Feature Archive

7 Relationship Problems and How to Solve Them

Here's how to resolve the most common relationship problems and get your love life back on track.

By Carol Sorgen
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It's the rare couple that doesn't, sooner or later, run into a few bumps in the road. If you recognize ahead of time what those relationship problems can be, you'll have a much better chance of weathering the storm, experts say.

Ideally, a couple should discuss certain basic issues -- such as money, sex, and kids -- before they decide to start their life together. Of course, even when you do discuss these issues beforehand, marriage (or a long-term, live-in relationship) is nothing like you think it's going to be.

In spite of the fact that every marriage experiences relationship problems, couples who are successful have learned how to manage them and keep their love life going, says marriage and family therapist Mitch Temple, MS, author of The Marriage Turnaround. They gain success in marriage by hanging in there, tackling problems, and learning how to maneuver through the complex issues of everyday married life. Many do this by reading self-help books, attending seminars, browsing articles on the Web, going to counseling, observing other successful couples, or simply by trial and error.

Here are some common issues and ways to resolve them:

Relationship Problem: Communication

All relationship problems stem from poor communication skills, says Elaine Fantle Shimberg, author of Blending Families. "You can't communicate while you're checking your BlackBerry, watching TV, or flipping through the sports section," she says.

Problem-solving strategies:

  • Make time ... yes, an actual appointment with each other, Shimberg says. If you live together, put the cell phones on vibrate, put the kids to bed, and let the answering machine pick up your calls.


  • If you can't "communicate" without raising your voices, go to a public spot like the library, park, or restaurant, where you'd be embarrassed if anyone saw you screaming.


  • Set up some rules ... like not interrupting until the other is through, banning phrases such as "You always ..." or "You never ..."


  • Remember that a large part of communication is listening, so be sure your body language reflects that. That means, don't doodle, look at your watch, pick at your nails, etc. Nod so the other person knows you're getting the message and rephrase if necessary, such as, "What I hear you saying is that you feel as though you have more chores at home, even though we're both working." If you're right, the other can confirm, and if what the other person really meant was, hey, you're a slob and you create more work for me by having to pick up after you, perhaps they'll say so but in a nicer way.

Relationship Problem: Sex

Even partners who love each other can be incompatible sexually. Compounding these problems, says Mary Jo Fay, is the fact that men and women alike are sorely lacking in sex education and sexual self-awareness. Yet, having sex is one of the last things we should be giving up, says Fay, who addresses the topic in her new book, Please Dear, Not Tonight. "Sex brings us closer together, releases hormones that help our bodies both physically and mentally, and keeps the chemistry of a healthy couple healthy," she says.

Problem-solving strategies:

  • Plan, plan, plan, Fay says. Make an appointment -- not necessarily at night when everyone is tired. Maybe during the baby's Saturday afternoon nap. Or perhaps a "before-work quickie," Fay suggests. Or ask Grandma and Grandpa to take the kids every other Friday night for a sleepover. "When sex is on the calendar, it increases your anticipation," Fay says, adding that mixing things up a bit can increase your sexual enjoyment as well. Why not sex in the kitchen? Sex by the fire? Sex standing up in the hallway?


  • California psychotherapist Allison Cohen, MA, MFT, also suggests learning what truly turns your partner on by asking him or her to come up with a personal "Sexy List." And, of course, you do the same. What do each of you truly find sexy? "The answers may surprise you." Swap the lists and use them to create more scenarios that turn you both on.


  • If your sexual relationship problems can't be resolved on your own, Fay recommends consulting a qualified sex therapist, who can help you both address and resolve your issues.

Relationship Problem: Money



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