It’s the rare couple that doesn’t, sooner or later, run into a few bumps in the road. If you recognize ahead of time what those relationship issues can be, you’ll have a much better chance of weathering the storm.
Ideally, there are certain basic issues a couple should discuss — such as money, sex, and kids — before they decide to start their life together. Of course, even when you do discuss these issues beforehand, marriage (or a long-term, live-in relationship) is nothing like you think it’s going to be.
Despite the fact that every marriage experiences relationship problems, couples who are successful have learned how to manage them and keep their love life going. They gain success in marriage by hanging in there, tackling problems, and learning how to maneuver through the complex issues of everyday married life. Here are some common issues and ways to resolve them:
Problem #1: Communication
All relationship problems stem from poor communication skills. You can’t communicate while you’re checking your BlackBerry, watching TV, or flipping through the sports section.
- Make time … yes, an actual appointment with each other. If you live together, put the cell phones on vibrate, put the kids to bed, and let the answering machine pick up your calls.
- If you can’t “communicate” without raising your voices, go to a public spot like the library, or restaurant, where you’d be embarrassed if anyone saw you screaming.
- Set up some rules … like not interrupting until the other is through, banning phrases such as “You always …” or “You never …”
- Remember that a large part of communication is listening, so be sure your body language reflects that. That means, don’t doodle, look at your watch, pick at your nails, etc. Nod so the other person knows you’re getting the message and rephrase if necessary, such as, “What I hear you saying is that you feel as though you have more chores at home, even though we’re both working.” If you’re right, the other can confirm, and if what the other person really meant was, hey, you’re a slob and you create more work for me by having to pick up after you, perhaps they’ll say so but in a nicer way.
Problem #2: Sex
Even partners who love each other can be incompatible sexually. Compounding these problems is the fact that men and women alike are sorely lacking in sex education and sexual self-awareness. Yet, having sex is one of the last things we should be giving up. Sex brings us closer together, releases hormones that help our bodies both physically and mentally, and keeps the chemistry of a healthy couple healthy.
- Plan, plan and plan. Make an appointment — not necessarily at night when everyone is tired. Maybe during the baby’s Saturday afternoon nap. Or perhaps a “before-work quickie”. Or ask Grandma and Grandpa to take the kids every other Friday night for a sleepover. When sex is on the calendar, it increases your anticipation, adding that mixing things up a bit can increase your sexual enjoyment as well. Why not sex in the kitchen? Sex by the fire? Sex standing up in the hallway?
- It is also necessary to learn what truly turns your partner on by asking him or her to come up with a personal “Sexy List.” And, of course, you do the same. What do each of you truly find sexy? “The answers may surprise you.” Swap the lists and use them to create more scenarios that turn you both on.
Problem #3: Money
Money problems can start even before the wedding vows are said, from the expenses of courtship to the high cost of weddings. Couples who have money woes should take a deep breath and have a serious conversation about finances.
The following advice is for having that much-needed financial conversation:
- Be honest about your current financial situation. If things have gone south, continuing the same lifestyle that was possible before the loss of income is simply unrealistic.
- Don’t approach the subject in the heat of battle. Instead, set aside a time that is convenient and non-threatening for both parties.
- Acknowledge that one partner may be a saver and one a spender, understanding that there are benefits to both, and agreeing to learn from each other’s tendencies.
- Don’t hide income or debt. Bring financial documents, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, debts, and investments to the table.
- Don’t blame.
- Construct a joint budget that includes savings.
- Decide which person will be responsible for paying the monthly bills.
- Allow each person to have independence by setting aside money to be spent at his or her discretion.
- Decide upon short-term and long-term goals. It’s OK to have individual goals, but you should have family goals, too.
- Talk about caring for your parents as they age, and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs, if necessary.
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David is an expert on relationship advice. He authors the blog datenromance.blogspot.com.