National Institute for Relationship Enhancement in Bethesda, Md., says to ask yourself some hard questions: Am I constantly blaming him? Am I taking an honest inventory of my own contributions to what is going on? Do I have a lot of negative judgments about him? Am I open to my partner’s feelings and concerns, or am I insisting that things be my way? If the honest answer to any of those questions is “Yes,” Scuka says, you might be contributing to a corrosive dynamic in the relationship.
Now, look at your relationship pattern. Is this the fourth boyfriend who has accused you of fibbing, cheating, or being selfish? “Is the issue your partner is having with you something I’ve heard from other people? And have you heard this same complaint from your brother-in-law, or other people with whom you aren’t romantically involved?” says Dennis Palumbo, a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles. Most issues don’t exist in a vacuum, so if growing list of people in your life keep flagging something, it may be time to admit it: your relationship has a problem and that problem is you. Time to pull yourself together, cut through your denial and take responsibility for your own behavior.