As diverse as every happy couple’s relationship can be, all relationships have certain solvable – as well as unsolvable – problems.
In my opinion, some of the most common and solvable relationship conflicts for couples center around technology, stress from work, money, and household chores.
In order for a true bond to flourish and deepen, the partners in the relationship need to undergo and accomplish certain emotional tasks together. This creates a rich understanding between the couple. A relationship thrives on this mutual understanding, so long as both individuals want to feel safe and secure in it.
If those tasks are not realised, the partners no longer feel like a safe haven for one another when life gets chaotic. Instead, they make the chaos of life seem even more intense.
Here, I will share with you four of the most common challenges couples face, as well as some practical advice for effectively dealing with them.
1. Disconnecting From Distractions
In this technological day and age, with our attention spread so thin, maintaining meaningful emotional connection and intimacy has become a tough feat for many couples.
Reflect for a moment and consider:
How much time do you think couples spend, or should spend, talking with one another?
Shockingly, in a research study done on young couples living in L.A., the average amount of time the partners engaged in undivided face-to-face conversation added up to 35 minutes a week!
To make matters worse, the large bulk of this time was spent discussing errands and menial responsibilities – instead of the actual relationship! Viewing your relationship as second place will leave both of you feeling lonely.
Of course there exist a multitude of communication issues with varying causes, but a common offender in the world we live in today is that of our digital devices. With all the notifications and things we need to react and respond to, we have become distracted from the real connection that is right in front of us.
If your partner expresses to you that you’re more focused on your phone than on your relationship, this is not an issue you should just brush off (even if you disagree with it). Consider sitting down together and coming up with some kind of “tech-agreement”. Maybe it could involve a rule that both of you won’t check emails, texts, or social media during specific points in the day – for example, date night or dinner time. Commit to using that time to talk, catch up, and connect with each other. Make sure that the agreement works fairly and well for both parties.
2. Bringing Work Stress Home
Let’s say, Sarah and Mike are a couple who have been in a relationship for a few years.
Sarah has a massive deadline due for the next day, and so she knows she’ll be up late that night. On her arrival home from work, she finds that Mike has (mistakenly) moved all of her meticulously organized notes into one big messy pile. She gets pissed, and lashes out at him.
Mike, who has a boss from hell and has had a highly frustrating day at work, comes home to find the fridge almost empty, with a couple of slices of leftover pizza. He gets pissed and demands why she didn’t stop at the grocery store like she’d promised…
They both shout at each other simultaneously: “What the hell is wrong with you?”
The real question they should be asking each other, though, is “What the hell is going wrong between us?”
They’re living out the typical example of bringing their work stress home with them, and they’re allowing it to sabotage their relationship.
If you find yourself snapping and getting annoyed by something your partner does, recognize and accept that your feelings are probably coming from somewhere other than your partner.
If your partner is offhand or rude towards you, don’t take it personally! Let it go for the moment, and understand that they have most likely just had a shitty day. Reacting is simply going to make things worse.
Even better – use this as an opportunity to go off and decompress by yourself before you try and connect with them. Go to the gym, go for a run, get outside and meditate!
Whatever ritual or activity works for you, once you’re feeling at a relaxed and calm state, you should then be “ready” to connect. Sit down with your partner; express the highs and lows of your day and your emotional state. Offer an understanding and supportive space for one another.
Scheduling or time-blocking a formal “venting session” will help prevent the spillover of everyday stress into your relationship!
Money is responsible for being one of the most common areas of conflict in marriage. This might involve figuring out how to spend it, or how to save it for the things that genuinely matter.
Regardless of whether your bank account is full or whether you’re just scraping by at the end of each month, there’s bound to be some conflict over money at one point or another. This is because (as fucked up as the reality of it is); money can be symbolic of our emotional needs. Finding a way to balance the emotional realities of money can be hard work for any partnership seeing as though feelings about money are so personal.
News flash: most arguments about money are not actually about money…
Get underneath the number value to understand exactly what money means to each of you, individually.
Before creating a budget, get together and have a seriously constructive conversation about money, discussing any financial gridlock issues. Then move on to prioritizing your spending, and set out an action plan together for complete financial freedom.
When one partner starts to feel as though they’re doing the majority of all the household chores, issues that crop up can have an impact on many different aspects of the relationship. That one partner may be left feeling somewhat disrespected and unsupported, leading to resentment and a dissatisfying relationship.
Remember that it’s the 21stcentury here, and most of the time both partners have full-time jobs, so any “gender-role” bullshit or stereotypes ain’t gonna fly.
Have a “meeting” about housework, splitting up the chores in a way that feel fair to both of you. Write it up in a list, and stick it on the fridge! Use the list to talk about how things are currently being handled, and how you would like things to be handled.
Fun fact: according to Dr. John Gottman, “women find a man’s willingness to do housework extremely erotic.” When a man is doing his share in maintaining his domestic duties, both partners report a more fulfilling than in relationships where the woman finds that the man is not doing his share.
As you can see, all of the solutions to these problems have one common thread:
Stay aware of these “problems”, and crush them before they destroy your relationship!