When we’re on our own, it’s easy to fantasize about how much better life will be once we find the perfect mate. We imagine romantic times together, sex anytime we want it, and the comfort of having that special someone who offers support whenever we need it.
While being in a couple can be fantastic, marriage and other close relationships can be challenging, too. So much happens within an intimate partnership that people don’t share with others, especially when they’ve been together a long time. In fact, couples not even admit that these issues exist when they’re talking to one another – which makes it hard, if not impossible, to find solutions.
Here are 5 of the most common problems couples face but don’t necessarily talk about.
So often, little things that happen on an everyday basis bother us intensely, but we don’t want to make a big deal of it. So we ignore the dirty dishes or the bills that get paid late. We wait for our partner to notice the problem – but when he or she doesn’t, we feel even angrier.
Making sure we communicate our wants, needs, and priorities is central to all relationships. Storing issues for later won’t get them resolved. Each partner needs to learn to speak up and say exactly what he or she means. Doing this in an open, matter of fact way opens the door for improvement.
- FIGHTING FAIRLY
When we do get around to communicating — or at least trying to — things don’t always go perfectly. Many couples find themselves screaming, blaming, bullying and name-calling as they struggle to get their point across.
This is an outcome of the first problem on our list — communication. When partners try to tiptoe around each other without clearly stating what they want, fights can easily break out. Our spouse or partner hears that negative tone in our voice and responds in kind, and things spiral out of control because we don’t know how to disagree in a fair manner.
Instead of lashing out, revisit the topic once your emotions have settled. But don’t let that be an excuse to forget the whole thing. If you never circle back, the issue will continue to cause conflict.
Finances are high on the list of issues that cause friction, even in the best partnerships. Even if both of you make good money, you will still have to agree on spending priorities. And all of us come into relationships with different ideas about how money should be spent, saved or invested.
This topic tends to bring up unexpected emotions. Some people feel guilty, failure, and shame around finances, while others “keep score” by what they earn and identify closely with what money can buy them. Others feel that talking about money at all is distasteful, and they avoid bringing it up at all costs.
The only way to avoid conflict is to actively explore each other’s attitudes about money, preferably in the early stages of your relationship. Your discussions should lead to a sense of mutual respect and a budget that gives you both freedom and guidelines to follow.
Why is your partner so secretive about his family? Who is your wife texting all the time? What about that receipt you found in your partner’s purse or pocket – the one from a restaurant you’ve never visited together?
Questions like these indicate a lack of trust between you, an issue that is common to many couples. When it’s not safe to ask, trust breaks down – which can be fatal to almost any relationship.
Being trustworthy means being open with your spouse or partner. This begins with sharing your thoughts, plans, and wishes and being someone s/he can rely on. Transparency goes a long way. When one of you is anxious, the other one should be ready to answer questions and provide reassurance without getting defensive.
It’s easy to look at any loving couple holding hands at the movies or chatting in a café and assume they have a great sex life. But more often than not, they’re having issues just like the rest of us.
Many couples are unsatisfied with their sex lives. Conflicts arise when there’s too little intimacy or when things become dull and predictable. There’s a natural settling in long-term relationships that often blunts the sense of adventure you had in the beginning. Starting a family and navigating your way through stress or illness can affect your sex life, too.
When this happens, it’s helpful to remember that intimacy begins with simple closeness. When partners feel alienated from one another, they lack the emotional connection that leads to satisfying sex. This can cause partners to lash out in anger or withdraw from one another.
The way forward is to remember that sex can only be as rich and rewarding as the relationship itself. Cultivating closeness by making time for one another, sharing intimate feelings and being physically affectionate are all ways of healing your sexual relationship.
TAKE THE FIRST STEP TOWARD THE RELATIONSHIP YOU WANT
As an experienced therapist working with individuals and couples in the Edmonton area, I can help you explore the issues that are hardest to address. You’ll be surprised to find how much easier it is to connect when a skilled, compassionate counsellor is guiding the process. Contact me now to schedule a session at a time that’s convenient for you.