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Strained Relationship: Definition, Causes, Signs, How to Fix it and Everything else

Strained Relationship: Definition, Causes, Signs, How to Fix it and Everything else

Updated on Sep 15, 2022

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Strained Relationship - Definition, Causes, Signs, How to Fix it and More

So, someone told you’re in a strained relationship… and you just can’t get it off your head.

You don’t know what it means and it is concerning you. Don’t worry, this think-piece will help clear all your doubts… and also support you through the journey.

Hold my hand and let’s change your life for the better here…

Strained relationship meaning

Relationship skills are a set of skills/qualities that every individual must have to build a long-lasting and meaningful relationship.

In any relationship, problems always exist… because you can’t change the fact that you’re two individuals with completely different upbringing, life experiences, thoughts, perceptions, and so on.

So, fights are quite normal in such bonds, but that isn’t the reason for strain in relationships.

Rather a relationship becomes strained only if its issues harm your personal and/or professional growth. The couple’s personal problems branch throughout the different parts of their lives and affect them.

Further, the “strain” factor enters the relationship only when the couple has low EQ and emotional fortitude. They break down from the relationship problems and let them affect the other parts of their lives.

So, whether you have a strained relationship or not depends more on how you emotionally react to issues than the issues themselves.

Wondering about the basic reasons behind the relationship strain? Let’s know it here…

Causes of Strained Relationship

As per Renee Teller, a life strategist, strained relationships have basic grounds that breed the instability and strain itself.

You probably even noticed some of them in your parents’ relationship. If partners don’t handle them well, things begin to go south like these…

1. Money

Even if you say money isn’t a factor in love, it’s necessary for survival.

Financial issues like your individual spending and saving strategies can always add more stress to your life and put things off balance in your relationship.

Studies show that this is the highest rate of divorce due to contradictory finance management ideas.

2. Appreciation

When you love a person, you’re ready to do everything for them… but until when? If your partner takes you for granted and doesn’t prioritize you similarly, you’ll eventually feel resentful.

In relationships, partners MUST give one another the greatest priority, unless they have serious reasons like a sick child or elderly.

So, if you don’t receive your partner’s utmost devotion when they don’t have other more important responsibilities, the strain will enter the equation.

3. Attitude

Your attitude towards your partner and your relationship can make or break you guys. This is a tricky one because there’s no one-size-fits-all rule for it.

During conflicts or contradicting choices, how do you handle things? Do you stick to your own or always let your partner win? You need to work a balance through it and choose the best option for you both.

4. Trust

It’s no news that mutual trust is one of the foundations of a relationship. You need enormous time to build it and less than a fraction of a second to break it. Without it, making healthy relationships is a huge challenge.

If you once hurt this pillar, you can hardly fix it. Even if you fix it, the scar never fades away. So, trust issues or lack of trust can definitely strain your union.

Curious if you or a close one has a strained relationship? Compare these and make sure…

Signs of strained relationship

People either label their relationship “strained” too fast when they face difficulties… or they believe everything’s fine even when there’s real trouble.

So, this blurs out the real signs and most people misjudge their situation. So, let’s check the health of your relationship here…

1. It’s a war between your relationship and personal growth

In healthy relationships, partners encourage one another to grow more. Your partner will always remind you they have your back and you can take that leap of faith.

However, if you constantly feel the need to sacrifice your happiness to make the relationship work… honey, things are off! You got your first red flag of strain in your relationship.

2. You feel your life force declining every day

A relationship won’t create energy out of thin air… that’s too much to expect. But, you and your partner will always motivate one another so you don’t feel exhausted.

Contrarily, if you feel your energy gets drained because of your relationship or feel emotionally exhausted, that’s a major red flag of a strained relationship.

3. The “It’s all you” rant is always on

Another alarming sign of a strained relationship is blame. Whenever something goes wrong, if your partner always feels it’s your fault and never tries to consider other factors, that’s the problem.

They don’t care how you feel being blamed all day long. You’ll spend the entire weekend defending yourself.

4. Bottomless love is replaced with infinite conflicts

Conflicts are normal in any relationship, but conflict resolution must also follow suit.

When you both only argue in your relationship and never show empathy for the problems or sufferings, that’s another of your red flags of strained relationships.

You both only see the problems in your relationship. Nobody ever considers the positive part.

5. The power imbalance is a piece of work

In a strained relationship, one will have more power over the other. Unlike a healthy relationship, only one person out of you both will make the most decisions.

Of course, the decisions are mostly the choices of the same partner… they hardly consider their partner’s opinions.

6. You confuse love and obsession

Things don’t seem to work well in strained relationships, but the partners still believe they’re in love. However, you mostly stay back because of your obsession and possessiveness.

These signs show that the dynamics of your relationship shifted from love to need. At this point, there’s hardly any trust… you continue on the thin strings of obsession.

7. They can’t handle losses

A usual sign of a strained relationship is when there’s conflict or troubles in the relationship, one of you will let that overpower them. They’ll only focus on how everything is haywire and wanna quit the relationship.

They won’t be ready to build it all over… probably, they were more in love with the “idea of being in love”.

8. The relationship leaves you feeling worse

People in love get most of their energy and motivation from their relationship.

However, if your partner or situations in your relationship convince you that you’re inadequate, that’s another glaring red flag of a strained relationship.

If you believe “I’m the worst” or the likes… this relationship is a goner.

9. There’s always an attempt to change the other

In a strained relationship, you and your partner never own your faults and blame one another. So, this leads to attempts to change your partner. Neither wants to work on themselves or compromise their thoughts.

Instead, you both will try to make an “ideal” partner out of the other… which is completely messed up.

