By Jessica Goodman
No romantic relationship is perfect. It’s extremely normal to have conflicts in your bond, no matter your age, the length of your partnership, or how secure you think you two are. In fact, “a relationship without any conflict or disagreement may not be a very honest or connected relationship,” says therapist Whitney Goodman.
But having issues can be stressful, and if left unaddressed, everyday problems can create deeper rifts between partners. Here are five very common relationship problems, and ways you can tackle them as a couple.
There’s a breakdown in communication
Lacking solid communication can happen to any couple. “You’re going to have days where you’re tired and short with each other,” says Goodman. “And there will be seasons in your relationship where you argue more.” Other signs of poor communication might be consistent bickering or lots of misunderstandings. To help reestablish better communication, evaluate the way you and your partner are speaking to one another. Are you being defensive or cruel? Then try to discuss those observations with one another. Come to that conversation with a positive attitude and an intention about what you hope to achieve, suggests existential psychotherapist Sara Kubric. “Oftentimes, unless our intention is to deepen our understanding and connection, the conversation can become detrimental.”
Feeling really distant from one another
Feeling a lack of connection could be tied to anything, like work problems, family stress, and mental health struggles. But even if the root has nothing to do with your relationship, emotional distance becomes an issue because it can erode your bond or cause you to seek connection elsewhere, which could create feelings of resentment or frustration. Even though it’s tough, talking about that distance can help reestablish your closeness. “Make sure that you pick a time when you’re both calm,” says Goodman. “You can bring up the topic by saying, ‘I’ve noticed we’ve really been struggling with feeling distant from one another. Have you noticed that too?’” Having an open and honest conversation should help you two move forward and find moments of connection again.
Not having fun together
Yes, relationships can be tough but they’re also supposed to be fun. If you find yourself at an event with your partner that you were really looking forward to—like a wedding, a party, or a hard-earned romantic vacation—but can’t seem to enjoy yourself, that’s a sign that something may be off between you two, says Goodman. The lack of fun can sometimes be attributed to tumultuous periods in your life, like a particularly busy schedule or feelings of depression or anxiety. You can try to address this issue by asking your partner to do something that you know is always fun for you two—like dining at your favorite restaurant or going on your favorite hike. Having consistent activities that you can fall back on will help remind you of all the good times you’ve experienced together, and that you actually do enjoy one another’s company.
You don’t trust your partner
Trust is one of the key ingredients to any strong and healthy relationship, and when that disintegrates, it can rupture your connection. The best way to address this is to initiate a tough, straight-forward convo about why you might have lost trust in them. “If something’s not working for you, you have a right to bring it up and to work through it,” says therapist Amanda White. Plus, if you don’t bring it up, you may be left feeling resentful, which can only further hurt your bond. “People are so afraid to admit that they’re struggling that they wait and they push it off and they ignore it. And then it becomes a much bigger issue,” says White. Addressing the lack of trust head-on and explaining what you need in order to move forward will help you build it back.
You fear your partner might break up with you
This issue is particularly common in newer partnerships where you may not have defined the relationship, leaving you wondering where you stand. “It’s hard to feel fully comfortable in that kind of relationship if both people are not at the same place with commitment,” says psychotherapist Rachel Sussman. Doubting your connection or feeling as though you’re going to be broken up with might also occur if you’ve been seeing each other for a while but your partner leaves you out of big plans like a family gathering or a cross-country move. To address this issue, “you have to be brave and not worry so much about the result,” says Sussman. “If you don’t bring up your feelings, you get into a pattern of not saying what you need to say.”
Explain to your partner how you’re feeling. For example, if they planned to move across the country without you, you might say, “I felt hurt that you left me out of your relocation plans. I just want to get on the same page about our relationship. Where do you see this going?” But like Sussman said, you may have to brace for news you don’t want to hear. And if that’s the case, you’ll be better off knowing their feelings instead of being left in the dark.
All relationships have their rough patches, but if your bond is built on trust and respect, and you’re both down to have hard, healthy conversations, going through these tough times will only make you two stronger.