It can be extremely challenging to know how to solve relationship problems without breaking up. For example, maybe you and your spouse set a goal to purchase a house within two years, and you just found out they made a $300 purchase without discussing it with you. Perhaps your significant other went out with friends and left you home all evening with the kids when you were looking forward to some relief after spending all day breaking up sibling spats. Or, maybe your clothing dryer caught on fire, and now your partner won't even consider purchasing a new one because "we will fix it." Lastly, your meddling mother-in-law is far too involved in your daily lives, and it feels like your partner always takes her side over yours.
You're at your wit's end, but you're not ready to throw in the towel. You love each other, and you want this to work out. It can if the relationship has a strong foundation. These things can be overcome, through work and perseverance. Most importantly, you must learn to communicate with each other.
Please note, there are times when it is better to end a relationship than continue. These include when emotional or physical abuse is involved. If you're experiencing abuse or are in need of assistance, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Common Sources Of Relationship Problems
Even people in the most loving relationships experience times of turmoil and conflict. It's a regular part of our human interactions. There are a few primary sources of relationship problems: money, family, and intimacy.
As the old proverb says, "when poverty knocks at the door, love flies out the window." It's no surprise that money issues are a common source of relationship problems. Job loss that results in less income can be a significant stressor and stress can bring up unresolved and repressed matters in a relationship.
Perhaps the source of relationship disharmony and financial matters are from two people having different goals and expectations revolving around finances. No matter the origin of financial stress, it can have a negative impact on our relationships. However, even when it comes to the bank account, you can learn how to solve relationship problems without breaking up.
Another pain point in relationships can be our families. While there are stereotypical mother-in-law issues that make for great punch lines in romantic comedies, the fact is our relationships don't just begin and end with our partners. Our commitments run deep into our families, and when that ends up not being rainbows and butterflies, it can have a profound impact on our otherwise very loving relationship with our partner. But even in the realm of family matters, we can learn how to solve relationship problems without breaking up
Last but not least, intimacy and sex, or the lack thereof, can put a damper on our feelings of love and acceptance. Sex is a healthy part of a relationship and is often an activity that fosters that much-needed intimacy. What happens when other stressors cause us to retreat from making love? And, what do we do when the root issue is lack of intimacy due to unbalanced libidos between partners?
How To Solve Relationship Problems Without Breaking Up
Fortunately, regardless of the root cause, the key to how to solve relationship problems without breaking up is communication. It sounds overly simplified, but experts agree. If you have a strong foundation of love and respect, the rest will fall into line with open and honest communication with a partner who also practices open and honest communication.
1. Determine the problem
This is the first step in learning how to solve relationship problems without breaking up is identifying the problem. Are you upset with your partner about spending too much money? Is there a conflict with your partner's family? Do you argue about how to parent your children? Does the issue pertain to your sex life or lack of intimacy?
Dig deep to determine the root cause of your conflict. Then, create a plan to discuss the problem with your loved one.
2. Calmly discuss the conflict with your partner
The next step is to communicate with your partner. Communication is often the most challenging part, especially if emotions run high. Experts advise planning this discussion for a time when you both can be emotionally present and calm. Going into this conversation with "guns-a-blazing'" will not be beneficial. Talking while emotions run high and through anger can foster a "demand-withdraw" pattern, which experts tell us is extremely damaging.
Remember, the goal is to evoke positive changes that will put you on the path for how to solve relationship problems without breaking up. This conversation needs to bring the two of you back together. So, keep that in mind and approach it with love and compassion with the goal of bettering the relationship, rather than isolating your significant other. Talking about relationship problems can be a tedious balancing act, but it is possible.
3. Listen to your partner
It's imperative to also listen to your partner. Experts say genuine feelings of being heard is one of our biggest needs. As part of the communication in a relationship, both people must feel validated, listened to, and heard.
Be prepared to be not only brutally honest with your significant other, but also with yourself. We all have faults. Your partner may have some things they need you to hear, too. Listen to them and take their feedback into account.
4. Find a compromise and make a plan
Once the airing of the grievances has taken place, hopefully in a healthy manner, it's time to come up with a plan that will help with the problem. This plan may address spending issues and setting limits. Perhaps the plan involves committing to a regular date night or trying a new parenting strategy. Maybe it's something like scheduling a particular time to spend together to rekindle that intimacy and romance. Whatever it is, a plan will cultivate a means of how to solve relationship problems without breaking up.
Ideas are only as good as the actions that follow. Effort must be put forth from both parties in the relationship for successful changes.
