These Relationship Problems Are More Common Than You Think
Remember when the biggest problem in your relationship was which sandbox you were going to get married in?
Things have only gotten more complicated since then. Today we have to battle social media, dodge god-awful Tinder bullets, and come to terms with ever-sinking expectations. Then when we do find love, there's rarely a yellow brick road to Emerald City in front of us. Every relationship comes with its fair share of issues. But what's normal, and what's a deal-breaker?
Well, it turns out things might not be as bad as you think. We talked to licensed psychologists and relationship experts to find out the most common problems couples face. And odds are, you've encountered a lot of them. See? It's not you. It's everyone.
Here are the most common relationship issues, according to the pros who treat them.
Assuming you want the same things
First offense are assumptions, which apparently really do make an ass out of you. And the rest of us. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to blindly believing your partner wants what you want -- and getting hung up on unrealistic expectations and assumptions for how your relationship should be.
"I think a lot of people automatically assume the person they're with is on the same path as them… because why wouldn't they be, especially if there's chemistry?" says psychologist and dating expert Jennifer B. Rhodes. "We have the luxury of choice, to really choose our own life partners, whether we want to get married… so you have to be really clear about what it is you want."
Once you've avoided ending up with someone who doesn't want the same things as you, you still need to communicate your needs every step of the way. "We aren't mind readers, although sometimes we expect our partners to be," says psychologist and relationship therapist Janna Koretz. "For example, did you ever actually tell him that you wanted him to call to let you know when he was coming home? To you that might have been obvious, but your partner doesn't come from the same background and it might not be obvious to them."
Things can get messy fast when couples don't work together from the start to set appropriate expectations of each other and the relationship.
"People start communicating and acting from a place that a relationship should be 'X, Y, and Z,'" Rhodes says, "and then you come to realize the two people in a relationship have completely different ideas of what the ideal relationship looks like. That leads to miscommunication, disappointment, and unrealistic expectations. You want to hash it out so you can move forward."
Thinking a relationship will make you whole
Spoiler alert: No one can fill every void for you. And according to Rhodes, not embracing and exploring your own individuality and figuring out what you want leads to a lot of people on her couch, upset their partners don't make them feel whole.
"I've known couples who had a really beautiful courtship, and then ended up in a sexless marriage," Rhodes says. "And they’re like, 'What the fuck happened?' What happened is they lost themselves. They stopped doing the things that made them happy when they were single; whether that was dancing, painting, or just having their weekly girls night out. Stopping all of those things puts too much pressure on your partner."
Threatening to leave
You might have thought that threat you kept in your back pocket as a hot-headed 20-something was clever. You were wrong.
"One of the biggest mistakes a couple can make is allowing threats of divorce to come in during arguments," says psychotherapist and relationship expert Denise Limongello. "Studies show that threats of divorce or splitting up can weaken trust and make both parties feel unsafe in the relationship. Establishing a ground rule against threatening a breakup during a fight can be a terrific safety measure for you both in keeping you feeling safe and committed to each other."
Talking too much
Not to stereotype gender roles, but to stereotype roles (just for a second): Women generally like to talk things out more than men.
But here's the thing we sometimes forget: There's a lot of communication that happens without words. In fact, Rhodes says talking too much can actually prevent you from learning about your partner.
"Men do communicate, it's just in a different style than women prefer," Rhodes says. "Women are highly verbal, men tend to communicate more toward behavior or actions. Women will sometimes over-function and force their partner to talk about things when in reality if they kind of just stop there in the present moment, they would be able to read what was going on much better. Everyone is working hard at moving really fast; I don't think many couples are able to be in the present mindful moment to really read what's really going on. And when you're not mindful, you start reacting to the littlest things -- or pulling from your own life experiences rather than understanding where your partner is coming from."
Panicking when the honeymoon phase ends
I've always had a theory that a relationship tends to take a turn around the 1.5-year mark. You know the drill: The heat dies down, you become more partners than lovers, and before you know it you're getting Dutch-ovened more than sexed in the bed. Turns out, I'm spot-on.
"Around the second year, there's a natural transition biochemically from that feeling of being in love to feeling more like they are evening out," Rhodes says. "Many people misinterpret that as they are no longer in love with the person, rather than understanding what a long-term trajectory of a relationship is... it becomes psychologically driven. If you're emotionally healthy, you'll have no problem transitioning to this phase. But if you're not ready or don't recognize that's what's going on, it may not work. Many people bolt in year two, and then just repeat it with someone else."
Moving in together too soon
Some swear by cohabitating before sealing the deal (how else to determine whether your partner is a closeted Twilight fan?). But studies show that couples who cohabitate before marriage are less likely to end up married than those who don't. Rhodes says even if you're not ready for marriage, consider pumping the brakes until you both know you're building a future together.
"I'm a big proponent of not moving in until there is a commitment -- whether that's an engagement, or at least a discussion about a significant commitment," she says. "Waiting for this can lead to a more successful marriage. I've worked with a lot of couples who have moved in because the rent is just too high and they want to save money. Then, after living together they realize they're not ready for that kind of commitment. And it might have been a good and solid relationship beforehand had they taken more time to court each other and date."
Skipping date night
If you've heard it once, you've heard it, well, more than once. If you take date night out of your routine, you won't feel as energetic or genuinely good about yourself or your partner. Start skipping it too much, and you're teetering dangerously close to the "letting yourself go" zone.
"With today's hectic world, most couples often have to carve out time alone, particularly when demanding careers or children are involved," says Limongello. "Happily married couples often report making date night a priority as a leading reason for satisfaction within the marriage."
Partying while your partner chills (or vice versa)
This issue can seriously come out of nowhere. And that's primarily because if you're like me, you never thought you'd one day prefer to be home in your PJs before 9pm on a Saturday. But hey, things change! Especially hangovers, which seem to only grow worse. My boyfriend on the other hand? He still has the stamina for multiple nights out in a row. And according to Rhodes, this is a common source of tension for couples.
"You may have met when you were younger, and you were going out a lot," she says. "And then a few years later, one of you would rather stay in and read a book and recharge your batteries, while the other one is extroverted and needs to be out with people. Those things have to be negotiated."
Said agreement could be to venture out together once a week, spending one night in together, and not making any other outings or nights in a requirement. The clincher, of course, is not holding what happens those other five nights against your partner.
Not owning up to your mistakes
If Justin Bieber can pen an entire song about being "Sorry," than you'd think it would be easy for the rest of us to admit it when we mess up.
Except, that's total crap. And even the relationship pros admit lack of apologizing plagues practically every couple from the dawn of time.
"One of the hardest things for people to do is 'own' their part of the conflict," Koretz says. "Acknowledging and sincerely apologizing for your part of the conflict helps the other person do the same and it takes the affect down, ultimately helping to resolve the issue in a more calm and rational way."
Sweating the small stuff
Not that putting toilet paper on the roll isn't a big deal, but Koretz stresses the importance of not blowing up over everyday annoyances. Because if you hadn't noticed, there are a lot of them. Pace yourselves.
"Although it may be quite irritating for you when your partner leaves their socks all over the floor, reflecting on how important that particular nuisance is is a good idea," Koretz says. "We all have to pick and choose our battles. Our partners will never be exactly how we would like them to be. Being focused on every little thing that our partner does to annoy us will only lead to nitpicking and conflict."
Yeah, because I always wash the dishes perfectly, never leave K-Cups in the Keurig to potentially mold, and am obviously an excellent driver.
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