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.
Many people are taught, starting in their childhood, that someone else knows better than they do. While learning to recognize external authority and to honor alternate perspectives is important to our social development, flat-out believing what you are told because it comes from an “expert” or someone who appears more advanced than you is something that most of us do at least every once in a while—and many of us do it a lot. This does not mean you need to summarily reject it, either—by developing your own inner wisdom, you can strike a balance. Seek out resources that help you honor your innate wisdom.
Dis-empowering to the core, this belief leaves the person thinking “why bother?” There are many ways to slice it, but we each have power. First, one dedicated person is often what gets a movement started. Second, in each moment, we are having an impact on many people. This impact can be instrumental in lifting a person up so that they may then choose to do the same for someone else. One of the reasons why people feel discouraged is that they look at the impact they do not have rather than at the positive impact that they do have. Try noticing what good things come from your noble efforts.
While not everyone can have a Maserati, abundance in general and wealth specifically is within your reach. The fact of the matter is that we don’t all want the same thing, especially once we get in touch with what we really want instead of what we think we want. When you do the work to get clear on who you are and what is important to you, you will see the abundance you already have and develop ways to bring in more of what you want—whether that means billions to fight the system or a quiet place to read a book.
“If I am suffering, then I have done something wrong.” Karma is based on the idea that for every action, there is a response. This is not a punishment—it is a teaching. It is a way to fully understand our own actions, heal, and ultimately grow. When we experience adversity in life, it does not necessarily mean that we have inflicted suffering on someone else. Sometimes we have; however, sometimes we have just chosen a difficult experience for our own growth and insight. Looking at our lives though the lens of being punished does not help us become more mature and responsible: it makes us more fearful. Focusing on what you have learned from the challenges in your life yields much better results.
Putting the deeper philosophical debate aside, this is meant to address skirting our responsibility by making the argument that “it is all in your head,” or minimizing our own view because it is, well, “just our own view.” If we all had wildly different conceptions of reality, we would likely find it difficult to interact. We believe that most of the time, if our friend shows up to dinner, our friend also believes that they are at dinner. We share so many of these little truths in our life that to proclaim they are not there when it would be convenient for them not to be seems a bit contrived. However, this trick is used more often than you might guess to get you to doubt your perspective or question the facts. We can honor each person’s unique perception by using each person’s subjective truth to gain a deeper understanding of the total picture and to build connections rather than as a covert tactic to undermine our responsibilities.