10. You sabotage yourself for a relationship

Partners in strained relationships stay back despite the major issues because they’re infatuated more with the notion of being in love.

So, its greatest sign is when you ignore yourself and your needs to sustain the relationship. You chase the relationship to feel worthy and forget about what really matters.

Found that you’re in a strained relationship? If you want to fix things, let me guide you here…

How to fix a strained relationship?

Even if you have a strained relationship, don’t lose all hope. Most couples give up on one another when the initial flame dims.

However, things are still fixable if you both want to make the relationship work. Since you can’t wait to reverse your unhealthy relationship, let’s hop right into it…

1. Identify the causes

From the list of causes, try to honestly find yours. Don’t forget to notice any related issues too. For instance, if it’s a money issue and also related to a family member, don’t hide that.

Approach the reasons but also stay respectful. Don’t even think “We’re short on money because of their parents.” If you do this, you’re not in a position to fix anything.

2. Recognize your reaction

Replay the scenes of your arguments and zoom into your reaction. Sometimes, your behavior might provoke your partner and act as fuel to the fire.

Conflicts never happen in a one-sided manner, so honestly note how you deal with sensitive situations. Notice if you have stonewalling, defensive, or any other toxic traits.

3. Find the differences

Your partner’s reaction also matters in the situation. Compare how you both handle tough situations. However, make sure you don’t blame them for “being the reason behind everything”.

Do you two tackle things differently? Do you have different perspectives on life and strategies for a living?

4. Create a pact together

Ask your partner to do the same and make a written list and exchange them. Read one another’s take on the current situation and figure out a way to control the damage.

If you can’t figure out how to adjust, seek your friends and family for opinions… but don’t let them ask you to break up unless you agree.

5. Treat the mess quickly

Whenever you have conflicts, don’t let them sit on the back burner until you have a deep resentment towards them. Talk things through instead of making your own narratives.

You’ll only complicate the situation if you delay, so chat ASAP and clear up any misunderstanding.

However, if you don’t know how to communicate in such situations, follow this…

How to communicate in a strained relationship?

In any relationship, communication is a core necessity to maintain healthy dynamics. Without it, misunderstandings and resentment may arise.

However, nobody learns effective communication, it’s always better to gain this skill for a better love life. So, let’s not waste a wink and keep these in mind…

1. Choose the right time

You can’t have important relationship conversations whenever or wherever. Especially while one of you is busy with other commitments like work or family, are sleepy, or hungry, choose a time when you’re both free. You can even go on a date for this.

2. Stay punctual

Make sure you’re on time for your communication date. Otherwise, your partner will flip if you make them wait for too long. However, if you’re stuck with something serious, let them know and reschedule it.

Otherwise, be punctual to show you’re committed to making things work.

3. Let them do the talking

Before you begin babbling, let them speak first. Gently ask them about the issue. Make sure there isn’t any massive distraction around like kids, TV, crowds, chores, or even your friends or family.

Don’t talk in between or assume they’ll get off-topic… even if they usually do. Such actions and thoughts impact the communication negatively.

Don’t fiddle with your smartphone and look into their eyes. Show that you’re focused and they’ll also stay calm. Most relationship fights begin because one person is too busy in their own world.

4. Understand their love language

To communicate and put across your feelings to your partner, know your partner’s personality.

Different ways to find it are the Enneagram and Meyers-Briggs personality tests. These help you understand their fears, desires, strengths, and weaknesses.

Know your partner’s love language to make the greatest impact while talking. If you communicate the way they understand, you’ll make great improvements.

5. Put yourself in their shoes

When your partner complains about anything, think from their perspective. Do you think you can handle similar things calmly? Do you have any better ideas to cope with any issues?

If you have alternative ideas, ask if they’re willing to use them or if it’s at all applicable to their situation.

6. Make sure you’re still on topic

If your partner goes off-topic, don’t blame them for it. Tell them that you want to focus on the present issue and once you’re done with this one, you can get back to other problems.

The same goes for you, so make sure you don’t go off-topic or blame them for past mistakes.

7. Implement more “I”s

“You” sentences are the core of blaming language. In a strained relationship, make your words less biting with more “I”. For instance, take a look at these…

“You didn’t let me know about the change of plans”: This is hurtful.

“I didn’t know about any change of plans”: Sounds much more innocent and makes a huge difference in the results.

8. Keep everything transparent

Never go round in circles during the conversation. It will confuse you both and just makes everything far worse. Be honest about your feelings and thoughts about the situation to give them the perfect picture.

However, don’t rush and say something hurtful. Take your time to phrase your honesty well.

9. Check-in

After you’re done expressing yourself, seek their opinion. You can’t expect things to get better on the first attempt. In fact, you must check in weekly to know if your plans to improve your relationship dynamics hurt or distress anyone.

10. Don’t be afraid to seek experts

If things look too bleak even after effective communication, seek mental health professionals to diagnose yourselves with any deep-seated issues.

You may also book an appointment with a licensed marriage therapist or relationship expert. However, you mustn’t have a prejudice against it, otherwise, it won’t work out.

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

If you both still love one another, you have a high possibility to reverse the gears of your strained relationship. 

However, if either of you feels otherwise, it’ll be a tough journey. That’s where more communication and effort help.

Contrarily, if your relationship has toxic, manipulative, or abusive dynamics, draw the line. 

Further, if you believe a loved one’s relationship is strained, share the link and don’t pass your judgment on them. 

Remember, it’s easy to say “break up!”, blame your partner, or ignore the issues. Go the extra mile to really be happy because you’re worth every dime of it!