There isn’t any relationship without its ups and downs. We all go through some rough patches… tread on rocky roads… but there are always solutions if you are willing to make the effort. Below are five relationship problems all couples face, and some proven strategies to overcome them.
Communication is key. Poor communication leads to many problems. According to Elaine Fantle Shimberg, author of Blending Families, “You can’t communicate while you’re checking your BlackBerry, watching TV, or flipping through the sports section.”
- BE with each other. Put the cell phones on silent, put the kids to bed, and let voicemail pick up your calls.
- If you can’t “communicate” without raising your voices, go to a public spot like a restaurant or public space where you’d be embarrassed if anyone saw you screaming.
- Use body language to show you’re listening. Don’t doodle, look at your watch, or pick at your nails. Nod so the other person knows you’re getting the message, and rephrase if you need to.
Even partners who love each other can be a mismatch, sexually. Mary Jo Fay, author of Please Dear, Not Tonight, says a lack of sexual self-awareness and education worsens these problems. But having sex is one of the last things you should give up, Fay says. “Sex,” she says, “brings us closer together, releases hormones that help our bodies both physically and mentally, and keeps the chemistry of a healthy couple healthy.”
- Plan, plan, plan. Make an appointment. Maybe during the baby’s Saturday afternoon nap or a before-work quickie. Ask friends or family to take the kids every other Friday night for a sleepover. And change things up a bit. It will make sex more fun too. Why not have sex in the kitchen? Or by the fire? Or standing up in the hallway?
Money problems can start even before the wedding vows are exchanged. They can stem, for example, from the expenses of courtship or from the high cost of a wedding. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) recommends that couples who have money woes take a deep breath and have a serious conversation about finances.
- Be honest about your current financial situation.
- Don’t approach the subject in the heat of battle. Instead, set aside a time that is convenient and non-threatening for both of you.
- Construct a joint budget that includes savings.
- Talk about caring for your parents as they age and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs if needed.
Occasional conflict is a part of life, according to New York-based psychologist Susan Silverman. But if you and your partner feel like you’re in the same lousy situations, it’s time to break free of this toxic routine. When you make the effort, you can lessen the anger and take a calm look at underlying issues.
- Realize you are not a victim. It is your choice whether you react and how you react.
- Be honest with yourself. When you’re in the midst of an argument, are your comments geared toward resolving the conflict, or are you looking for payback?
- Change it up. If you continue to respond in the way that’s brought you pain and unhappiness in the past, you can’t expect a different result this time. Just one little shift can make a big difference.
- Apologize when you’re wrong. It makes a world of difference.
Trust is a key part of a relationship. Do you see certain things that cause you not to trust your partner? Or do you have unresolved issues that prevent you from trusting others?
- Be consistent.
- Be on time.
- Do what you say you will do.
- Don’t lie — not even little white lies to your partner or to others.
- Be fair, even in an argument.
- Be sensitive to the other’s feelings. You can still disagree, but don’t discount how your partner is feeling.
Even though there are always going to be problems in a relationship, you both can do things to minimize marriage problems, if not avoid them altogether. Be willing to work on your relationship and to truly look at what needs to be done. Don’t think that things would be better with someone else. Unless you address problems, the same lack of skills that get in the way now will still be there and still cause problems no matter what relationship you’re in.