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Oftentimes couples wonder if their relationship problems are “normal.” Does every couple struggle and fight as they do? What are common relationship problems?
While every relationship is unique, there are areas of conflict that most couples encounter as they go through life together. It makes sense that as your relationship deepens and becomes more serious, your conversations may touch on deeper and more serious topics. Inevitably you will have to tackle big decisions and face challenges.
Navigating conflict and differing perspectives is a natural and necessary part of healthy relationships. What’s most important is how you communicate your feelings, handle problems, and support each other through hard times, so that you grow together versus apart.
Here are 8 common relationship problems that most couples face:
Your relationship will endure internal stress (planning your wedding or moving in together) just as it will face external stress (helping a sick family member or surviving the COVID-19 pandemic).
Exciting relationship decisions, such as buying a house, may bring up temporary problems as you learn how to navigate life-changing choices as a unit. It’s natural that times of transition or uncertainty can cause anxiety and place more pressure on your relationship. External stress in your family, community, and the world may also create conflict.
Communication is enormously important in a healthy relationship. Some couples find it challenging to confront conflict and communicate effectively. This causes misunderstandings, resentment, and disagreements. Communication problems may be due to different communication styles, and individual histories, including childhood experiences and past relationship experiences.
For example, if you felt unheard in other primary relationships, you may struggle to voice concerns or share feelings in your current relationship. Couples can improve their communication by using more “I” statements and listening to understand (NOT to defend). They need to access empathy, learn how to negotiate gracefully, and validate each other’s feelings.
You and your partner may have differing perspectives on how involved you would like your family and friends to be. You may disagree on how much time to spend with family and friends, how to spend holidays and special occasions, how much to share with others outside of your relationship, etc. Problems may also arise if you had poor modeling of healthy boundaries — or if the boundaries and expectations in your families differ. It’s helpful to work as a team to protect your relationship and put each other first. Building a united front is crucial.
Money can be one of the most loaded topics in relationships and marriages. Everything from how much to save and spend, how to structure bank accounts (separate vs. joint), and general financial habits or financial values prove problematic. Finances may also bring up uncomfortable or hidden power dynamics in your relationship. For example, keeping personal debt from your partner is bound to cause trust issues. When it comes to money, your best bet is to avoid keeping secrets and be honest when you discuss finances.
This area of conflict may relate to biases around gender roles, unrealistic expectations, and traditional beliefs. Research shows that women often carry the burden of maintaining the household despite working outside of the home, which can lead to long-term mental health issues, resentment, and relationship problems. That’s why it’s essential that you and your partner both feel comfortable with how responsibilities are divided. It can be helpful to take inventory of all household tasks and work together to split them up fairly.
Having a healthy sex life is part of a healthy relationship. However, it is common for couples to have differing needs, preferences, and desires when it comes to sex. For example, arguing over the frequency of sex may leave you or your partner feeling rejected or dissatisfied.
Sexual dysfunction may also play a role in sexual issues. Therefore, it’s important to address any potential underlying psychological or physical causes. You may feel uncomfortable talking about sex, but many couples experience issues with their sex lives, so you are not alone.
When a couple goes from partners to parents, a new dimension of their relationship is born (literally!). First-time parents will shift their focus away from their relationship as they take on the challenges of caring for a new baby. It may feel difficult to parent together and keep the romance alive.
It’s normal to experience a learning curve when it comes to parenting. You may experience problems along the way. As parents, you may find yourself in never-ending decision-making territory. That can create discord over time. Parenting together and making childrearing decisions may be one of the most joyful and stressful aspects of your relationship.
Personal preferences may clash when discussing how to spend your free time, how to structure your career, and how to balance personal and professional lives. For instance, you may disagree on how to spend your weekends or what type of vacation you’d like to have.
Maybe as an introvert, you crave alone time and feel drained by social experiences. Maybe your extroverted partner thrives on a vibrant social life. Or maybe your partner works more than you’d like, and you long for more quality time as a couple. Regardless of the specifics, many couples have to work through balancing their personal desires or obligations with supporting their partner’s needs.
Conflict is a normal part of every relationship and marriage. There is nothing wrong with your relationship or partner if you disagree now and then. You have different experiences, personalities, and values, so issues will naturally arise. Problem-free relationships don’t exist.
However, if you constantly feel unheard and your partner controls you or dismisses your feelings, the conflict may be creating further damage to your relationship. It can even reach an unhealthy level.
If you and your partner are struggling to get on the same page or if your conflicts are intensifying, then you may want to seek out couples therapy to resolve those and other underlying issues.