Relationship problems tend to boil down to a few over-arching themes. Most romances break up due to the same recurring problems. An otherwise healthy relationship might have unique stresses because it suddenly becomes a long-distance romance, but couples who live together or who see each other every day tend to face the same general issues.
These relationship problems tend to involve lack of communication, sexual relations, mixed priorities, trust, and conflict resolution. All of these apply to married couples, but marriages also tend to have two other points of conflict: money issues and household responsibilities. So let's look at all of these and see how each can be managed.
Most problems in a relationship happen when the couple stops communicating with one another. The two of you may continue to talk, but your talks are likely to devolve into arguments, mutual recriminations, and tensions. Talking is only part of communication. To communicate, you have to be able to convey your real feelings and emotions to your relationship partner, while listening and understanding the ideas and issues your partner finds important.
Listening is one skill that marriage counseling teaches. Most people believe good communication is about convincing people your ideas are right, but this only works if the listener is willing to listen, keep an open mind, comprehend, empathize, and understand. Most people aren't naturally receptive to those things, because they have set opinions about most everything in life, even if they don't think about them or talk about them often.
Communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship. This lets the two of you become closer sexually, resolve any priority issues, resolve conflicts, establish trust, figure out a plan for your money problems, and set up a sensible system of domestic responsibilities. Communication touches every other part of your relationship.
Sex issues tend to dominate relationships that go bad. Couples with great sex lives can break up because everything else in the relationship is a disaster, but couples who enjoy intimacy regularly and are sexually fulfilled tend to find ways to resolve other issues. Think about it: sexual intimacy is the #1 way your relationship with your girlfriend, boyfriend, lover, or spouse differs from most other relationships you have in life. So if you want to have a healthy romantic relationship, a healthy sex life tends to be essential. Often, life in the bedroom is the spectrum your view your relationship through. Sex is also the way we reaffirm our relationship bonds.
Every person alive has a slightly different set of priorities. For instance, let's talk about the last two issues I discussed. Maybe man views his sex life as the #1 priority in his relationship, while having rapport with his girlfriend is less important. Maybe the woman views rapport and emotional intimacy as more important than sex, though she also wants to be sexually fulfilled. Both people have different priorities in what they want from this relationship.
That's not always a bad thing, but getting your priorities straight is important to having a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Communicate to your partner what it is you find key to this relationship, while encouraging your romantic partner to do the same. Once you have a frank and open discussion of priorities, the two of you can start to get on the same page.
This may take some negotiation and adjustment. Understand that your lover's priorities are just as important to the relationship as yours. If you go the extra step to make sure her priorities are met and she takes steps to see your priorities are realized, the two of you can find contentment in the relationship. While your priorities don't have to coincide completely, you do have to find a way to make both fit within the relationship.
Conflict resolution is a major problem for many relationships. If the two of you can't find ways to resolve your issues, the relationship is doomed. Again, having an open line of communication is pivotal in resolving conflicts. Too often, people simply talk past one another, trying to recite their talking points, while dismissing what their girlfriend or boyfriend has to say. This leads to an escalation of frustration and anger.
Figure out ways to resolve your conflicts. Try never to go to bed angry at one another. Don't let resentments fester, because these only lead to more and bigger fights. Find some way to manage conflict.
People in relationships also need to find the source of the conflict. You'll find some men and women find stimulation in conflict. They might even view arguments as a kind of foreplay. Seeing the dramas on television and in film creates an unrealistic view of the romantic relationship, as fights and breakups are just ways of showing you really love each other. If you figure out this is what your partner is seeking, you have to decide whether that's what you want. Most people get worn out by constant strife, breaking up and making up, so if you come to the conclusion that this is your girlfriend's or boyfriend's standard operating procedure, think about getting out.
Many fights stem from trust issues. Relationships are emotionally-charged and they tend to get to the heart of our psychology. Lingering feelings of inadequacy often manifest in a romance as jealousy, envy, and controlling behavior. If a person doesn't have an inner self-worth and a positive self-image, this can lead to suspicion and even paranoia about their lover's true feelings. Especially if a person has been hurt before or cheated on before, trust issues can be a major player in their ongoing relationship problems.
I've written at length about establishing trust. A couple has to reach an equilibrium where both partners assure the other they are loyal, without constraining their ability to interact socially. A person has to breathe in a healthy relationship, so a naturally jealous person has to develop trust in their partner. At the same time, if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend who tends to distrust their partner--or has a history of having their trust broken--you have to take the extra step to assure them you're different from the others. This is a fine line, but every relationship has to resolve its trust issues some way.
Below are two relationship problems that might not show up in a premarital relationship, but once the two of you move in together or get married, they can become major issues.
Sharing the responsibilities around the house might seem minor, but an inability to assign duties to each (and keep to them) leads to a lot of fights in a marriage. This goes beyond taking out the trash and doing the laundry.
Who balances the checkbook every month?
Who takes the kids to school?
Who picks them up from school?
Who handles home repairs, whether it's fixing it hands-on or calling the plumber, the electrician, and the air conditioner repairman?
Who pays the bills?
Get a plan and stick with the plan. Assign duties, so you don't end up arguing constantly because a bill wasn't paid or the children got left at school too late. Domestic responsibilities are an easy one, as long as you have a plan and a little communication.
Along with sex, "money" is one of the relationship problems that couples have most. When the two of you have mounting debt and you don't see a way out, everything else seems that much worse. Money issues naturally leads to the blame game. Maybe the wife thinks the husband should get a better job and make more money, an idea that hits at the heart of his masculinity. Maybe the husband thinks his wife can't be trusted with the charge cards, and her shopping sprees are emptying their bank account and pushing them towards bankruptcy. Both husband and wife harbor lingering resentments, feeling the other could do more to bring in income, while spending less. When things get bad enough, the children can have fingers pointed at them (education costs, extracurricular costs, text bills, clothing expenditures).
Most of the time, both parties are to blame. Money issues therefore require a two-party solution. This is where priorities and marriage responsibilities become pivotal to the happiness of the marriage. Start solving your money issues and everything else seems better. Sit down, start to communicate, and come up with solutions. Once the two of you have a plan to resolve your money issues, stick to the plan. You'll resolve your financial burdens, while starting to build trust and get a mutual sense of accomplishment.