7 signs your relationship desperately needs a tune-up, according to psychology

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

It’s no secret that relationships take work. 

At first, it’s full of feel-giddy and can’t-take-your-hands-off-each-other moments, but once the honeymoon phase passes, that’s when the real work starts. 

As someone who’s been married for a long time, I can say that we’ve had our share of low stages. 

I’m talking about those times when we were absolutely sure we still loved each other but somehow a lot has happened to push us apart. 

If that sounds familiar to you, then this article might help. Here are 7 psychology-backed signs that your relationship desperately needs a tune-up: 

1) Romance has completely flown out the window

“Romance? What’s that?” you might ask. Or, “Who has the time?”

Well, as I found out the hard way myself, romance should never be off the table. 

Psychologists and relationship experts are unanimous in saying that it’s what keeps the spark alive, no matter how long you’ve been together. 

Life is stressful for sure, and I understand how planning romantic stuff can so easily fall down to the bottom of your to-do list. 

But you know what? There are plenty of ways to infuse romance in your life, in the little things especially. 

Sweet handwritten notes. Breakfast in bed. A bubble bath together on a random night. 

A little creativity and playfulness goes a long way – just making the effort can breathe new life into your relationship. 

2) You’re taking each other for granted

Speaking of effort, have you stopped doing more for your partner? Have you stopped appreciating each other? 

That’s a sure sign that your relationship desperately needs a tune-up. 

It happens when you become too comfortable with your partner. I mean, that’s a good thing, of course, but don’t let that make you complacent. Don’t let life take over and make you unmindful. 

Psychologist Dr. Leon F. Seltzer cautions couples against this: 

“No matter how well matched you and your partner may be, you both need to put forth substantial effort to keep it vibrant and alive. If you don’t, it will weaken and, over time, possibly die—or become so de-valued to the one taken for granted that they’ll ultimately leave.”

I hope you get that tune-up done before it gets to this point!

3) The dynamic has become imbalanced

All too often, when one partner is being taken for granted, the relationship takes on an imbalanced nature. 

No longer is it a give-and-take one, it has become one-sided. And that’s definitely cause for concern. 

According to psychologists, “A one-sided relationship has more uncertainty and boils down to one person doing more of the heavy lifting — emotionally, physically and mentally.”

Think of your relationship like a car (which goes quite nicely with our tune-up theme): if only one tire bears all the weight, then it’s bound to go flat – or bust. 

4) You’re no longer working like a team

This is closely connected to my previous point.

You probably already know this – a relationship requires teamwork. It requires that each person does their part. 

That means there should be a sense of selflessness. A willingness to compromise. A sense of trust that you can rely on your teammate. 

If your relationship is lacking in these elements, it likely needs a tune-up. 

That tune-up could be as simple as sitting down and having an honest conversation.

Establish your shared goals and figure out how you can meet them together. Go back to being the “we” you were before life got in the way. 

And if you need more help getting back to that point, don’t be afraid to seek help from a couples therapist. 

5) Pettiness has become more common

I knew our relationship needed a tune-up when we began sniping at each other for the smallest things. 

I’d get so annoyed with his dirty clothes on the floor, he’d be so annoyed when I forget to turn a light off. 

We’d start off pointing out petty things like these and pretty soon, it’d escalate to full-blown shouting matches. 

Psychotherapist Dr. John Crimmins explains that pettiness has some underlying psychological reason for it, such as: 

Don’t let petty behavior take over your whole relationship and ruin the trust and love you share. Get down to what it’s really about, which brings me to the next point…

6) There are unresolved issues

Look, every relationship has its own set of issues, no matter how compatible you are. That’s normal, and arguing about it can even be exactly what your relationship needs. 

According to psychology, arguing about an issue is a good thing because: 

  • It shows you both care
  • It strengthens your bond
  • You learn more about each other

In contrast, unresolved issues can cause long-running resentment

As Dr. Patrick Keelan says, “Having unresolved problems in a relationship often leads the partners to have ‘hot thoughts’ about each other and the relationship. 

These are negatively skewed beliefs such as ‘This means my partner doesn’t care about me’ and ‘I don’t think our relationship can survive if we don’t resolve this disagreement’.”

So keep those “hot thoughts” away – hashing it out is always better than sweeping it all under the rug and hoping it doesn’t trip you. 

7) You’re spending less time together

I’ve always believed that time is the greatest gift you could give someone, more so your partner. 

I say that even if spending quality time isn’t my primary love language. I just know that being truly, willingly present will always be proof of someone’s love. 

Experts agree that quality time is necessary for couples – otherwise, how will the relationship grow and develop? 

So if you’re no longer spending time together – and by that, I mean actually talking and connecting, not just sitting side by side while on your phones – that means your relationship is due for a tune-up. 

An interesting study, aptly called “The Date Night Opportunity,” found that “people who spent quality time with their partner at least once a week were 3.5 times more likely to report being ‘very happy’ in their relationship compared to those who didn’t.”

How does quality time strengthen relationships? Let’s count the ways: 

  • It gives you time to talk to each other free of distractions
  • Engaging in fun and exciting activities gives the relationship a dose of newness
  • It keeps your passion alive over time
  • It sends the message that the relationship is important to you – it’s a form of commitment

Final thoughts

Relationship problems are normal, so I hope you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they are automatically deal-breakers. 

Of course, some issues may be so serious and unresolvable, and a relationship could be so toxic that it truly warrants leaving. 

But if you’re not at that point yet, then it’s worth the effort. Understanding when your relationship needs help and being ready to fix it can make you and your partner closer. 

Besides, when you’ve gone through a tune-up together, you often come out stronger on the other side. It’s like giving your relationship a makeover – you polish the rough spots and discover new strengths.

10 signs someone probably isn’t a trustworthy person, according to psychologists

10 lessons 99 percent of people learn a bit too late in life, according to psychology