5. Review your actions and determine what works
After you put your plan into place and follow it, reevaluate and learn what worked for you and what didn't. Then make tweaks and changes. These things won't resolve overnight, but with the continuous improvement that only comes with reevaluation and adjustments.
6. Be positive and seek the "magic ratio"
Also, part of the follow through is supporting one another through your plan. Build each other up as you walk this journey together. Remember, you are a team, and this is a team effort. Make sure to give each other plenty of positive feedback about favorable changes, rather than focusing on when either of you falters. There will be mistakes and hardships. However, positive reinforcement begets positive results more often than calling out the negative regularly.
The Gottman Institute discovered the "magic ratio" in relationships which says for every one negative interaction, there must be five or more positive interactions. Take note of those positives and negatives and strive for at least five positives.
Foster Traits That Create Comfort And Openness
In addition to addressing the specific pain point causing strife in your relationship, some habits can be cultivated to bring forth a more satisfying relationship. There are some common traits in happy relationships that not only help in personal growth but lead to unity and love when put into practice.
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First and foremost, as recommended by The University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center, "fight fairly."
In summary, fair fighting means you must do things like remaining calm during a confrontation, and if that isn't possible, take a time out. Be specific in your complaint and keep your grievances singular - one at a time. Avoid the "never" and "always" as these absolute statements are counterproductive and may exacerbate the issues rather than help them.
It's also not fair to "stockpile" all of the issues and let them spew out in a time of rage. Deal with issues as they come up. Timely addressing these problems will help avoid hurt feelings, inconsistent recollections, and resentfulness.
Lastly, don't hit below the belt. In those few moments of anger, you can do immeasurable damage with a slip of the tongue. You and your partner know each other's weaknesses and insecurities. Be mindful of tone and emotion before saying something regrettable. Words cannot be unspoken.
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Trust and honesty go hand-in-hand. While people often associate trust to fidelity, we practice trust in our daily actions. We trust our significant others to do the right thing. We also apply trust to the words spoken.
Unspoken expectations or actions which are contrary to our words have a profound impact on our relationships. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. The sooner both parties in a relationship can practice an open honesty, the better the connection will be. This level of reliability is vital for open communication, and while it can expose a vulnerability, both people will garner much strength.
Practice Empathy And Forgiveness
Growing empathy and practicing forgiveness during daily activities can help cultivate more understanding when you're in the midst of an argument. In the heat of the moment, it can be nearly impossible to do so, however, the more you do it for the little things, the better it is for, the bigger ones. All those little grievances can add up and act as figurative kindling, making a fiery argument into an inferno. The line "don't sweat the small stuff" is applicable here. Compassion and empathy can help all parties involved let go of the small things so that when the big ones arise, they can be addressed more easily with love and kindness.
Daily Acts Of Kindness
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It is easy to get caught up in the mundane of our daily lives to the point that we stop doing those little special things for those we love. Just like little annoyances can add up, so can the small acts of kindness. Except daily acts of kindness serve as kindling for the love that runs deep.
Do little things, every single day, that makes your significant other feel special. Focus on positivity, and the negativity won't have an opportunity to grow and take over. Fix a cup of coffee for your partner. Buy them that special little treat on the way home. Do the little things that add up over time. Find one small thing each day, and let those things act as a buffer for the times when you're upset with each other.
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This one is huge. There is nothing more valuable than your time and attention. Between work, school, family, friends, kids, and outside obligations, our time can be extremely stretched. Often those most important to us, our significant others, end up getting placed on the back burner on the regular. The best way to stay connected, foster trust and communication, is to spend quality time with each other. Set aside time each week devoted to one another. Think of this as practicing how to solve relationship problems without breaking up.
By carving out the time you're making each other priority. This priority treatment is a proactive approach to avoiding the significant issues, as it makes everything mentioned above that much easier to cultivate. When the distance between partners grow, so does resentment, lack of trust, lack of understanding, less empathy, less forgiveness -- all the negatives that are obstacles to open communication come into play and act as a barrier that keeps us away from the love that we share.
How To Solve Relationship Problems Without Breaking Up: Seek Professional Help When Needed
There are times in relationships where some issues are just too significant to be solved with only the two of you. Sometimes seeking professional help is how to solve relationship problems without breaking up. According to the American Psychological Association, Emotionally-Focused Therapy is 75 percent effective for couples.
The strongest of relationships did not gain that strength overnight. Through life experience, vulnerability, understanding, and communication those seeds grew into healthy trees. Take the time. Do the work. Be open and honest with each other, and most everything else usually falls into place.
What strategies have you used during your relationships to overcome conflict and grow closeness? Share your experience in the comments.