Having intermittent problems is a fairly standard part of any relationship. Navigating the various pitfalls and potholes that couples encounter along the way is no easy task. Finding solutions that work for your marriage is essential.
Still, commonalities exist. The lack of solutions tailored to individual relationship problems does not prevent us from examining some of the more generic issues faced by couples. Sometimes patterns of behavior repeat themselves. Where they do, the opportunity to apply generic solutions exists. Keeping an eye on these broad categories makes it so much easier to fill in the gaps when trouble crests the horizon
The Fine Line of Balancing Relationship
According to ancient Buddhist teachings balance, or "samatà," is an essential component of healthy spiritual well-being. The ability to counterpoise one virtue with another is a crucial skill to master if one wishes to avoid relationship problems. While both partners need to compensate for the other’s failings, it is also essential that they find a balance between their strengths.
Where both partners are capable of completing a given task, both must be allowed to utilize such talents. Thus, two "people persons," should share responsibility for communication outside the relationship. In a similar vein, those skilled at financial matters should enjoy co-equal responsibility for filing tax returns. Skilled cooks might want to consider taking turns in the kitchen. Those blessed with vast reservoirs of patience can share the duty of reasoning with unreasonable teenage angst and so on.
Relationship Problems in Blended Families
Within a blended family, the importance of balance is even more vital to the task of avoiding severe relationship problems. Normal every-day sibling rivalry compounded by extenuating factors can lead to acute problems.
Step-children who are not yet comfortable with the new arrangement need periods of adjustment with runtimes counted in months if not years. The sudden need to share the attention of their parent with other siblings can be jarring especially to younger children. In such instances, siblings often learn to manipulate parents by playing on the shared anxieties of the new family dynamic.
Discipline can quickly become a problem in such cases. Every parent provides their children with a different set of rules and boundaries. In blended families, these rules need to be re-negotiated to prevent relationship problems blossoming into full-on crises.
Scenarios, where children learn to make requests from a more lenient parent, are best avoided. If in doubt, double check with one another on a regular basis. Over time, try to develop an intuitive understanding of each other’s restrictions.
Exploring the Three Main Areas of Relationship Problems
Relationship problems can be broken down into three main areas: insecurity, intimacy, and infidelity. There exists within these categories several subcategories. In instances where relationship problems occurred as a result of infidelity, for example, resultant trust issues are widespread. Likewise, problems with sexual intimacy often go hand in hand with communication difficulties.
Insecurity can take many forms. Jealousy, anger, separation anxiety, and possessiveness can fracture the foundations of even the best relationships. At times, insecurity stems from real-world disparities. One partner might be more physically attractive, earn more money or exude greater charisma than the other. In other cases, insecurity is inherent. While both types of insecurity can be destructive, the latter can be much harder to correct.
In cases where insecurity stems from irrational or suppressed feelings, the warning signs are easy to spot. Frequent accusations, a tendency to invade private spaces such as a phone or email, or persistent proclamations of inadequacy are of grave concern.
Jealousy, in particular, can be challenging to navigate. Denials relating to unwarranted suspicion of infidelity are often disbelieved. A desire to control a person’s movements coupled with endless debriefings soon turns into wearisome routine.
Not that jealousy is restricted to suspicion over imagined romantic ventures. Partners can at times feel threatened by prominent figures in their other half’s life. The existence of a particularly close friendship or tight relationship with a sibling or parent sometimes leads to resentment on both sides. One half of the couple might sense that they always come second. The other half might feel they are being forced to choose between two or more people who are dear to them. As always finding a balance that works for both parties is essential.
At times, relationship problems formed from the ashes of insecurity cross over the line. While arguments are perfectly normal violence is not. Physical abuse covers a whole range of actions. Punching, shoving, spitting, throwing things at each other or any activity that causes harm or injury to another person is not only a sign that there is something seriously wrong with a relationship it might also be a felony.
Although domestic violence is a gendered crime that disproportionately targets women, men can also be the target of such abuses. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, between 1994 to 2010, roughly 4 in 5 victims of violence involving an intimate partner were female. Furthermore, instances of intimate partner violence against female victims of victimized by the same offender repeatedly are astonishing. Seventy-seven percent of females from age 18 to 24 have experienced repeated violence. In the 25 to 34 age group, the number is 76 percent. With older women, in the 35 to 49 age group, 81 percent are subjected to repeated intimate partner violence.
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Regardless of the circumstances, physical abuse is a sure sign that the relationship has derailed. An understanding of the psychology surrounding survivors of abuse is of critical importance. The tendency to forgive, minimize and mitigate is all too human. Safety comes first and at the point where violence begins to play a part in your relationship professional help must be sought out immediately.
