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Common Relationship Problems


Relationship ConcernsThere are times in all relationships when things don't run smoothly. Often, this is because people have conflicting expectations, are distracted with other issues, or have difficulty expressing what is on their minds in ways that other people can really hear and understand what is being said. Sometimes they just don't know what to do to make a good relationship. The following material is about ways of enhancing relationships and working with common problems.

Five Love Languages

People give and receive love differently. Five common love languages are identified by Dr. Gary Chapman*:
  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

We often give love in the way we want to receive love even though we may not know our partner’s love language. Partners may wonder why they aren’t getting love in the way they want even though they are giving love in that way. For example, you are giving your partner gifts but what they want is quality time together.

* Please be aware that this framework was proposed by Dr. Chapman who is a pastor and an author. His suggestions are not necessarily supported by social science, nor claim to be a product of an academic work. More importantly his framework is built upon a religious background with a focus on heterosexual couples. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that this framework may help not just heterosexual romantic couples but couples of all kinds (same-sex couples, parent-child dyads, friends etc.) to “fill up their love tank” and to express their care for the other in a heartfelt way.


Emotional Support

Emotional support for each other is critical. This means giving your partner a feeling of being backed, supported; you're behind him or her no matter what. This does not necessarily mean agreeing with one another all the time. Realistically, no two people will agree on all occasions. What it does mean is treating your partner in a way that says, "I love you and trust you, and I'm with you through anything." Emotional demands can damage the relationship.
  • Insisting that your partner spend all of his or her time with you.
  • Insisting that they give up their friends or that you both hang around only your friends. Insisting that you give approval of the clothes they wear.
  • Making sure that you make all the decisions about how you spend your time together and where you go when you go out.
  • Making them feel guilty when they spend time with their family.
  • Making sure you win all the arguments.
  • Always insisting that your feelings are the most important.

Each of these is an emotional demand, and has potential for damaging the relationship.
Remember, too, that the words "I love you. I like being in a relationship with you. You're important to me." are not demands and need to be said occasionally in any relationship.


TimeTime Spent Together and Apart

Time spent apart and time spent together is another common relationship concern. You may enjoy time together with your partner and your partner may want some time together with you, but you also may enjoy time alone or with other friends. If this gets interpreted as, "my partner doesn't care for me as much as I  need" or "I resent the time my partner spends alone because they don't want to spend it with me and they must not really love me," you may be headed for a disastrous result by jumping to a premature conclusion.

Check out with your partner what time alone means and share your feelings about what you need from the relationship in terms of time together. Perhaps you can reach a compromise without you feeling rejected or neglected or thinking of your partner as selfish, inconsiderate, or non-caring.

Demanding what you want, regardless of your partner's needs, usually ends up driving your partner away.

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Friends

Giving up your personal friends should not be a requirement of being in a relationship. Neither should it be assumed that your partner will like your personal friends as much as you do. You might ask: "Which of my friends do you enjoy seeing and which would you rather I see alone or at other times when I'm not with you?"

There is certainly no reason to share with your partner a friend who she or he does not enjoy. You can see those friends somewhere else or you can see them at home at a time when your partner is out doing something else.

You do not have to give up your friends who mean a great deal to you. It's important to talk with your partner about friendships with others, to negotiate them and to recognize that each of you needs to continue your friendships even when you are intimately involved with one another.

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Money Matters

How do you and your partner make decisions about handling money?
Are decisions made individually or mutually?
How are the priorities set about how money is to be earned? Spent?
Who pays the bills? How much money goes into savings and for what purposes?
How are "big ticket" (tuition, childcare, rent, car payments) items decided on?
Does each member of the partnership control her or his own money or is it pooled?
Is each partner expected to add to the mutual income?
If only one is to work, how is it decided who it will be?

If you find that you and your partner have differing expectations, it makes sense that you will have to make time to talk about them after stating your feelings, wishes, and desires and listening carefully to those of your partner. Decisions that might be easy to make when you're making them only for yourself might be more difficult when they involve someone else and the best solutions might not be those you think of just on your own. Discussion and cooperation may not provide any magic solutions to difficult financial problems, but knowing you and your partner agree about how to approach the situation will relieve at least some of the stress.

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Coping with Changing Expectations in the Relationship

Relationships change over time. This is neither a good nor a bad thing, but it is a fact. What you want from a relationship in the dating stages might be quite different from what you want after you have been together a number of years. Changes in other areas of your life, outside your relationship, will have an impact on what you want and need from the relationship.

The most important thing is that you need to do a great deal of careful, respectful listening to what each wants, and a lot of careful, clear communication about what each of you wants. Change of any sort tends to be at least a little stressful, yet because it is inevitable, welcoming change as an opportunity to enhance the relationship is more fruitful than trying to keep change from happening. Planning for changes together can lead the relationship into new and exciting places.

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Eight Basic Steps to Maintaining a Good Relationship

  1. Be aware  of what you and your partner want for yourselves and what you want from the relationship.
  2. Let one another know what your needs are.
  3. Realize that your partner will not be able to meet all of your needs. Some of these needs will have to be met outside the relationship.
  4. Be willing to negotiate and compromise on the things you want from one another.
  5. Do not demand that a partner change to meet all your expectations. Work to accept the differences that you see between your ideal and the reality.
  6. Try to see things from the other's point of view. This doesn't mean that you must agree with one another, but rather that you can expect yourself and your partner to understand and respect your differences, your points of view and your separate needs.
  7. Where critical differences exist in your expectations, needs, opinions or views,try to negotiate.
  8. Have compassion for each other and yourself if you realize that there are too many differences for the relationship to work.
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Other Resources

Check out thedesk online self help resource to learn more about managing disagreements and improving relationships. Go to the "Staying Connected" module.

thedesk has 4 modules about relationships:
  1. improving relationships
  2. making friends
  3. managing disagreements
  4. sticking up for myself

And it has the coffee house to connect with others.

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Gainesville, FL 32611-2662
Phone: (352) 392-1575
Fax: (352) 392-8452 

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