Our relationships should be cherished—they’re a main source of love, happiness, and support in our lives. Sometimes, however, we lose sight of that thanks to a plethora of reasons: we’re swamped at work, we begin to take our partner for granted, we get hung up on an ongoing conflict, we have opposite schedules, and on and on. The moral of the story is that each relationship has its difficulties—but there are a few overarching issues that explain the bulk of them, according to mental health professionals. These include…
1) Undervaluing the relationship.
“One of the issues I see is people treat their relationships (especially when married) as a right,” says Co-Founding Attorney Mediator and Couples Mediator John C. Hoelle. “Your relationship is a privilege, never a right. Why settle for having a claim on someone, when it feels so much better for a completely free person to continue to want to be in a relationship with you? It’s a privilege to come together with another person, to co-create together, and to have different strengths at the table working together,” he explains. “Don’t indict or minimize your partner for the ways he/she is different, or less organized, or less gifted with kids. Celebrate instead the different strengths. Your partner may be more creative or more spontaneous. You don’t have a right to extract equal contributions of anything from your partner. Relationships are not “fair.” The only thing that matters is that each partner is bringing 100%.”
2) Failing to communicate effectively.
Licensed Professional Counselor Bruce Bibee says that a common strife in relationships is the failure to communicate effectively. And according to him, “learning that the language of healthy relationships is assertiveness,” is the remedy. “Assertive language is I-focused language (rather than you-focused) and is as much about the process of solving a problem as it is about actually solving the problem. It’s holistic in that regard. Both people attempt to get where the other person is coming from, understanding the other point-of-view as much as possible, on the way to solving the problem,” he explains.
3) Neglecting one’s partner.
Dr. Gilbert Chalepas, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, says that we should make our relationship priority #1: “Relationships cost, and that’s the price if you want to have a great one… do little unexpected things, like catching your sweetheart doing something right. You can never underestimate the power of an honest compliment. Your beloved will love you even more when you do little things that make them feel appreciated, relevant, and cherished.” He gives a few additional tips, like getting into the habit of showing interest in their day. “Look into their eyes and smile. Be interested, present, and open—become their sounding board and confidante. Check-in to see if they just need to feel heard or would prefer some input from you.”
4) Misunderstanding each other.
“Misunderstandings can occur in a relationship when we take our partner for granted and don’t extend the same graciousness and forgiveness to him or her that we freely give others,” explains Dr. Fran Walfish, leading couples relationship and family psychologist. “We thoughtlessly trample on a partner’s opinions when we presume to know what she or he is going to say before it’s said. Being misunderstood creates the frustration, shame, or anger that we all felt at one time or another. Communicating our passions, whether intellectual or emotional, feels almost impossible when we’re misperceived, especially when the relationship stakes are high. To be really interested in your lover means to pay close attention to what she or he says and does. By staying curious and asking questions about his or her points and positions, you gain a deeper understanding of who your partner is and, therefore, of your relationship.”