When it comes to common relationship problems, having a realistic expectation of how to work through them will make those storms easier to weather when they do occur.
We all know there’s no such thing as a problem-free relationship. And anyone who says their relationship is perfect is lying. But the truth is that most problems have a solution if you and your partner love and respect one another, and you’re both willing to work on a solution.
If we break your relationship down into its fundamental components, it’s easier to see which area is going astray.
Did you know only 49% of Americans in a 2013 survey reported being satisfied with their sex lives?
That’s a lot of unhappy men and women knocking boots (or NOT knocking boots). So if this is a problem in your relationship, it’s not something to be embarrassed about sharing with a trusted friend, your physician, or perhaps even a sexual health therapist.
Common sexual problems involve:
- A loss of libido, both male and female. This could be due to physical or psychological reasons. Again, another good reason to let your physician know (I promise, they’ve heard far more scandalous things).
- Questioning your sexuality. Am I gay? Straight? Bi? All very valid identity issues that weren’t always addressed during adolescence depending on your age or perhaps wasn’t societally accepted.
- Questioning your partner’s sexuality
- surviving an affair/cheating/infidelity and dealing with the emotional loss of intimacy and trust in the aftermath
Ongoing changes in our physical health can complicate our relationships in more ways than one.
- The natural process of aging includes changing levels of hormones–estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone–in both men and women. All are linked to both mood, reproductive health, and sexual libido.
- Pregnancy is a major life change. A woman’s body and emotional state can be sent into turmoil only a few weeks into her pregnancy. Once stable and calm, she might now be a raging, crying whirlwind feeling unsure of her changing body. And a postpartum body takes some getting used too even if this isn’t your first child. Episiotomies and c-sections can take a particular toll and require a physician’s care for some time afterward. Be sure to give any new parent extra patience (and sleep) and sensitivity, especially before initiating sexual activity.
- The beginnings of menopause, perimenopause, sometimes catch women off guard. The early symptoms can include irritability, hot flashes, irregular periods, night sweats, and trouble sleeping.
- Any major illness causes stress. Cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, whatever you or your partner is struggling with, make sure to communicate not only how your body feels but how the limitations make you feel within the relationship. Are you frustrated that you can no longer do the things you used to do? Do you feel like you’re letting your partner or family down? Sometimes discussing these issues and realizing your partner doesn’t blame you for an illness you can’t control can lessen the burden of carrying these silent self-incriminations.
Not all of our problems can be solved by psychotherapy, but quite often, a professional psychologist or licensed therapist can shine the light on both mental health issues and unresolved conflict in both our life and our partner’s.
- Depression is a major problem in the United States. Even though mental health professionals have worked tirelessly for decades, the stigma surrounding mental illness is still present. If you or your partner suffers from depression, seeking help while receiving support from a loved one is a vital step in both diagnosis and reaching a positive outcome. Depression, anxiety, OCD, mood disorders and bipolar disorder require professional therapy and sometimes medication. Helping your partner through one of these, while incredibly difficult, could save their life. For more information, contact the National Institute for Mental Health to find a professional in your area or contact your physician.
- The Knight in Shining Armor – How often do we see young brides and grooms at the altar staring up at one another with love-filled eyes and we wonder how long it will last? Sadly, we sometimes get married because we believe another person can save or fix us. When this fails to happen within our marriage or relationship, disillusionment grows into resentment. Recognizing responsibility for our happiness is key to finding fulfillment both in our life and as part of a couple.
- Quite often as a couple grows and matures, their personalities do as well. Especially if you were married young, perhaps before your adult personalities were fully fleshed out, who you are ten or fifteen years into a marriage might not even resemble who you were on your wedding day. It’s a natural part of growing up and maturing, and it doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding a common interest that brought you and your partner together in the first place. Or perhaps discovering a new hobby you can explore as a pair.
- Boredom with your partner or your relationship is a very real concern. When the lack of stimulation and excitement is no longer worth the investment it takes to maintain your commitment, you’re headed into a tough place. Can you come back from this? Of course, but it will take work on your perceptions–what do you need from partner versus what you can do for yourself–and possibly counseling.
A study from the School of Family Studies and Human Services, Kansas State University, found that financial disagreements between partners were the strongest predictors of divorce. If that’s not incentive to get the checkbook in order, we don’t know what is.
- Understand how you spend. If you’re a penny-pincher and your partner likes to splurge, you probably spend quite a bit of time either fighting or stressed about the bank balance. But before you can solve the dilemma, it’s important to take a hard look at yourself and question both your habits and what leads to those quick purchases or the need to hoard.
- Whose is it? Yours, mine, or ours? Many financial disagreements stem from who “owns” which portion of the family finances and therefore has the right to spend it as they see fit. Referring to the last point, it’s important to understand both your spending and saving habits and your partners so you can find a happy medium that works for the family budget. If in doubt, find an accountant.
- Debt is a given these days. Between student loans, credit cards, mortgages, and car payments can you even imagine a debt-free life?
- With money, comes power. Does the primary breadwinner use their financial leverage to make decisions that the unemployed, lower-earning, or stay-at-home spouse would never agree with otherwise? Financial abuse is a very real and often silent problem. If this is you, please seek help in a safe and confidential way.
No list of relationship problems would be complete without the age-old “who takes out the garbage” question.
- Unfortunately, this is where gender stereotypes can sometimes rear their ugly head. Do you balk at mowing the lawn while he refuses to do dishes? Take a moment to think about why you choose to do or not to a chore and what it might mean to your partner if you took on that dreaded chore for a period.
- I don’t feel appreciated. How often have you heard that? Many times, it’s not the actual housework that’s being complained about, but the underlying feeling that your effort isn’t noticed. Dusting, vacuuming, and laundry don’t compare to a flashy day job that pulls in a six-figure income, but there’s no debating that Mr. Millionaire wouldn’t be holding down that job if he (or she) lived in a pigsty or couldn’t find her shoes in the morning. Thank your partner for the little things they do for you. It makes a difference.
At the end of the day, every relationship is unique. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Marital counseling may or may not be for you. But whatever you do, communicate with your partner. Try to find something small to focus on, that tiny spark that you once saw and loved in this other human being so much that you committed your life to them.
Most of all, be patient. Healing old wounds takes time.
“By acting on love, by making love a verb and not an emotion, we keep the emotional fire stoked. And that is the great irony: if we depend on the feeling of being in love to keep us together, it will fail. But if we set that aside and focus on being loving, the feeling of being in love is sustained. Mature love is a verb, not an emotion.” Dr. Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D.