Indicators of Complacency in a Relationship
Life is always in transition, and so are we. Men and women will go through stages during their adult lives that will precipitate changes if their relationships stay healthy and satisfying.
Complacency in a relationship often occurs after a couple has been married between 7 and 20 years. This is when many will experience the “mid-life crisis” or the “empty nest” syndrome, or both. Of course, complacency can set in any time if a couple is not guarding against it.
What are some of the indicators that you are developing complacency in your relationship?
- Restlessness, unsettledness, and boredom. If you find yourself feeling these feelings, the chances are that either – or both – you and your partner have become complacent in your relationship. You have a restless and unsettled spirit that is often vague and undefined. Something is missing, and you can’t quite put your finger on it.
- Tearing down instead of building up. Your relationship is marked by criticism. Remarks are made by one or both of you that demean, disrespect, or belittle the other. Disdain for the other can be expressed by a look, a gesture, or even an exasperated sigh. Slowly and subtlely, the other person is made to feel that they are less and less.
- Focusing elsewhere. Your attention belongs to other interests or other people and not your partner. A husband will often feel that his wife is putting the children before him and is not attentive to his needs. A wife will feel that her husband is giving more attention to work projects or hobbies than her. Both desire deep connection and intimacy with a true soulmate who will focus on them and care about their wants and needs.
- Disengaging. Becoming disengaged is the natural progression after turning your attention and focus elsewhere. You stop participating in the relationship and become distant. Apathy sets in. You stop doing things together.
- Hopelessness. At this stage, you have lost all hope of things changing or becoming better. Frustration reaches a peak, and then, as if flipping a switch, hopelessness takes its place. Disappointment, disillusionment, and despair set in. You regret ever having married this person. You stop trying to make things better. You believe that you cannot make this relationship work.
- Loss of vision for the future. Your life and relationship are in a rut. As it has been said, “A rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out!” You cannot envision a future with your mate, so you accept the status quo as your normal.
- Physical appearance suffers. When you disconnect from your mate, it is easy to become lax about your appearance and attractiveness. You can become careless about your physical fitness and weight. Your grooming habits suffer. There is no desire to appeal to your mate, and it shows in your appearance.
- Sex? There is infrequent or no sex in a complacent relationship. Once you have emotionally and physically turned away from each other, sex with each other has no appeal. Sex done right is the “glue” that bonds a couple together. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, is released during sexual intimacy. Other endorphins are released as well, making the sexual experience incredibly powerful, contributing to a couple’s feelings of being connected and close.
- Communication breaks down. There is no desire to talk things through. As long as both partners are willing to talk it out, there is hope, even if things are heated. Couples who keep trying to communicate and understand their partner’s viewpoint will eventually succeed. Couples who don’t won’t.
- Wishful thinking. When you’re in a complacent relationship, it is easy to begin to fantasize and engage in wishful thinking. “If… then…” “If my wife would just be more sexually adventurous, then our marriage would be great.” “If my husband would give me the same kind of attention that I get at the office, then our marriage would be so much better.” The problem with wishful thinking and fantasizing is that they are not reality. Things in fantasy are not the way things truly are. You feel safe and in control when you fantasize, but those feelings are false. This kind of thinking is centered around you – what you want, what you need. It does not take into consideration your real-life partner and what they might want and need. Only you matter in a fantasy, and that is not how relationships work.
The cure for complacency is connection. If you’re satisfied with the status quo in your relationship, then you’re in danger of being complacent. Conversely, if you are dissatisfied, that means that you want more for your mate and yourself. You are in an excellent space to intentionally do the things that connect couples – just the opposite of practically all complacency indicators. Reaching out for help from a relationship coach or counselor, or attending a relationship seminar is also a good way to counter complacency. To defeat complacency, be intentional, take action and keep talking!