Hidden Signs Your Relationship May Need a Tune-Up


Things a little sluggish? Maybe you haven’t been paying attention

Last week the battery in our car died. There were a few warning signs — sluggish, slower-than-normal starts when turning the key. Still, the battery’s failure was unexpected.

The reason it came as a surprise? The car is less than 2-years-old. My husband explained the vehicle is equipped with tons of electronics and, in his opinion, one of the components had probably gone bad. Apparently, this rogue relay had continued to draw on the battery, even after the car had been turned off.

And now there was no power — no juice in the system, the battery’s energy completely depleted.

I didn’t take auto shop in high school, and I don’t understand all the complexities residing under a car’s hood — nor do I want to. But I understood his explanation in very practical terms:

We weren’t going anywhere. My husband’s reluctance to call the dealer and schedule a time to have it repaired concerned me. He rationalized it would take all day, and there were more important things to do. I wondered if he hadn’t grasped the concept that — without the car — a lot of those things would remain undone.

It occurred to me the underlying problem could have been prevented. By all measures, it appeared we were in relationship with our vehicle — one of our own choosing. We had committed to a method of transportation that, with its many needs and eccentricities, required care and attention.

Admittedly, other than how to open the gas cap, my knowledge of the underlying mechanics of cars is limited. But it didn’t take much thought to figure out I’d been relying on consistent performance — every time. And without paying attention to small hints that should have garnered my attention, I’d taken this very important aspect of my life for granted.

Because the car was crucial to my daily happiness. I began mentally comparing the more intangible aspects of this concept to relationships in general. And I realized it was definitely time for a check-up.

Like most problems, the signs of an unresolved issue are often ignored. When real problems result in uncomfortable symptoms, it’s time to take a good look at things and determine what actions are necessary to restore harmony and re-establish good communication — whether with your car or your partner.

Here are ten similarities I discovered — and a little personal insight into the process of returning both to good condition.

  1. When they’re new, everything works perfectly — and each ride is an exhilarating experience. There’s an elevated sense of excitement in anticipation of the future — a call of adventure to explore untraveled roads and untouched terrain.
  2. You want to show off your new acquisition, and brag to your friends and family about all the great features and upgrades. You usually don’t buy the first car you see, because shopping around and comparing is the best way to make a decision. But when the right one is in front of you there’s no doubt — because you’ve done the research. And sharing the news is the first thing you do.
  3. Everyone else wants to drive it, but you make it clear it’s hands-off — at least until the new smell has faded away. You need alone time to discover all the benefits and features — a period of bonding in a way that’s uniquely personal. And sometimes you discover it’s more important to keep your prize to yourself — to secure a positive connection.
  4. Every day you learn something different, trying out the extra bells and whistles, anxious for the next trip when you can explore a few more. You’re still in the honeymoon stage, curious and open to every possibility. Because you’re looking for a deeper understanding of the potential it offers.
  5. You look forward to simply riding in the car — with no particular destination in mind. You’re surprised at how easy and content you feel in the joy of just being together. No agenda is necessary — and the passing time doesn’t seem to matter.
  6. Regularly scheduled maintenance is required to keep the car in top running condition — and to identify any building issues before they become expensive problems. You understand the responsibilities and obligations of continued mutual enjoyment. Because the car can only do its best to please you when all its needs are taken care of.
  7. If maintenance is avoided, delayed, or left to chance, the car will begin to show symptoms of failure. And if not addressed quickly and effectively, you may need to start shopping for a replacement. Because after the fact, if the signals have been ignored or dismissed, it may not be possible to re-establish communication. But if you’re lucky — and act with sincere intention — there might be a window of opportunity to redeem yourself.
  8. Taking pride in your car’s appearance means spending as much time as it takes to keep it looking its best. Because it’s important to protect your investment — if you want the car to last. From past experience, you know relationships are a two-way street, with both parties operating at highly efficient levels when encouraged with positive feedback and support.
  9. If a problem shows up and you’re unable to diagnose it on your own, you take it to an expert who has experience, training, and knowledge. Because it’s the smart thing to do for the long-term. It’s not easy to admit you don’t always have the answers or the ability to solve every problem. And you’re wise enough to appreciate the value of the asset, and take the steps necessary to get back into balance.
  10. When you treat your car with care and give it the attention it needs, it will operate at peak performance — and everyone is happy. And there’s no better scenario than existing together in harmony.

Of course, there is one major difference between car ownership and relationships. Only one of them comes with an instruction manual.

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