There is a lot of advice on solving relationship problems out there. Some of it would lead you to believe that it is a monumental task and needs a psychiatrist to figure it out.
While it’s true that there are some problems that would require the intervention of a marriage counselor or psychiatrist, most of the time things can be solved when caught early. You also need to apply a generous dose of patience and fairness.
If you do that, then following the simple steps below should help straighten things out for you.
Figure Out What Caused the Problem
Often, the cause is pretty obvious. The most common problems in relationships revolve around money issues, the kids, or maybe a habit that one of you has that bothers your partner.
Other times, it isn’t that easy to pinpoint the issue or issues. One or both of you may just have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right, but you may not find it easy to put words to it.
Maybe your have less romance in your relationship. Maybe you just don’t feel as physically attracted to your partner as you used to, but again, you don’t know exactly why.
Maybe you just have the sinking feeling that you’re growing apart.
In such cases, you will both need to work a little harder to discern the source of the problem. In such situations, you will really need openness and honesty with each other to try and figure it out together.
Sometimes only professional intervention can help you figure it out. It’s complicated sometimes because relationship problems don’t always have the same cause.
Pick your battles
You need to be careful and give a lot of thought to the issues you want to bring up.
For example, is it really important if you roll off the toilet paper from the top or the bottom?
Or that the glasses and plates in the cupboard aren’t exactly in the “right place” all the time?
Some things just aren’t worth making a big dispute or fight over. Others are more important, especially if one partner or another feels hurt or rejected or is causing serious financial or social problems.
So, give serious thought and consideration to what issues really need attention and which ones you can just let alone.
Proper Timing Is Important
Don’t just forge ahead with your discussion of the problem without making sure your partner is not stressed out or tired. You shouldn’t do it if you are very stressed or tired either. Instead, pick a time when you are both relaxed and in a good mood, if at all possible.
Another reason to pick a time when you are both relaxed and in a good mood is that it will be easier for you to resist the urge to “pounce” on your partner or present the problem in a confrontational manner. Starting a talk like this in a confrontational way almost guarantees conflict and an argument, with all the stress, anger, and hurt feelings such situations create.
It’s much better to wait for the right moment and gently say, “Dear, do you have a couple minutes to talk?” than to pounce on your partner the moment they come through the door and scream “We need to talk now!”
Be gentle and considerate
This isn’t a game. Your goal is not to win, but rather, to improve or save your relationship. The goal is for both of you to come out winners so that there are no losers. Being impatient, harsh, critical, or insulting will only make things worse and you will both lose.
Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes before you begin. Try to see things from their point of view before you even get into this conversation, and chances are you will both benefit from dealing with this issue rather than both of you losing.
And don’t be condescending, treating your partner like a 3 year old, either. Talk to them with the level of respect you want for yourself. Aggression or condescension should not be used in these situations, because it could make matters much worse and end up breaking you apart.
Take your share of the blame
You need to understand that it isn’t “all their fault,” leaving you totally blameless for the problem. Once you start “the blame game,” it just keeps on getting bigger and nastier to the point where you might break up over what was originally a minor issue.
Accept that you may have contributed to the problem yourself, and think of ways that might be so. Once the conversation starts, you need to really LISTEN to each other.
Often times, these “conversations” descend to the level of a shouting match. If you aren’t listening to each other, you might as well each record a message for each other and hit the play button for all the good it does.
Working the issue out requires give and take on both partner’s parts. But actually listening to what the other person has to say, thinking about it before you reply, and remaining calm could very well turn what could have been a relationship killer into a chance to grow and learn, strengthening your relationship rather than destroying it.
A good phrase to remember would be something like, “Honey, I know I was wrong about __. I am taking the blame for my part in this.” This should defuse a lot of anger and resentment on your partner’s part, smoothing the path to a resolution and making true discussion possible.
A brief article like this can only serve as a starter to help you resolve the most common issues in your relationship. More complicated problems could indeed arise, depending on the state of your relationship. You should therefore continue to study conflict resolution. If there is a serious issue, you should be able to find good articles or books on that specific problem.
And, of course, sometimes things have gotten so bad that only the help of a marriage counselor can save the relationship. You should always seek professional advice and counseling when things are too big for you to handle, as long as the relationship means that much to you.