Common Relationship problems and how to deal with them


Every relationship will have its fair share of problems. How you deal with the problems will dictate success or failure. Over the years as a therapist, I have come across common problems in relationships and have seen what helps to solve issues and move forward. Common problems in relationships tend to be related to unmet needs. When you dig below the surface, nine times out of ten when the issue will involve a feeling of not being important or not feeling valued and appreciated. An appreciative partner will be happy to go the extra mile whereas someone who feels taken advantage of or ignored will pull back and withdraw.

1. Feeling unloved or unappreciated

This is a common relationship problem. We all start a relationship with certain expectations and when the relationship begins to let us down, we assume certain things that may not be true. One of the worst mistakes people make is assuming that they know what their partner is thinking. Therapists use the term “mind-reading” to explain this behaviour. Always be aware when you are mind-reading. You may be correct but you could also be incorrect and making up stories in your mind that aren’t happening in reality. This is where good communication comes in – be open with your partner and ask them what is going on rather than making assumptions. You might find you are relieved to discover that what you thought was going on was a figment of your imagination.

Ask for what you want

For example – if your partner does not help you around the house as much as you would like, you might begin to think that they do not care about you or your quality of life. The more you buy into this thinking the more annoyed you will become. Having a conversation with your partner should reset you to zero once you have cleared the air. It might be that your partner was unaware of how you felt. Never assume that others just automatically know what you want. Always ask for what you want and need – this is your responsibility in a relationship. The same goes for your partner, asking for what you want is mature and shows that you take personal responsibility for your own happiness.

Small gestures go a long way. Leave a post-it note somewhere reminding your partner that you love them or send a random text during the day letting them know that you are thinking of them. These small gestures don’t take much effort but they go along way in cementing your connection and bond with your partner.

2. Frequent arguments

A certain amount of arguing is normal and nothing to worry about. Arguing that does not become nasty or insulting can be useful in clearing the air and ‘resetting to zero’. Some couples never argue and this is fine as long as it shoes are not being buried or ignored. Passive behaviour in relationships will come back to bite you. With your partner, consider whether there is a common theme or trigger. Are your arguments over jealousy, control, domestic chores, finances or family/friends? If you identify a specific theme, you can narrow it down to an underlying unmet need. If you struggle with this, then couples therapy will help you get to the bottom of your arguments.

Often arguments are a symptom of an underlying unmet need. It’s rarely to do with the surface issue of not doing the washing up but rather a response to feeling appreciated or undervalued in the relationship. Consider how it makes you feel when your partner doesn’t do their fair share of household chores. It’s this feeling that is creating the issue.

Problem-solve together

Instead of blaming or shaming your partner, look at ways to problem solve issues that are arising. If it’s to do with household chores, could you set up a weekly schedule to equally share the burden? If the arguments are around jealousy and control, it is important to discuss your individual boundaries and what you will and will not accept. This is a question of compatibility and of shared values as a couple. Sometimes it is necessary to accept that your values are too far apart and that you are incompatible. It also depends on how much work each person is willing to do to make the relationship work.

Problem-solving involves a brainstorming session together. Think of as many possible solutions as you can, even if they seem far-fetched and then discuss the validity of each option. Problem-solving helps you feel empowered rather than stuck with no options.

Problem-solving can breathe new life into your relationship & remind you that you can work well as a team.

3. Growing apart

Relationships naturally go through ups and downs. If there has been a considerable amount of time in which you feel disconnected from your partner, use this as an opportunity to figure out ways to reconnect.

Research indicates that one of the best ways to restore the bond with your partner is by trying something new. In fact, the research suggests that the more thrilling and unnerving the experience, the more intense your connection will be. Being together in an uncertain environment causes you to feel closer to someone that is familiar. Unfortunately growing apart is sometimes a part of life if you still feel there is hope to get back to where you once were, the following suggestions might help:

As previously suggested, try a new and exciting activities such as skydiving, go on a roller coaster together, try kayaking or white river rafting – be creative!

Quality time and trying new novel experiences can help

Ensure that you spend more quality time together. Google “relationship questionnaires” online and spend time asking each other unusual questions that would not normally come up in conversation. Here are a few examples:

What’s your ideal way to spend a vacation?
What makes you dislike a person?
Do you think you are a confident person? Why or why not?
What about yourself are you most proud of?
What would the best version of you be like?
What life experiences did you miss out on?
When are you the most “you”?
How did you fall out with some of your previously close friends?
Are you happy with the people you surround yourself with? Why or why not?

