This week’s Facts for Fathers, Recognizing Unhealthy & Abusive Relationships tackles sensitive subject matter but we would be doing dads and families a disservice if we shied away from challenging topics. Arguments and disagreements are part of every relationship. However, some kinds of conflict are damaging and can wear down and harm a relationship that was once fresh and strong.

Many men say they didn’t see the problems in their relationship until it was too late. These guys wish they had done maintenance work beforehand so they never reached the point where the relationship was beyond repair. The challenge for men is to see the tell-tale cracks appearing and act in a positive way, moving towards a healthier relationship.

Some dads also find themselves on the receiving end of unhealthy and abusive behavior, but don’t recognize it. If you find yourself continuously unhappy, discouraged, or feeling defeated in your relationship, please review the starting points described in today’s blog. Despite your best efforts, you and your partner could be locked in unhealthy and destructive patterns and will need support.

Research has shown that couples are more likely to divorce when their conflicts regularly include any of the following four negative communication styles:

Criticism – Attacking your partners’ personality or character, rather than focusing on the behaviour that is bothering you.

Contempt – Tearing down, insulting, or disrespecting your partner.

Defensiveness – Responding to problems with denial, excuses, or counter-attacks.

Stonewalling – Shutting down, avoiding, or refusing to be part of discussions of problems.

If you add any of the following, you have a recipe for conflict that is not only damaging, but also abusive:

Suspicion, jealousy or distrust – Feeling like you need to know your partner’s whereabouts and activities when you’re not around, monitoring her actions and her friends, not trusting her sexual fidelity.

Intimidation – Having arguments that end because you have intimidated or hurt your partner – for example, yelled very loudly, broken something, or said something that was very hurtful.

Control – Being in a relationship where one person makes most or all the important decisions about how you make and spend your money, who you hang out with, or how you raise your children.

Alcohol or drugs – Things tend to get worse when you or your partner’s use of alcohol or drugs is the source of conflict or when you get in arguments while drinking or using.

If any of these troubles are part of your relationship with your partner, it is time to take action.

Talk with each other and try to build trust, friendship, and intimacy. Reach out to other couples, supportive family members or therapists to stop the problems before they get worse. It’s important that dads work positively and sensitively in the process, so connect with resources now before it’s too late. Your kids need you and will thank you later.

For dads looking for support their relationship, check out our free booklet: Dads, Renovate Your Relationship. The Recognizing Unhealthy & Abusive Relationships “Fact Marks for Fathers” resource can be downloaded here, or a hard copy can be purchased in our store.