28 Jan 7 Relationship Challenges Therapists See All the Time
In a new relationship, everything feels fresh and fun. You anticipate dates for days in advance with butterflies in your heart and are uncovering all these goodies about each other every day. It’s like unwrapping your birthday gifts all year long.
Over time, as you grow closer and more familiar with one another you’re likely to run into some bumps in the road. In couples therapy, we work with clients on these kinds of issues—big, small, and everything in between, every day. So first, know that you’re not the only ones running up against these challenges.
Next, based on our work with couples who have navigated or are still finding their way around these tricky spots, here are the top challenges that pop up most often between couples, and how to approach them:
1. Your partner has some bad habits (and it’s grating on your nerves)
Perhaps your partner has a habit of leaving dishes on the counter or leaving empty rolls of toilet paper for you to change. At first, these little quirks didn’t bother you much. Maybe you noticed but didn’t pay it much attention. Perhaps you’ve even mentioned it a few times thinking they’d change their ways. Well, here you are months or years later and nothing has really changed. Loving your partner(s) means learning to fully accept less than desirable habits.
You could keep falling down the irritation trap and mention the toilet paper or the dishes thing every time it happens. Or, after not noticing changes, you could learn to let insignificant things go. If your partner is engaging in any kind of behaviour that’s truly hurtful, harmful, or crosses any of your boundaries, then your communication will need to be more direct. This also may be a good time to bring in a couples therapist.
2. You may argue about your families
Your partner chose you but they can’t choose their family. Though at times, maybe you wish you could send some family members back, but that’s not helping to strengthen your communication with your partner. Family is often a sensitive topic between couples, and there’s a lot that comes into play here, from upbringing, culture, and what one partner deems as “normal” family stuff. Boundaries are helpful in all relationships, and especially ones where family members may be causing a problem.
3. Your partner can’t fill all the shoes
We might have a long list of demands of our partners. We require them to be the love of our lives, be romantic, be our sexual partners, parenting partners, best friends, and even financial advisors. It’s not possible or necessarily even healthy for one person to tick all the boxes on another’s list of demands. We all have many needs, and need a variety of people in our lives to fill these different roles.
4. Your desire will fluctuate
If your sensual encounters were toe-curling in the early months of your relationship, and then one of you suddenly lost interest a few months down the road, this is totally normal. Our lives are in a perpetual state of change, including our sexual desires. There are many things that can affect our fluctuating desire levels, from family, stress, work, and a jam-packed schedule. A mismatch in desire creeps into the healthiest of intimate relationships and that’s perfectly natural. Sometimes couples need to let go of the idea that sex is the end goal, and learn to find more pleasure in all the other ways they can be intimate together. In our practice, we work with couples to help them communicate what’s going on behind a desire discrepancy, and work with them to find a new groove that works for them.
5. Money may be a source of conflict
Once financials co-mingle, this can be an added stressor for many couples. When people come together in a relationship, they each bring their own ideals, values, and perceptions of money and how it should be spent, saved, and handled. We often recommend alleviating financial tension by having clients act like more of a team to handle any money issues and decisions as they come up.
6. Work might get in the way
When you first started dating, perhaps you or your partner would drop everything for a chance to go out to dinner. As you got more comfortable in your relationship, other competing priorities likely crept in. Perhaps even a promotion or new job calls for more attention than in the past. Regardless of the reason for the change, work might come up as a point of contention at one point in your relationship.
7. Staying faithful is hard work
You or your partner may inevitably become attracted to others, and you may even find yourself wondering if you made the right partner choice. The essential point to keep in mind is that while staying monogamous can feel hard at times, it’s worth the effort if it’s something both of you value. Alternatively, a sex-positive relationship therapist can support you in exploring consensual non-monogamy.
As you spend more time in an intimate relationship, know that every bump you encounter has the power to help you deepen and strengthen your connection. Staying mindful of everyone’s feelings, keeping communication kind and honest, and putting a deliberate effort into your relationship can help you come out the other side of any troubles even closer than you were before.
Written by Bliss sexologist Kelly McDonnell-Arnold. Learn more about Kelly and get her secret “Tips From the Couch”here.
If you enjoyed this article you might like these too:
- How to start a meaningful conversation about sex
- Others will treat you the way you let them —3 keys to boundary-setting
- Sex therapy virgin? What to expect
Do you have any questions for us? Or do you need some help with creating healthy habits in your relationship? We’re happy to help! Get in touch with us here.
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