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Even the happiest relationships have their ups and downs. So if you’re facing relationship problems, how do you know if your partnership is simply going through a bad patch or whether the relationship has run its course?
While every relationship is different, there are some common problems which characterise relationship breakdowns. So before you make any big decision about your future as a pair, it’s important to look at the specific relationship problems you are encountering and see if you can find sustainable solutions.
Four classic relationship problems
Problem 1: Communication
When someone in a couple fails to communicate openly and honestly, it creates problems on both sides. The person keeping their feelings to themselves feels misunderstood, and the other person feels dejected or confused by their partner’s behaviour. Oftentimes, people find it difficult to be honest about something they don’t like because they feel it could hurt their loved one, or be detrimental to the relationship. The important thing to remember is that honesty tends to be well-received when it’s coming from a place of good intention. So if you have concerns about your relationship, create a space where you can calmly, respectfully share your thoughts and feelings, and be prepared for your partner to also be honest with you in return. 1
READ MORE: Build a healthy relationship in 7 steps
Problem 2: Fighting
Every couple experiences disagreements, but it’s the way you handle these disagreements which defines whether it becomes a problem in your relationship. Psychologist Dr Marie Hartwell-Walker of Psych Central says there is a way to fight and still stay friends. She advises that when a problem comes up, try to talk about the issue itself rather than personally attacking your partner. By discussing specific behaviour rather than personally criticising, your partner will have less reason to feel defensive and be more likely to want to work with you to solve the problem. It’s also about picking your battles, ‘Friendly fighting means working out differences that matter’, says Hartwell-Walker. 2
Problem 3: Sex
If sex fails to satisfy both partners it can impact other parts of your relationship, such as your interpersonal connection and personal self-esteem. To improve your sexual relationship problems, it’s all about opening up and being honest about what you desire. Psychiatrist and author of ‘Open to Desire’, Dr Mark Epstein, says ‘to get on to the fun part you have to have to be willing to let down your guard and let love in’.3 It may feel strange to divulge new things to someone you’ve known for so long, but it will give your love life a new vibrancy and vigour.
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Problem 4: Money
Money is the cause of relationship problems for couples across the globe. If fights over money surface over and over again, it’s time to sit down with your partner and agree on some general spending rules or limits, says Dr. Terri Orbuch of Psychology Today. When you’re in the process of discussion, remember that there are often gender differences in how people behave with money. ‘Women tend to see money as a sign of security and stability… men tend to take more risks with money and see money issues as a threat to their self esteem’, says Orbuch. 4
READ MORE: Love & money – is career success impeding your love life?
Fight for love
While relationship problems can throw your partnership longevity into question, many couples find that they are able to work through their differences and bring things back on track. So if you’re facing issues in your partnership, confront them head-on with honesty and openness – the couple that emerges will be stronger and more resilient than ever before.
READ MORE: If you’ve tried everything and decided that you’re better off heading separate ways, learn how to move on and start a new chapter in your life.
2. Dr Marie Hartwell-Walker, Psych TCentral. http://psychcentral.com/lib/10-rules-for-friendly-fighting-for-couples/2/
3. Dr Mark Epstein, WebMD. http://www.webmd.boots.com/men/features/when-thrill-gone?page=2
4. Dr. Terri Orbuch, Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201307/whats-all-talk-about-couple-communication-skills