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Spread the love
It’s the rare couple that
doesn’t run into a few bumps in the road. If you recognize ahead of time,
though, what those relationship problems might be,
you’ll have a much better
chance of getting past them.
Even though every
relationship has its ups and downs, successful couples have learned how to
manage the bumps and keep their love life going, says marriage and family
therapist Mitch Temple, author of The Marriage Turnaround. They hang in there,
tackle problems, and learn how to work through the complex issues of everyday
life. Many do this by reading self-help books and articles, attending seminars,
going to counseling, observing other successful couples, or simply using trial
and error.
Relationship Problem: Communication
All relationship problems
stem from poor communication, 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,” she
Problem-solving strategies:
Make an actual appointment
with each other, Shimberg says. If you live together, put the cell phones on
vibrate, 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
the library, park, or restaurant where you’d be embarrassed if anyone saw you
Set up some rules. Try not
to interrupt until your partner is through speaking, or ban phrases such as
“You always …” or “You never ….”
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. For instance, say, “What I hear
you saying is that you feel as though you have more chores at home, even though
we’re both working.” If you’re right, the other can confirm. If what the
other person really meant was, “Hey, you’re a slob and you create more
work for me by having to pick up after you,” he or she can say so, but in
a nicer way.
Relationship Problem: Sex
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.”
Problem-solving strategies:
Plan, plan, plan. Fay suggests
making an appointment, but not necessarily at night when everyone is tired.
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. “When sex is on the calendar, it increases your
anticipation,” Fay says. Changing things up a bit can make sex more fun,
too, she says. Why not have sex in the kitchen? Or by the fire? Or standing up
in the hallway?
Learn what truly turns you
and your partner on by each of you coming up with a personal “Sexy
List,” suggests California psychotherapist Allison Cohen. Swap the lists
and use them to create more scenarios that turn you both on.
If your sexual
relationship problems can’t be resolved on your own, Fay recommends consulting
a qualified sex therapist to help you both address and resolve your issues.
Relationship Problem: Money
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.
Problem-solving strategies:
Be honest about your
current financial situation. If things have gone south, continuing the same
lifestyle is unrealistic.
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.
Acknowledge that one
partner may be a saver and one a spender, understand there are benefits to
both, and agree to learn from each other’s tendencies.
Don’t hide income or debt.
Bring financial documents, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank
statements, insurance policies, debts, and investments to the table.
Don’t blame.
Construct a joint budget
that includes savings.
Decide which person will
be responsible for paying the monthly bills.
Allow each person to have
independence by setting aside money to be spent at his or her discretion.
Decide upon short-term and
long-term goals. It’s OK to have individual goals, but you should have family
goals, too.
Talk about caring for your
parents as they age and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs if
Relationship Problem: Struggles Over Home Chores
Most partners work outside
the home and often at more than one job. So it’s important to fairly divide the
labor at home, says Paulette Kouffman-Sherman, author of Dating From the Inside
Problem-solving strategies:
Be organized and clear
about your respective jobs in the home, Kouffman-Sherman says. “Write all
the jobs down and agree on who does what.” Be fair so no resentment
Be open to other
solutions, she says. If you both hate housework, maybe you can spring for a
cleaning service. If one of you likes housework, the other partner can do the
laundry and the yard. You can be creative and take preferences into account —
as long as it feels fair to both of you.
If you want to keep your
love life going, making your relationship a focal point should not end when you
say “I do.” “Relationships lose their luster. So make yours a
priority,” says Karen Sherman, author of Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It,
and Make It Last.
Problem-solving strategies:
Do the things you used to
do when you were first dating: Show appreciation, complement each other,
contact each other through the day, and show interest in each other.
Plan date nights. Schedule
time together on the calendar just as you would any other important event in
your life.
Respect one another. Say
“thank you,” and “I appreciate…” It lets your partner
know that they matter.
Relationship Problem: Conflict
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 starring in your own nightmare version of
the movie Groundhog Day — i.e. the same lousy situations keep repeating day
after day — 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.
Problem-solving strategies:
You and your partner can
learn to argue in a more civil, helpful manner, Silverman says. Make these
strategies part of who you are in this relationship.
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? If your comments are
blaming and hurtful, it’s best to take a deep breath and change your strategy.
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. If you usually jump right in to defend yourself before
your partner is finished speaking, hold off for a few moments. You’ll be
surprised at how such a small shift in tempo can change the whole tone of an
Give a little; get a lot.
Apologize when you’re wrong. Sure it’s tough, but just try it and watch
something wonderful happen.
“You can’t control
anyone else’s behavior,” Silverman says. “The only one in your charge
is you.”
Relationship Problem: Trust
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
Problem-solving strategies:
You and your partner can
develop trust in each other by following these tips, Fay says.
Be consistent.
Be on time.
Do what you say you will
Don’t lie — not even
little white lies to your partner or to others.
Be fair, even in an
Be sensitive to the
other’s feelings. You can still disagree, but don’t discount how your partner is
Call when you say you
Call to say you’ll be home
Carry your fair share of
the workload.
Don’t overreact when
things go wrong.
Never say things you can’t
take back.
Don’t dig up old wounds.
Respect your partner’s
Don’t be jealous.
Be a good listener.
Even though there are
always going to be problems in a relationship, Sherman says you both can do
things to minimize marriage problems, if not avoid them altogether.
First, be realistic.
Thinking your mate will meet all your needs — and will be able to figure them
out without your asking — is a Hollywood fantasy. “Ask for what you need
directly,” Fay says.

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