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Even the strongest and healthiest of relationships are going to run into common relationship problems… but that’s okay, because we’ve got a rundown of the most common relationship problems that couples have, and what you can do to fix them!
Experiencing these common relationship problems doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed, it just means that it is time to put a little more intentional effort into the weak spots. Learning more about relationships is never a bad thing, so take your time reading through this guide for how to navigate through some common relationship problems that couples face.
Often in the early days of a relationship, certain areas of our lives seem to be insignificant in the face of the new budding relationship; this happens a lot with money. Couples are so thrilled to discover each other and who they are together, that the less-glamorous parts of our lives are sometimes swept under the rug. Establishing healthy money practices as a couple is essential!
There are a variety of different ways that money can show up as a relationship problem, but the most common relationship problem related to money is a mismatch between the couple, often in the ability to contribute or in expectations around money.
The best way to counter this is to embrace transparency. What do you expect? What does your partner expect? You need to be able to have conversations about financial expectations openly and honestly, without judgment. We all bring our own ideas (and often baggage!) about money into relationships, so open communication is an important part of healthy money dynamics in relationships.
Obviously, trust is a biggie in any relationship, and it’s not just the high-stakes examples of trust being broken that can affect trust in a relationship (like infidelity or overpromising/underdelivering) but it’s also our own personal baggage and anxieties we carry with us from prior relationships that can get in the way.
To rebuild trust after a betrayal, it’s important to practice open communication about feelings and expectations moving forward; this will take time, effort, compromise, and often counseling with a couples therapist. Betrayal changes things and the relationship will have to change too. This might mean new standards for time spent together, how often relationship check-ins take place, and shifts in what each person needs to feel safe in the relationship.
When trust is threatened by a person’s personal anxieties or prior relationship baggage, much of the work must be done by the person experiencing the anxieties, but the other partner can help by providing more assurance. Some of the ways to sort through personal relationship anxieties and baggage are through self-reflection activities like journaling, meditating, therapy, and addressing specific behaviors like overthinking in a relationship. Working towards greater trust is never a bad thing!
Navigating conflict is a skill that doesn’t come naturally for many of us, so learning how to fight fair as a couple is an essential relationship skill that will come in handy throughout the course of both your relationship and your life! Learning how to engage respectfully and thoughtfully in heated moments has benefits that can extend beyond the relationship.
Conflicts often come with Big Emotions, so calm yourself down before they take over: take deep, slow breaths and remind yourself that you and your partner are on the same team. Stay in the present and don’t rehash old hurts or bring up other issues. Deal with one problem at a time; trying to solve every conflict that’s ever happened in your relationship will only lead to overwhelm and nothing will be solved.
If you find yourself in a toxic relationship or staring down some relationship red flags, it won’t matter how well you can navigate conflict. You can be as calm, respectful, and present as you have ever been, but if your partner is not, managing conflict and reaching resolution probably won’t happen. Not fighting fair is a major relationship mistake, but if you and yours are able to master the art of healthy conflict, you’ll be on solid ground.
Work-life balance is important for everyone, but out of all of the common relationship problems, it might be one of the sneakiest. We live in a world where it is almost impossible to completely disconnect from work. We have emails, texts, calls, video conferences, and more that mean our “time out of the office” doesn’t necessarily mean time off. This is problematic when you are sharing your life with another because they want time with you, too!
Add in trying to coordinate two schedules and two sets of work expectations and time off together becomes even more important. If your “time off” together includes answering work emails and work texts, it’s not really time off, is it? If you’re not sure what your work-life balance is, take this quiz and/or ask your significant other what they think!
Every job will have different expectations, but ensuring you have time with your person where you both are completely “off” and giving each other some intentional attention is key to work-life balance. Whether it’s time spent together at home or on a romantic getaway, the most important piece is always your intentional attention. Your person wants to feel like they are important to you, too!
Future Mismatch/Avoidance of the Future
When two people first begin sharing with each other, the areas of disagreement can be easily glossed over because the agreements are more important, and that’s okay! Eventually, some of these things are going to pop back up, especially if they are Big Life Things, like if your partner wants kids and you don’t, or if your partner hates the idea of marriage, but you don’t.
If there are major mismatched expectations about the future, there is often some hope there that one person will eventually change their mind, and that is not likely with the Big Life Things like wanting kids or marriage or moving out of state or whatever the case may be. It’s not that you should be trying to convince your person to change their mind, but you have to both be on the same page about what the expectations are.
For example, if you are committed to having children one day and your partner isn’t, then the expectation might be that eventually, you both know you will need to break up so you can pursue a relationship that will support that. There are lots of topics that are important to talk about in committed, long-term relationships, but the most important thing is to know that you and yours are both headed in the same direction. How can you happily travel together if you don’t have the same destination in mind?
Intimacy (both mental and physical) is incredibly important in any long-term relationship, and often one of the things that can be easily pushed to the side in the everyday hustle and bustle of life. Luckily, there are so many simple (and fun!) ways to bring intimacy back to your relationship, and one of the easiest is to bring back the flirting!
