7 Solutions That Can Save A Relationship

It is the rare couple that does not run into some potholes along the way. However, if you recognize in advance what those relationship problems might be, you have a much better chance of overcoming them.

Even though each relationship has its ups and downs, successful couples have learned to handle the bumps and maintain their love lives, says marriage and family therapist Mitch Temple, author of The Marriage Turnaround. They hang in there, tackle problems, and learn to solve the complex problems of everyday life. Many do this by reading books and self-help articles, attending seminars, going to counseling, observing other successful couples, or simply using trial and error.

Relationship Problem: Communication

All relationship problems stem from poor communication, according to Elaine Fantle Shimberg, author of Blending Families. “You can’t communicate while you check your BlackBerry, watch TV, or flip through the sports section,” she says.

Problem solving strategies:

  • Make a real date with each other, says Shimberg. If you live together, turn on cell phones, put kids to bed, and let voicemail take their calls.
  • If you can’t “communicate” without raising your voice, go to a public place like the library, park, or restaurant where you would be embarrassed if someone saw you scream.
  • Set some rules. Try not to interrupt until your partner is done talking, or prohibit phrases like “Always …” or “Never …”.
  • Use body language to show that you are listening. Don’t scribble, look at your watch or pinch your nails. Nod so that the other person knows that you are receiving the message and reformulate it if necessary. For example, say, “What I hear you saying is that you feel like you have more chores at home, even though we are both working.” If you are right, the other can confirm. If what the other person really meant was, “Hey, you’re lazy and you create more work for me by having to pick up after you,” you can say it, but in a kinder way.

Relationship Problem: Sex

Even couples who love each other can be a sexual mismatch. Mary Jo Fay, author of Please Dear, Not Tonight, says a lack of sexual self-awareness and education makes these problems worse. But having sex is one of the last things you should give up, says Fay. “Sex,” she says, “brings us closer together, releases hormones that help our bodies both physically and mentally, and maintains the chemistry of a healthy partner.”

Problem solving strategies:

  • Plan, plan, plan. Fay suggests making an appointment, but not necessarily at night when everyone is tired. Maybe during the baby’s Saturday afternoon nap or a “quickie before work.” Ask your friends or family to bring the kids every other Friday night for a sleepover. “When sex is on the calendar, increase your anticipation,” says Fay. Changing things up a bit can make sex more fun, too, she says. Why not have sex in the kitchen? Or by the fire? Or standing in the hallway?
  • Learn what really turns you and your partner on when you each come up with a personal “Sexy List”, suggests California psychotherapist Allison Cohen. Change the lists and use them to create more scenarios that will turn you both on.
  • If your sexual relationship problems cannot be solved on your own, Fay recommends consulting a qualified sex therapist to help you address and resolve your problems.

Relationship Problem: Money

Money problems can start even before exchanging wedding vows. They can come, for example, from the costs of courtship or the high cost of a wedding. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) recommends that couples who are struggling with money take a deep breath and have a serious conversation about finances.

Problem solving strategies:

  • Be honest about your current financial situation. If things have gone south, continuing the same lifestyle is not realistic.
  • Stay away from the subject in the heat of battle. Instead, set aside time that is convenient and non-threatening to both of you.
  • Recognize that one partner can be a saver and another can spend, understand that there are benefits to both, and agree to learn from each other’s trends.
  • Don’t hide income or debt. Bring financial documents to the table, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, debts, and investments.
  • Do not blame
  • Build a joint budget that includes savings.
  • Decide which person will be responsible for paying the monthly bills.
  • Allow each person independence by reserving money to spend at your discretion.
  • Decide short and long term goals. It is okay to have individual goals, but you should also have family goals.
  • Talk about caring for your parents as they age and how to properly plan their financial needs if necessary.

Relationship Problem: Struggles with Housework

Most partners work outside the home and often in more than one job. Therefore, it is important to divide work at home equally, says Paulette Kouffman-Sherman, author of Dating From the Inside Out.

Problem solving strategies:

  • Be organized and clear about your respective jobs at home, says Kouffman-Sherman. “Write down all the jobs and agree who does what.” Be fair so that resentment does not build up.
  • Be open to other solutions, she says. If they both hate housework, they may be able to find a cleaning service. If one of you likes housework, the other partner can do the laundry and the garden. You can be creative and take preferences into account, as long as it’s fair to both of you.

Relationship Problem: Not Making Your Relationship a Priority

If you want to keep your love life, making your relationship a focal point shouldn’t end when you say “Yes, I do.” “Relationships lose their luster. So make yours a priority,” says Karen Sherman, author of Marriage Magic! Find it, save it and make it last.

Problem solving strategies:

  • Do the things you used to do when you first went out: show appreciation, congratulations, connect throughout the day, and show mutual interest.
  • Appointment nights plan. Schedule time together on the calendar like you would any other important event in your life.
  • Respect each other. Say “thank you” and “I appreciate …” Let your partner know that they are important.

Relationship Problem: Conflict

Occasional conflict is part of life, according to New York-based psychologist Susan Silverman. But if you and your partner feel like you’re starring in your own nightmarish version of the movie Groundhog Day – that is, the same horrible situations repeat themselves day after day – it’s time to break free from this toxic routine. When you make the effort, you can lessen anger and calmly look at the underlying problems.

Problem solving strategies:

Silverman says that you and your partner can learn to discuss in a more civil and helpful way. Make these strategies part of who you are in this relationship.

  • Realize that you are not a victim. It is your choice whether and how you react.
  • Be honest with yourself. When you’re in the middle of a discussion, are your comments geared toward resolving the conflict or are you looking for revenge? If your comments are guilty and hurtful, it is better to take a deep breath and change your strategy.
  • Change it. If you continue to respond in the way that caused you pain and unhappiness in the past, this time you cannot expect a different result. Only a small turn can make a big difference. If you generally jump to defend yourself before your partner finishes talking, wait a few moments. You will be amazed how such a small tempo change can change the whole tone of an argument.
  • Give a little; Get many. Apologize when you are wrong. Sure it’s difficult, but give it a try and see how something wonderful happens.

“You can’t control the behavior of anyone else,” says Silverman. “The only one in your charge is you.”

Relationship Problem: Trust

Trust is a key part of a relationship. Do you see certain things that make you not trust your partner? Or do you have unsolved problems that prevent you from trusting others?

Problem solving strategies:

You and your partner can develop mutual trust by following these tips, says Fay.

  • Be consistent.
  • Arrive on time.
  • Do what you say you will do.
  • Do not lie, not even small white lies to your partner or to others.
  • Be fair, even in an argument.
  • Be sensitive to the feelings of the other. You may still disagree, but don’t discount how your partner feels.
  • Call when you say you will.
  • Call to say you’re late home.
  • Carry your fair share of the workload.
  • Don’t overreact when things go wrong.
  • Never say things you can’t get back.
  • Don’t dig up old wounds.
  • Respect your partner’s limits.
  • Do not be jealous.
  • Be a good listener.

Even though there will always be problems in a relationship, Sherman says that they can both do things to minimize marital problems, if not completely avoid them.

First, be realistic. Thinking that your partner will meet all your needs, and be able to solve them without being asked, is a Hollywood fantasy. “Order what you need directly,” she says.

Then use humor: learn to let go and enjoy each other more.

Finally, be willing to work on your relationship and really see what needs to be done. Don’t think things would be better with someone else. Unless you tackle problems, the same skill gap that gets in the way will now still be there and will continue to cause problems no matter what relationship you are in.

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