Relationship Advice is a column in CLEO where we ask relationship coaches, psychologists and experts on problems that twenty-something women in Singapore might face in different stages of their relationship. If you have a question for an expert, drop us an email at cleo@sph.com.sg.


This column is contributed by Cindy Leong from Relationship Studio. Cindy is an Enneagram Personality Coach and Corporate Trainer who helps people make sense of their professional and personal relationships.

A “rough patch” can last from any time between two weeks to two years. However, it is not about the duration, but what is the cause of this rough patch.

If it is due to external factors, some of these issues can be fixed when both parties come to an agreement or set boundaries. If it happens often, it simply means both of you have many teething issues that need to be talked through. This is not a bad thing—it’s just a process that needs straightening.

If the “rough patch” is due to internal factors that are part of teething issues, such as communication issues, perception errors, etc, again, a prolonged communication/dialogue session will help. Seeking professional help on these would work well too.

If it is due to internal factors that are related to upbringing or past emotional baggage, such as deep-seated trust issues or self-esteem issues, then one party might need to seek professional help first before proceeding with the relationship. But bear in mind that it might make the relationship more dysfunctional than it already is.

If we’re always going through a rough patch, does that mean we are not compatible?

When we talk about compatibility, it is more important to get to the root of the issue and figure out what exactly the issue is, but this is a very difficult step for couples to take because they are usually not trained in this area—unless one of them is a professional psychologist or coach. The reason it’s difficult is because it is hard for people involved to see their own blindspots.

If the clash is related to the “non-negotiables”, such as values, religion, etc, then yes, you and your boyfriend may be incompatible. All other things that are “negotiables” can be worked out.

I always feel down when I think about my relationship. How do I know if my relationship is the problem or I’m the problem?

First, we need to find out what cause you to feel down. Getting to the root of the issue is usually the key. If it is due to the fact that you have high standards in general and nothing seems to please you in the relationship, then the problem is you.

If it is due to the behaviour of your partner and you are not the cause of his behaviour (e.g. he takes it out on you after he got scolded by his boss at work), then he is likely the problem.

In this case, seeking help from a neutral professional person would be best because when you narrate the story to your friends, you might end up skewing their judgment. Unless your friends were there to witness his behaviour, it is usually hard for friends to be objective.

My boyfriend always points out what I can improve on. Is he being helpful or is he putting me down?

Again, it depends on what are the points he brings up, how he says it and why he says it.

For example, if he says, “I would love that you lose 5kg.” Is this acceptable? Yes, only if it’s related to health reasons.

If he says, “I see that you give up easily on this task. Why?” If he takes the effort to understand your point of view and offer constructive feedback, that’s great. If he doesn’t and simply dumps his expectations on you, that that may not be too helpful.

If he says, “Why can’t you dress like Mary/Jane?” This is just mean.

You should feel good about changing. You should feel motivated to change. You shouldn’t change out of fear of losing him or the need to just please him.

How do I know if my relationship/boyfriend is toxic?

I would look out for these five signs:

  1. There’s verbal or even physical abuse
  2. You cant be at your best self or you’re always being put down
  3. Nothing you do seems to be right
  4. He is always the victim
  5. You’re not involved in the big decisions

If all signs point to my boyfriend being the toxic one, is there no way to save the relationship?

After seeking professional help and he is still unwilling to work out his issues, then, a break-up might be more beneficial for you.

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