Consider each other’s love languages as well. According to the author Gary Chapman, there are five main love languages- gifts, quality time, affection, acts of service verbal expressions of love/compliments.

Find out what your partner’s main Love Languages are and remember to show them in this manner. You might prefer gifts and they might prefer quality time – don’t automatically assume that what you love somebody else will love equally.

4.A jealous, controlling possessive partner/Coercive control

This relationship problem and turns into more dangerous territory. Coercive control relates to feeling that you cannot truly be yourself in a relationship. You might feel as if you are walking on eggshells and worried when your partner will next have an outburst. Coercive control is more subtle than physical or emotional abuse. It often remains undetected to those around the relationship. A subtle glance, rolling of the eyes or a facial expression can mean that they will be trouble ahead. Coercive control can seem like a secretive destructive language between partners in a relationship.

If you suspect that something isn’t quite right, you are probably correct and you should tune in to your intuition. If you find yourself mentally going over recent events, feeling confused and doubting yourself, it could be a sign that you are being coercively controlled or emotionally manipulated.

Speak to others and get support

If you feel that something isn’t quite right, speak to others around you for an objective opinion. Sometimes we get so caught up in our emotions that we begin to justify destructive behaviors in the relationship and they become normalized. If you are in a healthy relationship, you should feel free to be yourself and should not expect to be constantly belittled or feel that you need to monitor your behavior so that you do not upset your partner.

Emotional abuse takes many forms – relationships often start off full of love, lust and promise but sometimes after a while an individual may begin to feel trapped and suffocated. If you ever feel as if someone is trying to ‘clip your wings’, stop and ask yourself what is really going on. In a healthy loving relationship, your partner should be your ally and should champion you and your successes. If you feel you need to change in order for them to love and accept you, see this as a warning sign of further trouble to come.

We all want to feel loved and appreciated and it can be hard to let go of the dreams we have for the future. Remember though that those dreams will never appear anyway if you stay in an abusive relationship. The best you can do for yourself is get out now, show yourself compassion and know that you are immediately on a better path to future happiness. It will hurt for a while but your future self will thank you for it


Some relationships are better than others and those relationships that are more successful do better because of the following:

Good communication for a successful relationship

Successful relationships depend on consistent communication. It is vital to discuss any problems that arise because leaving issues to Fester allows the issues to grow and resentment sets in. I like to call it ” resetting to zero”. Pressure builds up but once you have cleared the air and talked, you can reset, feel more at ease and continue as before. Many problems build up because issues are denied or avoided and the ‘elephant in the room’ becomes louder and more destructive.

Apart from good communication, there are five prerequisites that help a relationship to thrive. These 5 prerequisites are:

  1. Shared Values – do you agree on child-raising issues, where you would like to live, marriage, going out or staying in…etc
  2. Shared commitment – do you both want a long-term commitment or is your relationship less well-defined?
  3. Intellectual compatibility – do your intelligence levels match
  4. Sexual compatibility – do you enjoy sex in the same way
  5. Emotional compatibility – is there empathy for your partner? Can you put yourself in their shoes easily?

The above five prerequisites offer a good start to a relationship but how well you manage the relationship going forward is down to communication, compromise and consideration.

Healthy boundaries

Healthy boundaries involve maintaining a strong sense of self-worth and having a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who treats you with disdain or disrespect. Everyone makes mistakes at times but if you notice a pattern of behavior you will do well to reassess the future of the relationship.

Shared respect

When two people come together and they genuinely respect each other and genuinely care for each other, it can be the start of a great union. Accepting your differences and celebrating your strengths will help you navigate the tough times.

A relationship will never be one objective reality –  it will always be two subjective realities.

Constant compromise is required in order for these two realities to overlap as much as possible. A relationship is similar to a garden, if you don’t tend to it, it will grow weeds. Relationships require regular effort and the ability to consider yourself as a team rather than as an individual in many aspects.

Remember to deposit into the ‘Love Bank’ so that you may withdraw the benefits in the future. Small gestures of goodwill, picking your battles and seeing your partner as your best friend will pave the way for a more fulfilling relationship.

Mandy X

Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash

Mandy Kloppers
Author: Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.

Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.

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