Have you and your partner been bumping into relationship obstacles? These are things in your relationship that are causing friction, disagreements, and even arguments. However, there are ways that you can overcome these obstacles and strengthen your relationship.
Relationship Obstacles Tip #1: Learn to Listen
Do you ever find yourself wanting to jump into the conversation while your partner is still talking? Or, are you waiting in anticipation to get in your two cents thus ignoring or even discounting what your partner is trying to say? One of the most frequent complaints I hear from the couples who I work with is “my partner doesn’t listen to me.” When we listen for understanding and not to prepare our side of the debate, we actually convey to our partner that they are important to us. By listening for understanding without judgement you are affirming, “I care about you and what you think, you are important to me.” To listen more effectively try the following:
- Take a few deep breaths when you feel like cutting in.
- Make eye contact with your partner.
- Hold a pen or paperclip to manage the desire to fidget.
- Once your partner is done summarize what they said.
Relationship Obstacles Tip #2: Avoid the Blame Game
When a conflict arises, it can be easy to blame your partner. However, instead of looking to find the faults in your partner, ask yourself how you contribute to the conflict. When couples sit together and accept responsibility for their part is establishes a sense of safety and partnership. This is much more connecting and pro-resolution than getting into an ‘attack and defend model” which so many couples find themselves in. For example:
- In what ways are you playing into the drama in the relationship?
- What is in your power to make different choices?
- When arguments begin to escalate take a break, allow yourselves to calm down so you are able to process.
It is important to later process the disagreement later when cooler heads prevail. Processing means discussing how can we do this differently next time – without getting back into the fight. A statement like, “maybe I over reacted” or “I could have handled that better” do much to reconnect and manage conflicts. Remember, it takes two people to prioritize a healthy relationship. You may not have the power to change your partner, but you can control how you respond.
Relationship Obstacles Tip #3: Making Time
Often in our busy lives, we spend fewer hours with our partners and families than on other tasks, such as work or entertainment. Are you making the most of your time with your partner? If not this could be a serious relationship obstacle. If you have to schedule it into your daily calendar, but make sure you are spending quality time together. By carving out even 20 minutes together with the distraction of phones or TV develops a sense of “us.” During these discussions avoid talking about the problems of the relationship, but more of the external stressors you each may be facing. This becomes a ritual of connection and defines the couple as a couple. Otherwise, you are sending the signal to your partner that your priorities lie elsewhere.
Another relationship obstacle is disagreement over major issues such as having a family, financial commitments, etc. Ensure that you are both on the same page by utilizing time together to understand each other’s perspectives, wants, and goals. That way you can be united when making these decisions. It’s important to understand why your partner has a certain stand on the issue. You may uncover some symbolism that has much deeper meaning than the actual disagreement. When we share our perspectives, wants, and goals we are taking our relationship to a much deeper level. We are creating a positive emotional overtone which leads to resolving issues quicker and increasing the benefit of the doubt.
Relationship Obstacles Tip #5: Do You Appreciate Each Other?
Lack of appreciation causes you to feel unloved, not accepted, and at worst not understood. When we express our admiration and fondness towards our partner we are pointing out what we love and admire about them. This is an opportunity to build on our connection and friendship which is the basis of any relationship. Take the time to tell your partner when they do something you admire, “You really handled that well” or “you’re so good at that.” Each of you can make the effort to show appreciation for each other to overcome this obstacle. For example:
- Do something nice each day, such as making the coffee or writing a kind note.
- Send a text message.
- Cook a meal.
- Give a small gift.
- Simply say, “I love you.”
You’ll be surprised how simple things done frequently go a long way towards strengthening your relationship.
Relationship Obstacles Tip #6: Financial Issues
Whether you are just dating and deciding who pays for dinner or in a committed relationship and dividing up the finances, money issues can certainly be a relationship obstacle. Communicate with each other to keep things equitable. Have discussions about what money means to each of you. When we learn the symbolism of money for our partners than we can easily avoid falling into the negative money pit.
Relationship Obstacles Tip #7: Are You Having Fun?
What’s the point of being together if you don’t enjoy each other’s company? Finding joy, laughing together, and doing fun activities help to strengthen the relationship and your connection to each other. Research what’s available in your community, and don’t forget to do something your partner is interested in!
Relationships are always a work in progress and it shouldn’t be surprising that you encounter obstacles from time-to-time. However, if you are finding that you are still hitting the brick wall after following these tips, it may be time for professional help.
Don’t hesitate to seek support so that you can come through these relationship obstacles together. For additional tips on making relationships work, visit Philip’s Couples Counseling page or call 813-651-1221.