You and your partner might be wondering, even worried, whether the relationship challenges you two are enduring are rare or common.
Perhaps you find that you both can’t stop fighting – and often about the same few topics repeatedly. Maybe you feel you can’t bring a single thing up without your partner becoming incredibly defensive, which ultimately leads you to decide to avoid bringing things up altogether.
Perhaps you believe that, while the two of you had so much fun in the beginning of your relationship, that time seems to have vanished. Or, maybe you continually worry that you two just aren’t a good match because it seems your life goals and perspectives are simply too dissimilar.
If any of these describes your relationship, you are in great company; these are some of the most common relationship issues couples face every day and some of the biggest reasons they seek couples’ therapy.
Why are these relationship challenges so common?
Why can’t we stop fighting (and often about the same things)?
How we start a conversation determines with over a 92% accuracy the rest of interaction. The conversation is doomed when we begin with
- criticism (you did this/that),
- contempt (you did this/that and that makes you a bad, lazy, mean, manipulative, etc. person),
- defensive (where we deny any role in it), and/or
- stonewalling (where we shut down, avoid eye contact, and/or leave the interaction because our emotions are essentially too intense)
So, if you find you and your partner often become embroiled in conflict, it’s likely the conversations begin with one or several of these incredibly damaging forms of communication, also known as “the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”.
Additionally, most of us repeatedly fight about the same few topics. In fact, about 70% of conflicts in our relationships are these “gridlocked/perpetual conflicts.” The reason we clash in this way so often is because, within these topics, you and your partner have strong fundamental differences. For instance, perhaps you are a rational, goal-oriented person, while your partner is more of a laid back, dreamer type. This can cause tremendous conflict between you two in navigating daily activities and can present as stark differences in how you two dream to live your lives.
What can we do about it?
In couples therapy, you and your partner will learn to become consistently mindful of how you start and continue conversations (paying particular attention to protecting yourselves from the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse).
You will also learn to use a framework called the Dreams within Conflict exercise, where you two discuss the dreams for your lives represented in these gridlocked conflicts. In this process, you will learn to understand and be much more sensitive to each other’s dreams/areas of conflict.
Where did our fun times go?
In the first few months of dating (the honeymoon period), we often experience so much joy, fun, and excitement with our new partner. There’s a common misperception that this experience is supposed to simply continue in our relationship, regardless of whether we intentionally work to consistently cultivate it.
The reality is the natural state of relationships is as follows: harmony, disharmony, and repair. The beginning stage, this honeymoon phase, is usually marked by a sense of harmony. Inevitably, we shed our earlier best selves, notice each other’s flaws, and move into moments of disharmony. It is in this disharmony phase that we can lose sight of the fun and find ourselves suffering from some of the most common relationship challenges.
What can we do about it?
In couples therapy, you and your loved one will learn to make dating an active and proactive priority each day in your relationship. You will learn to be continually curious about one another and routinely get to know each other throughout your lives, as this will help you keep things fresh, fun, and exhilarating.
What if we don’t have the same life goals?
It can be scary to discover the possibility that you and your partner want very different things out of life. The problem, though, often does not lie in the fact that you two may want some very different things. Much more often, the problem sits in the fact that you two need much healthier ways of discussing your life goals and visions. Only then, can you determine if those two versions can come together in a satisfying way.
What can we do about it?
In couples therapy, you will learn the Art of Compromise skillset, as well as the Gottman-Rapoport Intervention, both of which will help you and your loved one learn about each other’s life goals and dreams in productive ways. You will learn where you each are flexible and inflexible, where your common goals are, and throughout this, you will ensure you each take turns and fully understand each other. These skills will notably help you two to see if you can make your differing visions for life into something terrific.
Experience the Benefits of Online Therapy for Couples and Men at Stress Solutions, Licensed in California, Oregon and Florida
At Stress Solutions, we provide help for couples who are dating or married. In addition, we specialize in providing therapy for men. We are happy to answer any additional questions you may have about how we can best help you/you and your partner to achieve your goals.