It can take a lot of work to build a
strong foundation for your relationship, and even more effort to keep it that way. But because it's the basis for your entire connection as a couple, it's well worth the energy. Without a strong foundation, you and your partner will struggle. And you may notice the same problems cropping up time and time again — even when you've tried to fix them in the past.
When that's the case, one of the best remedies for toxic arguments, a lack of trust, and other ongoing problems, is to go back and
work on your connection. "A strong foundation is essential to a relationship; it’s what you’ll return to when you’re both tested," Amica Graber, a relationship expert for the background checking site TruthFinder, tells Bustle. "If you feel like you need to work on yours, start with being open and honest. Make it a habit to really talk to your partner about your feelings, and communicate very clearly about your intentions and expectations."
And remember, it's never too late to try new things, communicate more, and get to know each other on a deeper level — all in the name of
having a better relationship, and strengthening that foundation. Here are some signs you may need to do just that, according to experts.
They Show A Lack Of Interest In Your Life
Everyone has the right to be in a bad mood. And you certainly can't expect each other to be 100 percent present 100 percent of the time. But if there's an ongoing lack of interest, take note.
"Couples that are close take an active interest in each other’s lives, supporting and encouraging each other,"
Harvey Deutschendorf, an emotional intelligence expert, tells Bustle. "Does your partner ask you about what you are doing, how your day went, or show any interest in what you are involved in?"
If it seems like they can't be bothered, it may be a sign you need to work on building your connection back up. Communicating more often, and more honestly, can be a great place to start.
Arguments Quickly Turn Toxic
Arguing in a healthy way is a skill that can take time to develop. And when emotions are high, it can be tricky to say exactly what you mean, and communicate effectively.
But if you notice that all your
arguments turn toxic, it may be a sign of a shaky foundation. "Every couple has arguments, but watch out if your disagreements turn into mud-slinging matches," Graber says.
If you argue in a toxic way, it can be a sign you're refusing to listen, or aren't focusing on each other's needs. And that can cause resentment to build.
You Rely On Them To Feel Happy
It's a sign of a strong foundation if you're both able to go off and do your own thing from time to time. So if you seem to rely on each other for
everything, or feel as if you can't spend any time apart, the relationship may require a closer look.
"In an ideal world, your relationship is part of a network of 'happiness nodes' that improve your life," Graber says. "If you feel like you’re dependent on your partner in order to be happy, it can put too much stress on your relationship — and your partner. A solid foundation in your relationship usually starts off with you being happy without depending on someone else."
So if you think this has become a problem, try venturing out on your own. Explore hobbies you've always wanted to try, reach out to friends, and
focus on yourself — as well as the relationship. If you get back in tune with who you are, it will do wonders for your connection as a couple.
They Don't Respect Your Differences
It's great if you and your partner are similar in most ways, as that'll make it easier to relate to each other. But it's also helpful if you have differences, and are able to respect them.
"If differing values and perspectives are not valued, or taken into account in the relationship, the foundation isn’t strong,"
Chautè Thompson, LMHC, CDWF, tells Bustle. "And it can lend to the demise of the relationship through not fighting fair and not communicating effectively."
When you can't do that — communicate without being disrespectful or angry — it means you both have some work to do, in order to strengthen your connection.
If you find that you can't (or don't) show your partner "the real you," or if you worry about what they might think, it may be a sign of a shaky foundation. But keep in mind, this sort of thing can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"When this happens, the impulse is often to [...] go to great lengths to present ourselves and behave as if the idealized version of ourselves is our authentic everyday self," clinical psychologist
Mark B. Borg, Jr., PhD, tells Bustle. "In doing so, we ourselves create very small hoops to jump through and this leaves very little room for our actual humanity in our relationship."
This habit can, however, be reversed with a little effort. "Couples can begin establishing — or re-establishing — a strong foundation by simply being willing to open up to each other about their
experiences of vulnerability as they live their everyday lives together," Dr. Borg says. And that includes the good, the bad, and everything in between.
You Don't Trust Each Other
"Trust is the most important element of all,"
therapist Darlene Corbett, tells Bustle. "Without it, the foundation will remain shaky, and most likely crumble, even if the couple stays together."
The trouble is, trust is something that's so easy to undermine. And yet it's not impossible to get back. By establishing boundaries, communicating openly, and respecting to each other's needs, you can
start to rebuild trust. And have a stronger foundation as a result.
Your Conversations Don't Go Deep
If you notice that your communication is always surface-level and inconsistent,
psychologist Dr. Sherrie Campbell, tells Bustle, it can mean the foundation isn't strong. You might find, for example, that you don't argue, ask about each other's day, or talk about any of the big stuff in life.
To find your way back, you can begin to share your goals, Dr. Campbell says. You can also talk more, hang out more, and ask questions.
You Need To Feel In Control
If the foundation has cracked, you may find that you or your partner do little things in order to feel more secure, which might include looking for ways to be in control,
Natalie Nesbitt, MS, LPC, NCC, tells Bustle. You might also check on each other to an unhealthy degree, possibly by sneakily reading texts, emails, etc.
It can lead to a toxic spiral, if you aren't careful. So the moment you notice habits like these, make the decision to change. "Up your appreciation game for one another," Nesbitt says. "Make time each day, or at the very least each week, just for your partner." In doing so, you'll both start to feel more loved, and secure.
You Overlook The Little Moments
It can be easy to overlook the small, meaningful moments of a relationship, especially when you've lost touch with your roots as a couple.
"The real juice in the relationship should be the millions of tiny, unseen moments you spend together every day,"
psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, tells Bustle. Do you make each other laugh in the morning? Or have sweet little rituals before you go to bed?
If you no longer appreciate these moments, try to see them for what they are. It's often the smallest things that keep a connection strong.
They Aren't Willing To Compromise
"If your partner (or you) finds it difficult to compromise from time to time, even if you don’t agree, over time this will weaken your foundation," spiritual counselor and
relationship expert Davida Rappaport, tells Bustle. "Rigidity is a sign that at some point your relationship will break." So be willing to loosen up, see things differently, and let each other win.
You Haven't Been Spending Quality Time Together
It's really easy to lose touch with a partner, especially if there are outside influences impacting your connection. And even more so if you aren't working on maintaining your foundation. So if it's been a minute since you last felt truly connected, take note.
"Both of you need to be willing to do the work to reinforce the foundation you have laid and keep working on making it stronger," Rappaport says. If it seems like you aren't connecting, let your partner know. It's never too late to
rebuild your foundation, and boost your connection. To do so, be open, honest, and willing, and go from there.