A quick scan of books on the ins-and-outs of “relationships” reveals four primary problem areas: money, time, communication and sex. While your romantic relationships may not suffer at all of these points, they most certainly will be challenged by one of them.
Even great relationships have their share of challenges. Often times these challenges are not an indicator of something unresolvable. Rather, they’re a sign that we need to do something to change our perspective on the challenge.
I’m going to cover 4 common relationship challenges and offer ways to reframe them. When we take the time to shift our perspective on what has seemed so difficult in our relationships, we can grow with our significant other and create a stronger partnership.
Challenge #1: Disagreements That Linger
Some of the things we fight about in our relationships don’t ever get resolved. Sometimes this is due to a lack of compatibility, which ultimately leads to the end of the relationship. Sometimes this is the result of poor communication. Yet, other times it’s the outcome of our perspective on the disagreement.
Imagine if you always agreed with your partner. This would yield the most boring relationship ever. While some people are harmoniously syncopated at all times, for the rest of us, a little conflict goes a long way in keeping the spark in our relationships.
Without friction there’s no progress. Disagreements help us grow. They also help us understand our partner more completely. Often, it’s only when we disagree that we ask questions about our partner’s perspective and pay close attention to what they say.
What if you saw your disagreements with your partner as an opportunity to get closer to them? Or at the very least, saw them as an occasion for you to get closer to your own truth? What if it was more important that you learn something about yourself through your disagreements and less important that you and your partner come to resolution?
Challenge #2: Different Sex Drives
People in relationship shy away from admitting that their sex drives or sexual preferences differ from their partners. They just don’t enjoy the same things or share the same level of desire. This undisclosed discrepancy leads people to have sex when they’re not really into it or to meet their needs through an affair. It can also lead to resentment that acerbates the problem.
All too often couples look to their partner to fulfill their sexual needs. But, what if each person considered how they could express themselves as sexually whole person. In truth, a discrepancy in sexual interest is an opportunity to explore sexuality rather than a block to it.
So, ask yourself: How does my partner express his or her sexuality? Who am I as a sexual person outside of my partnership? And, do I feel like I’m able to feel my sexuality as essential to my life? Questions like these help us reframe the circumstance of different sex drives.
Challenge #3: Getting the Chores Done
In a couple, one person is cleaner than the other. One person thinks that organized cupboards make a tidy home, while the other feels it’s clean counters. One person feels they “always” have to do a particular chore. This same person tends to think that no one appreciates their effort to tend to their shared space.
Chances are if you’ve cohabited with your partner, that you’ve probably been rubbed the wrong way by some aspect of how your sweetheart lives in your shared space. Constructive feedback in these situations can be hard to give. No adult wants to hear that the way they’ve been doing something for years is somehow wrong.
Too often we focus our attention on the negative. We see what the other person is not doing. Or we notice how they “did it again.” But, what if we looked at our partner’s frustrating habit as reminder of all the other things they do right? What if we chose to remember all that our partner does to contribute to your standard of living?
You could also re-frame it this way: would you rather have your partner in your life or be free from the problem of how they do – or do not do – a specific chore? The truth is that the dirty laundry on the floor, the dishes scattered around the house, or the foot prints on the floor are a sign that you have a special someone in your life.
Challenge #4: Lack of Time Together
Busy lives and work schedules take us away from the people we love. And while a little time away is supportive of a healthy relationship, a lot of time away can create problems.
In these instances, it’s important to check in with yourself and ask yourself if this lack of time together is an outright avoidance of intimacy or indication of some other problem. If this is not the case, and instead life has conspired to give you a bit of distance from your mate, then take the opportunity to make the distance work for your relationship. Plan special things to do together when your busy schedules allow you two to connect.
Whether you’re separated due to work or other reasons, it’s wonderful to have some time to focus on your own needs and not your partner’s needs. The time apart from your mate could be time that you dedicate to friends, family or studying something that interests you. Regardless of how you use it, take the time and give it to yourself!
Every challenge we face in a relationship is a portal of opportunity. Sometimes it just takes looking at it from another perspective to see how we can make it work for us rather than against us.