January 2, 2014

Therapy Thursday: Common Relationship Issues and How to Resolve Them

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All couples face issues in their relationships. Most issues between committed relationships stem from poor communication. Some issues are bigger than others and some issues are easier to resolve than others. Some of the more common relationship issues that arise are related to money, housework, technology, and miss communication.

Issue: The issue of money in a relationship can arise at any time. Most couples are introduced to it after marriage. That makes perfect sense as newlyweds tend to be younger so in addition to the bills from their recent nuptials they most likely have student loans that are piling up.

Solution: Be honest with each other about your finances. If you have outstanding bills tell your partner about them. Do not hide tax or debt. Set up goal for each other and plan ahead for the future. Construct a budget and choose someone to be the bill payer. Do not place blame or approach a situation having to do with money when you’re mad. Always throw in some discretional independence so you can both have your own money to spend on whatever your heart desires.

Issue: Techno-Incompatibility or sharing different values, behaviors, and appropriate use of communication technology. When this happens a couple will tend to disagree on things like calling or texting to deal with relationship issues, they may share different ideas about what is acceptable to share about the relationship on social media. Tension will arise in the household when both individuals have different expectations towards technology. Sometimes media can be shared experience like going to the movies, playing a video game together, or watching TV together. This kind of traditional media can actually help couples bond. However, other types of media can create problems. Mobile phones are at the top of the problem list for technological items causing issues in relationships. When one person uses their phone in the presence of the other it is taking away from shared activity together. In other words the person using the phone is swapping we time for me time. This begins to happen more often than not and becomes a huge issue in relationships. If your partner is chronically on their cell phone then every time they use their phone they are sending you a non-verbal message that their time with you is not valuable, or special, or interesting enough for them to put me time on hold.

Solution: Have an explicit conversation with your partner to establish relational rules about technology use. If your partner is addicted to their cell or iPad then leave it in the car when you go out or at least leave it in your purse or pocket. Do not set the phone on the table unless it is in an emergency. Create a list of special circumstances or emergencies so you and your partner will be on the same page. Just remember when in doubt, put the phone down.

Issue: Miss Communication or selective hearing. Think back to the first month of a new relationship. At that time you are hanging on every word your partner says and find it all utterly fascinating. So what happens? The honeymoon fades and time passes. People become distracted with things in their lives. They worry about money, work, their family, etc. When you have all these issues yourself it becomes hard to sit and listen to your partner talk about these issues and how much they affect his/her well-being. You begin to tune each other out.

Solution: If you have selective hearing make it a point to pay attention and really listen to what your partner has to say. Offer a shoulder to cry on and advice when needed. This shouldn’t be one sided either it should be a joint effort. Take turns talking and listening to each other until you feel comfortable in knowing your partner has heard you and has done all he/she can do to help. Communication is the key to every successful relationship.

Issue: Housework or a lack thereof. According to a university of Michigan study, having a husband creates an extra 7 hours of housework a week for women. Wives begin to feel unsupported while doing dishes, dusting, vacuuming, washing and putting away clothes. The problem is that men model behavior they grew up with. If your man was raised with a maid or his mother did all the housework then he will continue to think that is the way it’s supposed to be.

Solution: Tell him how important it is to you that he pitches in. Tell him about this study by Gottman’s: When husbands do their share to maintain the home, the couples in the study report a more satisfied sex life.
When dealing with any problem or issue that may arise in your relationship just remember to sit back, relax, and take the simplest approach possible. First, you need to figure out what exactly is bothering you. If it happens to be a lot of things, focus on one at a time. Second, talk about your needs and express what you want from your partner. Be sure you are very detailed when explaining what is bothering you. For Ex: Instead of saying “You are a slob” you should say “I need you to pick up your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper”. Third, acknowledge your partner and do not get defensive. Make sure you listen and stay away from the defense. Tell your partner you are there for them and will do whatever they need you to. Fourth, negotiate with your partner. It takes two and if you do something nice for them maybe they can do something nice for you. Along with communication, relationships are all about compromise. Lastly, always finish what you started. Follow through on your promises. Do your part and make sure they are doing theirs as well. You and your partner are a team so you need to act that way. Be sensitive, consistent, don’t overreact, carry your share, be a good listener, don’t dig up old issues, don’t overreact, don’t place blame, be on time, do what you say you are going to do, and always call if plans change and you are going to be late. Nothing good comes easy. Relationships are hard work but the payoff is what life is all about. Keep an open heart and mind and your relationship will last the test of time.




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