No relationship is problem-free. If it is, you aren’t sharing enough of your lives with each other! But knowledge is power, and with that in mind here is a list of some of the most common problems (and solutions!) that couples will encounter as they grow together. When you are experiencing relationship problems, just knowing that this is normal can make you feel a little better.
Men and women have different communication styles, and this can sometimes lead to problems in the relationship. In addition, with the increased use of screens—smartphones, tablets, television—real face-to-face communication can break down or become virtually non-existent.
If communication with your spouse has become problematic, seek support from a marriage counselor. These experts are trained to help couples learn or restore productive ways of communicating. If communication has broken down because one or both of you is spending too much time in front of the television or computer, establish some ground rules about limiting screen time. You want to get back to the warm flow of real conversation, sharing your thoughts with each other so you stay emotionally connected. Just being in the same room using your various electronic devices is not enough. You need to set them aside and actually talk!
Lack of physical intimacy
Aging, work, children – so many outside variables can influence your sex life. If you let these take over, lovemaking becomes an afterthought and soon your physical connection becomes frayed.
Make sex a priority again! If you have to put it on a schedule, do so. Arrange a sleepover for the children with the grandparents. Have sex in the morning when you are less tired. Try a “quickie” if you know you don’t have the time to devote to a long session between the sheets. The goal is to keep your sex life going. Its physical and mental benefits are far-reaching and should not be ignored.
Is your sex life suffering due to misaligned libidos?
Talk about what your expectations are and how you might find a compromise. If one of you just isn’t “feeling it”, what are some ways you can rekindle that sexy vibe? Be creative! Sex toys, erotic videos made especially for couples, lingerie, role-playing – there are lots of ways you can spice things up.
Fights over household responsibilities
Research proves it! Women do 40% more chores around the house than men. No wonder most couples fight about this inequality!
Sit down together and discuss calmly who will do what. (It’s not a good idea to start this conversation if you are already screaming at each other about whose turn it is to do the dishes.) Grab a pen and paper and sketch out a reasonable list. Make sure both of you are onboard with your allocation of chores; it won’t work unless you both are invested in a fair list that has a good chance of being respected. If finances permit it, outsource what you can: drop off the work shirts at the cleaners; bring in a house cleaning team once or twice a week so you can free up your time to do more couple-enhancing activities; carpool with other families so you aren’t the sole drivers for your children’s school drop off and pick up.
Your fights always end up in the same place
Do you find that your conflicts never seem to get resolved? Does your fighting follow the same pattern: voices get raised, heated words exchanged, and someone either walks out or shuts down emotionally?
A marriage counselor will help you dialogue fairly and productively. Instead of positioning yourself against your spouse, you will learn to resolve issues as a team. Your counselor will teach you the skills you need to unpack problems in a way that will lead to resolution rather than deeper conflict. You will practice active and empathetic listening, taking turns with your spouse so that each of you gains a sense of having been heard. Most importantly, you can learn to manage sensitive topics in a way that will strengthen your relationship rather than weaken it.
Lack of trust
Do you come from a dysfunctional family, where you were unable to develop a sense of security? Did you experience betrayal in a previous relationship? Have you had a relationship where information was withheld from you? You may have developed mechanisms that prevent you from trusting your partner. Here are some ways to build your sense of trust within your relationship:
- When you or your spouse says you will do something, do it.
- Do it within the timeframe you said you would do it.
- If you promised to call, call when you promised you would.
- If you are going to arrive late (for an appointment, or when expected at home), call to explain why and reassure the other person that you are on your way.
- Be consistent with acts and words. Make sure others can rely on this trait.
- Be consistently honest and forthright.
- Respect others’ opinions. You can disagree with them, but disagree without denigrating their viewpoint.
- Never say anything that you will later regret. Words cannot be unheard, even if an apology follows.
- Fight productively about the current issue and do not bring up old grudges to mix into the current discussion.
- Work on your own issues. If jealousy is creating a problem in your relationship, seek counseling to help you see where this jealousy originates. If your partner deliberately contributes to your feeling of jealousy (by flirting with other people, or maintaining friendships with exes when you’d rather that not be the case) invite your partner into therapy with you.
Relationships are living entities, with all the problems and joys that go along with that. You can, however, reduce how these problems impact the happiness of your relationship by being prepared for them. A willingness to work through these inevitable problems will go a long way in making sure that these relationship “speed bumps” stay small and manageable.