A man I worked with described his relationship as shaky.

He had been with his partner for eight years, but now they were thinking of spending some time apart. Their disagreements over paternity (he was the stepfather to their 15-year-old daughter) escalated.

Constant disputes over her daughter’s behavior led to several fights. Each said things they regretted but could not take back. “I’m not sure love is enough anymore,” he said.

I asked him how he felt each night as he approached the front door of his house.

You have finished the day’s work and are approaching home. (If you’re home during the day, you’ll have to do it metaphorically.) Suppose the person you share the space with (your partner/children/others) is inside. Ask yourself the following questions:

Scan your body.

Do you feel calm and happy to be home? Happy to see your partner/kids? Or just the children? Do you feel tense and nervous? Are you afraid of what will greet you?

Signs of anxiety or moodiness usually appear physiologically when you enter a stressful environment. Then it scans your body and reads what is happening. Better yet, name the feeling – it will make it real.

Monitor how long the feeling lasts.

Just a few moments? All night until you’re in bed? How you feel depends entirely on your partner’s mood in whatever dynamics are occurring prior to your arrival. Have you begun to shape your behavior to deal with the domestic climate? That’s good?

What’s the vibe of your evenings?

Let’s say it’s just the two of you. Is the atmosphere light, and pleasant? Can you have fun together or sit quietly compatible (not just on your devices)? Do you LIKE being there (or are there other people who give you more energy?) Can you make it through the night without a fight?

What’s one thing that would improve things?

Even if your relationship is fine, it’s good to keep an eye on how to improve it. Could you stop checking emails? Turn off their phones at an agreed time? Do you agree on a movie to watch together? Don’t you fall asleep with your mouth hanging open after one too many glasses of wine?

If things are a bit difficult, is it possible to change that? For example, if your stepfather is the main source of conflict, talk to your partner about what is going on and how it could be improved.

Don’t avoid difficult topics, because they gain momentum. Even if you don’t want to hear the answer, it’s the information you need for any choice you both make.

Take the weekend away test.

Time together should be fun. Or rested. But sometimes couples get so caught up in their problems that even a planned break (which would have been fun before) goes awry. If you can’t achieve goodwill or a sense of peace when you take the time to do it, take note. You are in the red light zone.

Test results

How did you go? I hope you get a passing grade.

People often think that happiness in relationships is based on great, grand, money-fuelled gestures.  It is not. True contentment is buried in the dust and grime of everyday domestic life. So keep an eye on how you feel AND how your partner feels when you’re home.

The truth is behind the front door.