Relationships aren’t easy. They take effort from both parties to understand the needs of the other, to learn each other’s love languages, to improve communication, establish healthy boundaries and trust between one another, and the list goes on. When tension arises within the relationship, it may be time to look into what is happening underneath the surface.
A few hurdles that may be coming up for you and a loved one include:
1. Lack of intimacy—there are many types of intimacy within a relationship including physical, emotional, intellectual, etc. One or more of these areas may be feeling neglected. If so, it may be time to try to reconnect on a more intimate level. This may involve spending more quality time together discussing topics that are passionate to you or your loved one. Perhaps increasing affectionate touch and physical closeness, or holding hands more often such as during a long car ride. Intimacy may look different for you than it does your partner, so it is important to have conversations about what intimacy means for the both of you. If involved in a polyamorous relationship, keep in mind the intimacy needs of all involved within the relationship because each person may have completely separate ideas of how they choose to receive and show intimacy.
2. Trust issues—sometimes trust can be betrayed within a relationship and sometimes it may be absent despite the effort on both ends to establish and maintain it. Trust issues are something that may have existed long before you and your partner got together, stemming from early childhood trauma including neglect, abandonment, and betrayal. If you or your partner struggle with trusting despite continued effort, it may be worth it to seek individual counseling to process unresolved issues from the past. Focusing on self-discovery, processing the pain, and learning to be okay with taking healthy risks may help you and your partner overcome issues with trust.
3. Faulty communication—communication patterns is often the first thing therapists look at when working with couples. One tool that may be helpful in recognizing unhealthy communication patterns is looking at The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Criticism refers to putting down or attacking your partner’s character or personality. Contempt can be blatant disrespect towards your partner either verbally, or non-verbally including eye rolling, sneering, and sarcasm. Defensiveness is a way to protect yourself during an argument, but the message it can send to your partner is an inability to accept responsibility. Stonewalling happens with you completely shut down and refuse to communicate. If you feel stuck in unhealthy communication patterns with your partner, it may be time to work with a couples’ counselor to help move past points of contention.
4. Difficulty managing expectations—imagine this: You and your partner just got done having dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day. You feel like the night went well, but for some reason your partner seems upset and disappointed. What could be going on? Perhaps you don’t even like Valentine’s Day, so the fact that you even went out to celebrate with her should be enough. Right?! Yet here she is, in the car on the way home, upset and unwilling to talk. She might be texting her girlfriends, “I can’t believe he didn’t even get me a card, let alone the flowers I’ve hinted about for weeks. This is the worst Valentine’s Day ever!” Sound familiar? This is a very shallow example, but you get the point. Sometimes in relationships one person may have a certain idea of how they want things to go, and when things don’t go the way they imagined in their head—disappointment sets in. If this is a common pattern in your relationship, it may be time to have a talk with your partner about what you are both expecting from the relationship. Learn to be realistic, practice gratitude, and don’t compare your relationship to others.
5. Lack of common interests—this is a very normal experience in relationships. “Opposites attract” didn’t become a widely used phrase based on fiction. There has been a lot of research done in recent years looking into attraction, and a trend that has emerged is that people are often attracted to individuals who will later drive them crazy. If you are finding it difficult to relate to your partner and find a lack of shared interests, perhaps you may need to start getting creative and start venturing down roads that may lead to an unexpected new interest for the both of you.
6. Misaligned values—there are some core beliefs we have about ourselves, others, and the world. These beliefs shape our values and being with someone who does not share these values can be challenging. It may be time to do some reflection on your current values and take inventory of areas in your life where actions are not aligning with those values. If values are clashing in your relationship, you or your partner may be taking actions that go against each other’s convictions. It might be time to have an open and honest discussion with your partner about where you are both currently at regarding values.
There are many factors that cause conflict within a relationship, and figuring out how to navigate the situation may be a bit complicated. If you and your loved one are struggling to overcome particular hurdles, it may be time to discuss with a counselor. Here at 253 Therapy and Consult we offer couples’ counseling and can help you and your partner reconnect, establish healthy boundaries, and learn the art of successful communication. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!