11 Early Relationship Problems That Are Most Likely To Get Worse Over Time
It's often tough to spot potential relationship problems when you're in the throes of a new love. Heck, you might even see a red flag or two, but not care one bit because woo this is so much fun! I totally get it, and yet that doesn't mean you should ignore early relationship problems, especially since many have of a way of getting worse with time.
So do yourself a favor. If you notice something that seems a bit off — maybe your partner is controlling, or you two always argue — don't look the other way. "Everyone is usually on their best behavior in the beginning of a relationship," California-based relationship expert Dr. Alisa Ruby Bash, PsyD, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Whatever red flags or differences appear early on, remember they will only get worse. Whatever behaviors might be an issue for you, try to imagine them heightened down the line, and ask if you can live with that."
You can give your new partner the benefit of the doubt, and take some time to work on things. "Perhaps they can control the negative behavior," Dr. Bash says. "But, in cases where ... there are some incompatibilities from the beginning, it's probably best to fold and move on, because that is not going to get better."
With that in mind, here are a few early relationship problems that may get worse over time, according to experts.
1. A Lack Of Sexual Chemistry
If you two aren't the most sexually compatible, you can definitely work on it by communicating and experimenting. And over time, you may find your groove and start to have great sex. But if there seems to be no chemistry whatsoever, keep in mind this problem doesn't always work itself out — especially if you aren't willing to talk about it.
"The beginning of a relationship, when a couple is in the honeymoon stage, is the time when fireworks should be going off every time they are together," Dr. Bash says. "If that chemistry is not there from the beginning, it usually will only go downhill from there."
Of course, sex isn't everything in a relationship, and it's always possible to have a healthy relationship, without this being one of the main pillars. You just have to decide what's important to you, and communicate all of that to your partner.
2. Having Nothing In Common
While you two don't have to be twins, it may not be a good idea to force a relationship with someone who's your total opposite. Because, as Dr. Bash says, "if there is just no common ground, it will likely lead to the couple eventually having separate lives."
If you're an extrovert and they're an introvert, for example, or if you like to hike and they won't even step outside, such differences can cause you to spend too much time apart, possibly to the point where you don't see each other often enough. It can also become frustrating, if these things are important to you and not your partner, or vice versa. But again, it's about focusing on what's important to you. While a problem may not ever go away, that doesn't necessarily mean it has to ruin your relationship.
3. A Controlling And Demanding Personality
As Dr. Bash says, people are normally on their best behavior in the early days of a relationship, where they want to impress and put their best foot forward. So don't ignore any red flags that your partner might be controlling or demanding, or other signs of a toxic personality.
"These will not only get worse, but could also ... foreshadow a potentially abusive partner." It can help to point out certain bad habits to your partner early on, as a way of communicating about them. It's possible they don't even realize how they're coming off, or the impact they're having on you.
You may also want to go to couples therapy, as a way of working through issues. But if the relationship is one that doesn't feel healthy, and it seems like you've tried everything, it may be time to accept the problem isn't going away, and it's time to move on.
4. Different Spending Habits
Since money is one of the top things couples fight about, don't be surprised if this becomes your go-to argument, especially if it's been a problem since day one. If you don't see eye-to-eye in terms of things like how to split a restaurant bill, that can be an early red flag. But from there, differing opinions can begin to impact things like your household bills, rent, and so on.
"Since [money is] such a crucial aspect in day-to-day life ... understanding how both you and your [partner] relates to it is important," speaker and life coach Jaya Jaya Myra, tells Bustle. "Don't wreck a relationship just because you are stressed about money and don't like or respect the way your partner handles it." Instead, talk about it — before it gets out of hand.
5. Issues From The Past
Any fights about family members or ex partners will likely only get more heated, so you'll want to nip those in the bud ASAP. As relationship expert Stef Safran tells Bustle, if you notice early on that you are not on the same page when dealing with things from the past, you need to begin talking right away about what's OK and what isn't.
It may help to sit down and have a serious conversation about boundaries, what's safe to talk about, and how you plan to deal with this issue should it come up again. If you both respect each other's opinions, this problem doesn't have to get worse.
6. Boundary Issues
Unclear relationship boundaries almost always lead to resentment, which is something that can get worse with time — for you and your partner.
"While we all want to love others 'no matter what,' we must first love ourselves and establishing healthy boundaries and standards is the best thing we can do," dating expert Lisa Concepcion, founder of LoveQuestCoaching, tells Bustle. Once you do that, you'll have a better shot a healthy relationship.
This might look like talking about how much time to spend together versus how much time to spend apart, and what you'd both like to get out of the relationship. Knowing early on can save you from having arguments and misunderstandings years down the road.
7. An Inability To Communicate
Open and honest communication is something you'll have to work on throughout your entire relationship. And even the healthiest couples will have ups and downs, and moments where they don't "get" each other.
That said, if communication doesn't feel at least relatively easy right out of the gate, things will probably only get worse. As Concepcion says, "Poor communication habits eventually harm the relationship." You can't create a healthy connection if you aren't listening to each other, for example, or respecting each other's opinions.
This is something you can work on, possibly again by going to therapy. But simply prioritizing healthier communication can be a big help, too.
8. Disrespect And Dishonesty
If someone can't be respectful on the first date, imagine how they'll act on the 100th. This may not be something you want to wait around for, especially if their behavior is particularly bad.
"If you notice a wandering eye or words and actions not matching up and your gut simply says 'this doesn't feel right,' pay close attention," Concepcion says. They're probably not the most trustworthy person, and that's one trait can lead to a lot of problems in the future.
A wandering eye is one thing. But if you think your partner might cheat, or if they're giving off signs that they already are, run far away and save yourself.
"Infidelity is typically the most destructive problem in a relationship and signals major problems," psychologist and radio host Dr. Joshua Klapow, tells Bustle. The cheating itself isn't even the biggest problem, but the fact it's rooted in all sorts of trust and respect issues. And that's not something many people can magically change about themselves, unless they show you they're really committed to trying.
9. Financial Secrets
It's not uncommon to downplay financial issues in the first few months of dating. People want to make a good first impression, and you probably won't find yourself talking about finances on a first date. But that doesn't mean it's healthy to hide this part of yourselves forever.
If you or your partner have a lot of debt, bad spending habits, or a poor credit score — just to name a few financial issues — you'll wan to let each other know. "These issues always surface at some point," coach Todd Burkhalter, tells Bustle. "The trust that is lost spills over into distrust in other areas."
10. Trust Issues
Speaking of trust issues, once trust is broken it's often really really hard to get it back. And that's because "trust is the foundation of all relationships," Dr. Klapow says. So even if something seems small at first, it can grow and spread, he says, and get worse over time.
While it may take a while to create a secure relationship, pay attention to small betrayals of trust early on in the relationship. If it seems like a pattern, it may be one that isn't going to go away.
11. Ineffectual Arguing
Communication issues can get worse as time goes on. And the same is true for ineffectual arguing styles. "Couples need good communication skills, and this is especially true during conflict," Rhonda Milrad, relationship expert and founder of Relationup, tells Bustle. "If you don’t do it well during the early stages of your relationship, it will continue to be a problem during the course of your relationship as life gets more complicated and challenging."
If you happen to notice that you aren't understanding each other, or seeing eye-to-eye, bring it to each other's attention ASAP. This may help you argue in a healthier way, so things don't become more toxic going forward.
While it's always possible to work on bad habits, keep in mind that some issues can get worse with time, and especially if they're turning into a pattern. The sooner you can notice these mistakes and start making changes, the better your relationship will be.
This post was originally published on 8/18/2017. It was updated on 6/4/2019.