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.
Often times these challenges are not an indicator of something unresolvable. Rather, they are an opportunity to deepen our understanding of ourselves, the other person, and find new perspectives and solutions.
This article covers 4 common relationship challenges and offer ways to re-frame them. Often 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 might not be the most interesting. 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.
Disagreements can 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.
Ask yourself this: 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 use the circumstance of different sex drives to grow rather than as a block to our fulfillment.
Challenge #3: Getting the Chores Done
In a couple, one person is often cleaner than the other. Or, 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 may 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.
As we move through the bumps, jolts and obstacles of life, we can use them to justify our own “rightness” or choose to see through the eyes of compassion. When seen most clearly, any person who hurts us is merely a person who is suffering himself or herself. When we choose to see others in this way, it opens up a door to a more expanded way of being. This does not mean that we should put ourselves in harm’s way or simply accept harmful behavior. That would be a cop-out—a way to bypass our own responsibility. It is a way that we can get trapped in a kind of pseudo-compassion. This false compassion is a trick of our ego and a way to feel important through our own victim-hood.
Instead, we can make choices that both offer others compassion and takes care of ourselves. Compassion requires that we be able to stand in another’s place and understand where they are coming from. It asks that we feel another’s motives and empathize with their plight. Respect and love for ourselves and others helps us put boundaries in place, say no, or simply remove ourselves from harmful situations. Both compassionate understanding and self-care are essential. Goddesses, such as Quan Yin, Yemanja, and Mary, show us the way to unconditional compassion for others. They overflow with deep acceptance of the natural evolution of the soul—marked at times by oversights, limitations, and ignorance. They know that no one escapes these challenges and that each one is doing the best they can at any given moment. In their strength and with compassionate grace, they show us how to emanate light in the face of all of life’s challenges. They do not exalt or negate suffering—they simply offer it compassion. Compassion toward another is, in the end, a gift to us. It releases us from the shackles of judgment. It creates the space for us to learn and grow. It sets us free to live and love more deeply.
We may look around our lives or the world and see many things that are wrong—politicians who are power-hungry, friends who are self-absorbed, or family members who are stuck in limiting belief systems. These clear problems may invoke in us frustration, judgment, or even deep sadness. To protect ourselves, we may feel the need to make these people bad in some way.
We might believe that they are harmful, lost, or just wrong. We might feel that, if they continue to act in this way, it will be infringing upon our ability to be ourselves or have the kind of life that we desire. But what if, instead of blocking our path, they are signs pointing the way? Do not go that way—that is not your way. What if, instead of negating our way of being, they are helping us see how to be with all aspects of ourselves and of life? What if they are deepening our ability to trust in the divine unfolding of things and more completely challenging our ego’s limited grasp of how things should be? Our compassion can be our teacher, showing us the way to deeper truth and happiness.
As with many things, the first person who needs compassion from us is usually ourselves. Many of us, especially those on a spiritual path, can forget to develop ourselves in our striving, forget that we are in a perfectly timed process of unfolding and that our mistakes and limitations are part of the process not keeping us from it. Cultivating compassion as a ground for our spiritual development ensures that we are approaching it from the healthiest and most beneficial direction—with honor and integrity rather than an egoistic need to be something other than who we are at any given moment.
My prayer is that compassion lives in your heart, that you remember to be compassionate when you have forgotten, and that you have the strength to feel compassion when it is most challenging. I ask that you feel compassion’s gifts and be open to its teachings. I ask that your life be inspired by divine compassionate grace.