Abuse of a nonphysical nature is more difficult to define. If, however, your partner's insecurity begins to damage your sense of well-being, it is possible that you are suffering from some form of mental or emotional abuse. In such cases, it is generally a good idea to seek some form of professional help.
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Maintaining a healthy sex life is one of the most critical aspects of a relationship. When one partner shows a lack of interest in sex, the other often feels rejected. As gaps between sexual energy, wants, and, desires broaden, relationship problems worsen. Nor is intimacy limited to sexual desire.
According to Dr. Anik Debrot, a sexual health expert from the University of Lausanne, generic affection is also of great importance. Everyday gestures such as touch, kissing, and hugs contribute to well being and relationship satisfaction.
Without the positive effects and emotional highs of healthy sexual activity relationships can become stale. Relationship counseling can help couples explore why their sex life has depreciated over time. Regardless, the ability to discuss issues without recrimination is a positive first step to getting things back on track.
Communication then is the key. Whatever the specific issue facing a couple the only way to solve them is by talking things over. Intimacy issues, as we have seen, require a delicate touch. Scenarios, where one partner feels pressured or guilted into doing things they are uncomfortable doing, are less than ideal.
Learning how to talk to one another without things escalating into an argument is a skill like any other. Difficulties that you are facing, when aired in the right way, are less of a burden when shared with your partner. Including your spouse in problem-solving can be a boon to general levels of intimacy. That you are your partner's confidant, their "go-to" person in times of need is an affirmation of their centrality.
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Spending good bonding time with your spouse is crucial to maintaining feelings of general intimacy. The concept of parallel play -- where you inhabit the same space but focus on separate tasks -- is not taboo. However, although activities outside of the relationship are essential, couples should make sure that they also do things together. Everyday chores do not count. Instead, time needs to be set aside for non-essential activities.
Intimacy needs space to breathe. Setting aside time for you and your partner to do things together sometimes requires some progressive thought. Finding a balance between work and play can be tricky at the best of times; in the case of a relationship, it is essential to include your partner in the latter half of that equation.
Whether you set aside designated date nights or make a concerted effort to find common interests the simple act of making an effort is likely to strengthen bonds of intimacy.
For many, the thought of their partner being unfaithful is something of a worst case scenario. When a relationship begins to fragment, the temptation to seek intimacy from an external source increases exponentially. According to data from the recent General Social Survey, men are more likely than women to cheat: 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women reported that they had had sex with someone other than their spouse while married.
Coping with infidelity can be challenging to say the least. For many, infidelity is such an absolute betrayal that it marks the end of the relationship altogether. Still, some couples seek to move past such transgressions. In these cases, it is essential that both partners appreciate the need for a period of adjustment. Emotional hurt needs both time and space to heal, and professional marriage counseling can provide both those things.
Recriminations, however, cannot last forever. Where a couple chooses to work at their relationship problems in the wake of infidelity they should set themselves the goal of eventual forgiveness.
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Even in those relationships where infidelity has not occurred trust can be a serious issue. Although trust issues stem at times from the insecurities of one or both partners, it is also something that can manifest in separate, organic ways.
Building trust takes time. During the early days of a relationship, trust builds via internal observation. We come to rely on our partners by learning their reactions to specific events or challenges. Thus a foundation of trust based on experience acts as the foundation of any given relationship.
In cases where one half of the couple does not feel they can rely on the other -- be it down to infidelity, financial matters or anything else -- relationship problems tend to aggravate. Learning to anticipate your spouse’s needs is a good step towards fixing this. Having the knowledge that your partner will be there for you in a given situation is an essential aspect of re-building trust issues.
Recovering from Relationship Problems
There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. No matter how tight the bonds between two people are tied, the realities of life can loosen them. At times, the problems couples face are handled best together. At other times seeking help with your relationship problems is essential.
Couples can mitigate financial worries by budgeting. Increased intimacy in other areas of their lives has a positive impact on trust issues. Insecurities might require regular discussions to allay fears. At other times, they might be so entrenched as to require professional intervention and exploration.
The key to solving relationship problems remains the same regardless of specific variations on the theme. Couples need to identify the problem in the first instance and then work on a solution in the second. In some cases, the problem requires professional intervention. In others, couples possess the skills needed to address the relationship problems themselves.
Regardless, it is vital that couples address relationship problems as soon as they surface. By ignoring the inconsistencies of everyday relationships, even small problems can fester. Issues best resolved in an afternoon might bloom into significant blowups further down the line.