Growing up, we consume a lot of images of what relationships “should” look like. Women should receive flowers every day, men should receive a home cooked meal every night, and both should be completely aware of the other person’s needs without them saying a word.
Healthy relationships today look nothing like this. Romantic partners vary in gender and number for some people, throwing a wrench in the whole “women do this” and “men do that” training manual we were taught as kids.
While the perfect relationship may not exist, many different kinds of healthy relationships do. Let’s talk about the most common relationship challenges and how you can work through them.
1. Letting Resentment Build
Not every disagreement is a sign that the relationship is falling apart or not “meant to be”.
If you tend to hold back honest feelings out of fear of breaking up, you might need to adjust how you see conflict in relationships.
Every relationship has conflict. You may cook differently, prefer different bedtimes, or enjoy different TV shows. Disagreeing with each other or struggling to find a compromise is a part of learning how to live together and love each other. Just make sure you’re communicating in healthy, productive ways.
Be specific about your needs and stay away from all-or-nothing statements like, “You always leave the cabinet doors open.” Instead try, “I’m sure you don’t mean to, but could you remember to close the cabinet doors? It stresses me out when the kitchen isn’t orderly.”
2. Putting Up Emotional Walls
Vulnerability is scary. However, having one person in life who you are vulnerable with can make you feel safer overall, not exposed.
Some people even require emotional intimacy to tap into their sexuality. If you struggle to enjoy sex with your partner, try to open up to them more.
The goal is to feel deeply understood by your partner. If talking about your inner thoughts and feelings makes you anxious, start by spending more time together. Go on walks, play games, or attend an event.
Doing physical activities together can help you feel more in sync with your partner, allowing you to trust them more with personal, sensitive information.
While it’s important to support your partner emotionally, the burden should not be on you to meet all of their emotional needs. There’s a fine line between showing you care and trying to control their feelings.
Allow your partner to feel the full scope of their emotions—if they’re frustrated, let them vent! If they’re upset, let them know it’s okay to cry. Try not to make everything better before they’ve explored what they need to, as this can cause distance between you and delay emotional growth.
If they seem to be coming to you with every problem they have, try suggesting ways they can cope by themselves. Instead of offering advice, simply suggest, “Do you want to listen to your favorite album together?”
This will help them learn to cope without relying on you “fixing” them.
4. Assigning Blame
We all fall victim to perfectionism from time to time, but in relationships, it only distracts from all that is good. It can also lead to feelings of worthlessness as a partner.
Make the goal be about getting your partner to open up. Avoid pointing fingers or making assumptions like, “You obviously don’t care about me because you didn’t say anything to me all night.”
Instead, communicate with compassion. Try something like, “You seemed quieter than normal tonight. I really wanted to talk to you at the party. Is something going on?”
With practice, you and your partner can overcome common conflicts like these and achieve true, deep feelings of intimacy. To learn more about where room for improvement exists in your relationship, reach out to one of our expert counselors today for individual or couples therapy.