Every relationship will have its ups and downs. Throughout the course of your relationship, you are likely to run into many different bumps in the road.
It isn’t these bumps themselves that will make or break a relationship; it is how you are able to handle them together as a team. A strong relationship is one where both parties are ready and willing to navigate the bumpy path and work together to solve problems.
Here are 5 of the most common relationship problems and solutions to help you learn how to handle things more effectively as a couple.
Relationship problem #1 – Poor communication
Quality communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship.1 Open, honest, and clear communication between two partners sets the stage for success, whereas poor communication can be at the root of many problems within a relationship. We need communication for the little, day-to-day logistics (like who is picking the kids up from school) and also the really big things (like major life decisions).
If you are finding that the communication between you and your partner isn’t quite up to snuff, then you’ll want to spend some time building this important skill.
- Set aside time in your schedules to talk and check in. During these scheduled conversations, make time for logistics (parenting, maintaining the household, etc.), but also spend a few minutes talking about more personal, deeper topics that will build and reinforce connection over time. Make sure to put away cell phones and distractions so you can really tune into your partner.
- Practice active listening, give your partner space to talk, and validate your partner’s point of view. Try to really listen and reflect back to your partner what you hear them saying. Feeling heard and understood by a partner buffers against conflict and bolsters relationship satisfaction.
- Avoid the 4 Horsemen. John Gottman is a relationship expert who’s studied relationships extensively. Through his research, he has determined 4 styles of communication that predict a relationship will end, which he has termed the 4 Horsemen. These are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Go hereto learn more about what each of these are and how to avoid them in your communication.
- Shift your approach to conflict. Conflict isn’t itself a bad thing. In fact, it is inevitable in a partnership.But how you fight matters. Try these strategies to help you manage conflict in a more productive way:
- Rather than focusing on winning or being right, practice seeing conflicts as joint problems to solve together. Work towards finding solutions that work for the team.
- Focus on the shared goal and outcome you’d both like to achieve. Try setting an intention together at the beginning of the conversation.
- Avoid “you” statements and try “I” statements instead.
- Practice active listening (remember, feeling understood buffers against conflict).
- Be aware of your body language and tone of voice.
- Take a timeout to self-soothe when you need to calm down. Try going for a walk, breathing, or listening to music for a few minutes before returning.
- Practice your conflict resolutions skills on smaller, easier-to-solve problems first, then work up to bigger issues.
Relationship problem #2 – Lack of trust
Along with communication, trust is another key part of a healthy relationship. Without it, a relationship can feel like it is built on shaky ground.
It is important to note that trust isn’t just about faithfulness and fidelity. It’s about believing that your partner has your best interests at heart. If lack of trust is one of the issues you encounter in your relationship, here are some solutions to try.
- Develop trust with consistent habits. Little things can help to build trust between you and your partner. For example, try to:
- Be on time.
- Do what you say you will do and stick to your word.
- Call if you’ll be home later than you thought.
- Don’t lie (even little white lies).
- Do your fair share of the chores and home maintenance.
- Respect boundaries.
- Listen well.
- Be consistent.
- Practice being vulnerable with each other. Open up and share what’s going on for you. Be honest about both the facts and your feelings, so that the two of you can start having an intimate dialogue that builds trust. It can take practice and time to build up your confidence and comfort, but stick with it.
- Ask yourself how you might be contributing to feelings of mistrust. If you don’t feel like you can trust your partner, the problem might not be all on them. Sometimes, you may be projecting your own personal issues onto the situation. Challenge mistrustful thoughts by asking yourself questions such as:
- “What is the story I am telling myself in this situation?”
- “Do I have fears of abandonment or loss that might be affecting my perspective right now?”
- “Could this reaction be coming at least in part from something in my past?”7
Relationship problem #3 – Imbalances in shared responsibilities
Have you ever argued about the dishes or the laundry? If so, you are not alone. Chores and household logistics can create many problems within a relationship.
If one partner feels like they are doing more than their share of the tasks to keep up with day-to-day life, then resentment is likely to build.
- Create a list of tasks to divide. Take time together to create a list of the things that need to get done. Ask yourselves, “How are these things currently handled?” “How would we like to see them handled?” and “What needs to shift to create a better balance of labor?”
- Be up front about needing help. If you need help from your partner with responsibilities, make sure to communicate that clearly. Don’t wait until you are already resentful to bring it up.
- Communicate regularly. Make sure to check in with each other regularly about how things are going. You can even set aside a specific time each week (i.e. Sunday night) to talk about what’s gone well and what hasn’t when it comes to maintaining shared responsibilities.
- Express appreciation. When you notice your partner doing something around the house, taking on a new responsibility, or taking care of a task without being prompted, let them know you noticed. Share what it means to you and why you appreciate the action.
Relationship problem #4 – You don’t have enough time together
In today’s busy, go-go-go society, a common relationship problem is simply not having enough quality time together. Whether one of you has to spend late nights at the office or you’ve got your hands full juggling your kids’ activities, you may find that you just don’t have enough time together to feel fully connected and in tune.
This can lead to breakdowns in communication, feelings of resentment, and so much more if it goes unchecked. The key here is to find intentional, meaningful ways to connect—even if it can’t be for very long each day.
- Schedule time together. Take a look at your calendars and actually schedule out time to spend together. That might mean penciling in a date night each week, scheduling 20 minutes to unwind together after putting the kids to bed, or meeting each other for a walk on your lunch breaks every Monday.
- Connect over daily, mundane tasks. Multitasking doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, as long as it is intentional. For example, you can create “us time” while knocking off a few things from the to-do list at the same time. Try cooking together, grocery shopping together, or tidying up the house at the end of the day together. Make this an intentional time to chat, catch up, share stories, vent, and laugh together.
- Use technology to your advantage. If physical time together is hard to come by, don’t be afraid to use technology to build your connection. Send each other check-in texts throughout the day, video chat for a few minutes on your lunch break, or talk over the phone when on your commute home.
- But also know when to put your devices away. During the “us time” that you carve out in your busy lives, make sure that technology isn’t getting between you. Come up with a technology agreement, which may involve leaving your phones out of reach while eating dinner together or charging phones outside of the bedroom.
- When you are together, make the most of it. Be intentional with the time you do get together so that every moment counts. Put your phones away, minimize distractions, be present, and fully engage with each other whenever you can.
Relationship problem #5 – Money and finances
Most couples have had some argument or another about money in the course of their relationship. The important thing to realize when it comes to problems surrounding money is that most of these arguments aren’t about money at all. In fact, as Kyle Benson with the Gottman Institute puts it, “They are about our dreams, our fears, and our inadequacies.”
Arguments surrounding money and finances often really come down to lack of clarity about the couples’ values and shared goals.5 To move through these arguments, you’ll need to do some deeper digging to understand what money means to each of you.
- Talk about your values and beliefs surrounding money. Invite conversations surrounding money to help each of you understand how the other views money and what it means to them. With this information, you can begin to create shared meaning and values around money that you can work with moving forward.
- Talk about short- and long-term goals together. Having shared goals about money is associated with relationship satisfaction.9 Come to some agreements about what you hope to accomplish together financially in both the short and long run so that you can work towards those goals together.
- Acknowledge differences and don’t blame. We all see money differently, and we all have different values. If we can agree to learn from each other and benefit from what each of us brings to the table, we can be much more successful together. Don’t blame, and focus on figuring out solutions that feel good to both of you instead.
- Be honest about the facts. If you are not being entirely honest about your financial situation or hiding debt, you’ll be unable to work out solutions with your partner. Make sure you are both up front about the financial situation at hand.