Do you remember the early days of the relationship? All that playful, giggly banter back and forth? Bring that back with some flirtatious texts! There are ideas for flirty texts for her, flirty texts for him, even flirty Christmas-themed texts to get your wheels spinning, but really any little flirtatious text you can send your significant other to remind them that they’re still your person and you’re still theirs will work!
Sometimes you just need to spice things up a bit, and you can do this by traveling together somewhere new (couples who travel together have better sex lives), learning something new together, and of course, by mixing it up a little in the bedroom: fun and festive holiday lingerie, anyone? You can also consider hiring an intimacy coach to offer guidance specific to your own situation. There’s even a World Association of Sex Coaches directory you can search through to find your perfect coach: what a time to be alive, right?
Relationship boundaries often shift and evolve over time, but healthy boundary setting strengthens relationships. Maybe in the very early days, you two shared almost every moment of every day together because you just could not get enough of each other. The Honeymoon Phase is very sweet, but eventually, it’s natural to settle into a new phase of sharing life together that involves different time boundary needs.
There are many different kinds of boundaries: emotional, physical, sexual, financial, time, etc. The most important piece of having healthy boundaries in a relationship is communicating them. The way to navigate differing boundaries is to have an open, honest, judgment-free conversation. There has to be a clear agreement on both sides for what is acceptable and what is not.
Use “I-Centered” language, stating what you need and expect; let your partner do the same, and come together on what you both agree on, finding the sweet spots of healthy compromise on those that you don’t. Note the difference between healthy and unhealthy compromise: healthy compromise benefits both of you in some way without compromising feelings of safety. Unhealthy compromise makes someone feel unsafe or not listened to. That’s never a good thing.
Without healthy communication, even the strongest of relationships fall apart. Sometimes it’s the way we communicate with each other, perhaps with accusatory language or defensive reactions: “You never ___” and “No I don’t! I don’t know why you’re attacking me like this.” Neither of these is helpful. Healthy communication involves I-Centered language and slowing down to try to understand what is being said; you want thoughtful responses over rushed reactions.
When couples don’t have healthy communication, they can sometimes avoid hard conversations altogether, and that’s not an answer either. Luckily, communication is a skill that can be improved with practice. There are wonderful books on couples’ communication and great thoughtful conversation starters for couples that allow you to practice some of your communication skills, too!
There are other necessary means of communication too; do you know your partner’s love language? Do they feel your love the most through physical touch, or is their love language words of affirmation, where they need to verbally hear how important they are to you? Knowing each other’s love languages can ensure that you both are communicating your love to each other in a way that can be felt best.
As beautifully cocooned as we feel in our relationships, external stressors can throw us off balance a bit and challenge even the strongest of couples. This might be an exciting external stressor, like a promotion that requires a cross-country move, or a sorrowful external stressor, like a scary health diagnosis of a loved one. Stress is difficult to manage, and sometimes couples find stress drives them apart rather than together.
Talk about stress before it happens. Ask your partner to tell you about a time they had to deal with a stressful life event and what helped them get through it. Determine how you can incorporate this into your support practices for each other; does your loved one thrive on information to counter the unknown? If the external stressor is a move to a new state, maybe you can spend time together on the weekends looking up facts about your new home.
During a stressful event, take time for the two of you to slow down together for quality time. If your fun date night has always been dinner and a movie, but you’ve been too swamped supporting a loved one during a health crisis, bring the dinner and a movie experience in. Even if it’s just ordering a pizza and watching a movie on the couch together, your relationship will be able to handle external stress much better if you and your partner find ways to stay strong, together.
One of the most common relationship problems that all couples in long-term relationships will eventually run into is how to maintain connection. This doesn’t mean a couple loses love for each other, it just means that the everyday tasks of life have gotten in the way of some of the connection that committed, loving couples have.
Whether it’s been 5 or 25 years of committed partnership, there are some simple ways you can maintain connection: make Date Night a regular event, show your love and affection (even just a 30-second hug can boost oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone!”), have new experiences together, keep setting relationship goals together, build relationship rituals together, and practice preventative maintenance!
That’s right, preventative maintenance. Don’t wait until you and yours are in crisis mode to take care of the relationship. Relationship workshops, marriage retreats, and couples counseling are all fabulous ways of strengthening your connection and ensuring that your relationship is as close to crisis-proof as you can possibly make it! Connection in a relationship is absolutely essential.
All in all, as long as you are your person are committed to growing together, you will find that overcoming relationship problems can actually help you grow closer.
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Amy Hartle is the co-founder and owner of Two Drifters, where she blogs about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. With a Master’s in English and a BA in Musical Theatre, Amy loves to write quality content as well as to entertain, and she hopes to do a bit of both here on the blog! Amy is happily married to her husband Nathan, and when not working on their sites, Amy & Nathan can be found cuddling, reading, and enjoying delicious lattes.