In the early days of a relationship, things are usually pretty easy. You get to enjoy your first kiss, discover all of the little things you have in common, and dream about the possibility of a future together. But in reality, making a relationship last past the honeymoon stage sometimes means facing much harder issues than who has to hang up first. Whether you and your partner have trouble agreeing on how to split date costs or have to rebuild trust after one of you cheats,
couples may have issues if they can’t move past these difficult things, according to experts. Dr. Ildiko Tabori, an LA-based clinical psychologist, tells Bustle that even talking about difficult issues can be the most difficult issue that couples face. “One of the most difficult things to recognize in a relationship is knowing what to fight about and when to fight,” she says. While it might seem like a bad sign to have arguments about hard-to-discuss subjects, couples who don’t fight at all are probably disengaged and indifferent toward the relationship. The key to navigating these difficult things effectively is to choose the right time to talk about them. For example, “When a partner is having a bad day regarding something completely unrelated to the relationship, bringing up a major issue is not advisable because frustration tolerance is already low,” Dr. Tabori says. Identify the core issue that’s causing a rift between the two of you, and then talk it out when you’re both feeling calm.
Here are some difficult things that you need to work through if you want your relationship to last.
Grudges You’ve Been Holding
“One obstacle in a couple’s relationship is the formation of a grudge, the concretization of the built-up anger and resentment over a long period of time,”
Gita Zarnegar, Ph.D., Psy.D., LMFT, a training and supervising psychoanalyst, tells Bustle. If you can’t have an honest conversation with your partner about any grudge that’s built up over the course of your relationship, you may begin to drift apart, she explains.
“Grudge functions as a defensive mechanism, warding off renewed closeness and intimacy," she says, "because it activates the warning sign in the brain: ‘danger, danger, stay away.’” Begin to work past any lingering resentments by openly sharing how the specific scenario hurt each of you and your relationship, Dr. Zarnegar says. By recognizing the effects of the incident together, you’ll begin to rebuild your connection and trust.
Rocky Relationships With In-Laws
There’s a reason that meeting the parents is such a nerve-wracking situation. Whether you and your partner are married or dating, issues with in-laws can be a major problem in a relationship. “Often couples resort to anger and resentment over misdirected loyalties around disagreements involving the in-law issues,” Dr. Zarnegar says. “These types of arguments create a wedge between the couples and make them feel estranged and severed from one another.”
Instead of choosing sides, work to see yourselves as a unit. This doesn’t mean alienating your families, she says, but putting your energy into strengthening your own bond. Talk about how much time is appropriate to spend with each family or who to spend holidays with so that you can find a healthy balance that works for both of you.
3. Disagreements About Money
From figuring out who pays for date nights or buys groceries to splitting rent costs, talking about finances with your significant other can be stressful. If one of you is experiencing additional financial stress due to debt or a job loss, things can be even more difficult, certified relationship expert
Adina Mahalli, MSW tells Bustle. While this challenge can seem impossible to deal with, it’s actually a great opportunity to solidify your relationship. “When it comes to finances, open communication is key to moving forward,” Mahalli says. “You need to come up with a combined strategy on how you’re going to overcome this hurdle and look to the future together.”
Differing Goals For The Future
If you’ve always dreamed about running your own farm but your partner’s in love with city life, planning for a future together can be tricky. The key is to talk about your dreams early on, says Mahalli, instead of waiting until you’ve run out of time to make room for the other person in your plan.
“You need to make sure that your futures converge somewhat, or at least how you’re going to make it work if they don’t, in order for your relationship to be successful,” she says. Active listening is one useful tool for working through this process, Mahalli says. As your partner shares their point of view about what your lives will look like together, try not to begin thinking about your own response until they’ve let out all of their thoughts and emotions. That way, you’re truly hearing each other.
5. Being Too Codependent
“There is one very
common relationship pattern that can be detrimental to the future of a relationship — relying on a partner too much,” Mabel Yiu, MFT, the founder of Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, tells Bustle. While caring for each other and supporting each other emotionally is certainly an important part of a healthy relationship, relying on a partner for your own happiness is not. If one of you expects the other to always be your “everything,” you need to figure out a more healthy and balanced support system, she says.
“Your partner has his, her, or their own self to worry about.” If you’re the one who relies on your significant other for absolutely everything, shake things up and try finding a group of friends to spend time with. Explore some different activities that help you manage your emotions, and you just might meet some new BFFs.
Different Opinions On Date Night
It may seem like a small thing, but a simple weekend date night can be an important test of your relationship,
Arlene B.Englander, LCSW, MBA, a licensed psychotherapist, tells Bustle. For example, if you love seeing action movies but your partner would rather see the latest romantic comedy, figuring out how to spend your time together can be a challenge. Since spending time together should be your priority, try taking turns planning dates.
“I’ve even advised couples to use a timing device,” she says, “allowing one partner to speak for five minutes without interruption, then the other speaks, and continuing in that way first repeating what they’ve heard the other state until agreement is reached.” Try letting one person choose what to have for dinner and the other can choose what to watch. As long as one person doesn’t end up feeling like the “winner” at the end of the night, you’ll both be able to enjoy the quality time together.
Dividing Household Chores
If you and your partner live together, figuring out how to split up everyday tasks like doing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom, or doing laundry is more difficult than you might think,
Sabrina Bowen, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. Determining a division of labor that works for both of your schedules is key to avoiding resentment and feeling supportive. If you want to be together long-term, Bowen says that talking about chores can be effective — even if you don’t ultimately agree on who has to do what. Being able to openly express your feelings about always being the one to change the sheets or having to scrub every single pot is actually more important than coming to an immediate agreement.
“The way to bring it up is to use ‘I’ statements and to be soft and kind as you bring it up,” Bowen says. “So, something like this: ‘I don't want to fight but I care deeply about our relationship and it would help me if we could dialogue about this.’”
Having Trouble Communicating
“Some difficult things that couples should be able to move past are learning how to effectively communicate with one another,”
Dr. Molly Giorgio, a licensed clinical psychologist and adjunct faculty at University of Hartford, tells Bustle. Each of you brings a different history and communication style to the relationship, and learning how to understand both is crucial to helping your relationship last. Instead of letting small arguments go unresolved, make sure to face them early on so that they don’t make for a rocky road later on.
“Effective communication means listening to understand, not listening to respond,” Dr. Giorgio says. Try spending more time talking face-to-face instead of over phone and text if possible, she recommends. If you feel like you need extra help discovering your communication patterns, you can also try working with a couples therapist.
Cheating (or almost cheating) can cause a rift in your relationship that will eventually lead to resentment and negative feelings if not resolved, Celia Schweyer, a dating and relationship expert at
DatingScout.com, tells Bustle. Take a moment to gauge whether you are both truly willing to stay in the relationship after the incident. If you’re still committed to be together for the long haul, be sure to prioritize honesty even in the small things. “Even the smallest lie can do more harm than good if the trust isn't there, to begin with,” Schweyer says. “The trick to getting the trust back is by being consistent and letting time do its healing.”
Working through any of these difficult situations can seem daunting. But if you and your partner are looking forward to a life together, it will be so worth it.