At some point, we have all fantasized about what our ideal relationship would be like. Finding that perfect guy or girl who will make life that much brighter and full of joy, and embarking on a journey of happily ever after. However, when painting this dreamy picture, most people forget to factor in the relationship challenges that come with the territory.
Even if you find your dream partner, who is everything you had hoped for and more, it is only a matter of time before you start to notice things about them that bother you. Maybe they don’t put the dishes away after you finish eating, or maybe they have trouble letting their guard down and showing their vulnerabilities. These kinds of situations have a way of turning into relationship challenges for couples.
Rather than waiting around for the other shoe to drop, it is better to be prepared for overcoming relationship challenges. Because come they will, and if you stay in denial about turbulence in your romantic paradise, things can get out of hand. So, with insights from premarital and dating coach Geetarsh Kaur, let us look at some of the most common relationship challenges that people face and how to deal with them.
What Are Challenges In A Relationship?
Before learning how to navigate relationship challenges without letting them take a toll on your bond, it’s important to define what constitutes challenges in a relationship. This is just as crucial as defining the relationship itself, if not more. Since every couple is unique, the challenges they face along the way can also be diverse and eclectic.
While there is no denying that all relationships require a lot of work and come with their own set of hurdles and roadblocks, the nature of old and new relationship challenges can be very different, depending on what the two people in that relationship consider to be challenging. For some, the inability to articulate their thoughts well or communicate effectively can be one of the greatest relationship challenges. For others, carving out quality ‘we’ time can become a contentious issue over time.
Challenges in a relationship can also be determined by your circumstances, culture, upbringing, values and goals. For instance, long-distance relationship challenges can be very different from those of couples living together. The relationship challenges during COVID – which ranged from not getting enough personal space to pandemic fatigue leading to frequent fights and bickering, and in extreme cases, even abuse – are proof that our circumstances play a role in governing the health of a relationship.
Likewise, the relationship challenges after a child can be markedly different from those experienced by a couple who has just decided on being exclusive. The bottom line is that the definition of challenges in a relationship changes and evolves, depending on what stage of life you’re at, who you are as a person and who you become during the course of a relationship, and what you seek from it.
Amid all these variables, the only constant is that relationship challenges exist at every step of the way. You cannot wish them away or overlook them, hoping they’d dissipate. The only way to deal with them is to evolve a strategy for overcoming relationship challenges without letting them damage your bond.
11 Relationship Challenges Almost Everyone Has To Face
Samantha and Ricky have been together for 15 years. From dating as coworkers to walking down the aisle, raising two kids and braving a pandemic together, their relationship has crossed several milestones and navigated rough waters along the way.
They say that even though the nature of relationship challenges a couple faces in different stages of their life change, certain core issues become the breeding ground for all troubles. If a couple can learn to overcome these when they emerge as new relationship challenges, tackling other issues and problems becomes easier.
What are these core relationship challenges and what can you do to subvert them? Let’s find out:
1. Communication is among the most common relationship challenges
The common saying “communication is key” isn’t an empty phrase. Communication can be the difference between a healthy relationship and one filled with misunderstandings and hurt. But communication is not just talking. People can talk superficially but that won’t solve any relationship challenges.
Especially in new relationships, challenges in communication are rampant. You are just getting to know each other and things may seem great but this is when communication is most important. You’re in the honeymoon phase and willing to forgive any issues that you might be facing but you aren’t doing yourself any favors by ignoring the elephant in the room.
Geetarsh says, “The greatest fear when it comes to communication is being misunderstood.” You don’t want to ruin a good thing by expressing a thought that you think your partner won’t understand, but give them the credit of being a good enough listener to hear you out.
How to overcome communication issues in a relationship
Rather than put off the inevitable conversations, make sure that you make your views known so that you can build the foundation of a strong relationship. For instance, if your partner makes a plan with you but is consistently unable to meet those plans, make sure that you express your feelings so that they don’t take for granted that you are all right with these inconsistencies.
Likewise, if you are facing long-distance relationship challenges ensure that you make one extra video call or text each other frequently. This way your partner knows that you are reaching out and are available to them.
Related Reading: 8 Ways To Get Out Of An Unhealthy Relationship
2. Not setting expectations realistically
This can be among the make-or-break relationship challenges for couples. You have just gotten into a relationship and you have all these ideas about what it should be like. However, people are rarely what you expect them to be. You might like 90% of a person, but the remaining 10% can make a huge difference.
The difference between a relationship that lasts and one that fades with time is the ability to manage expectations realistically and accept what is in front of you. No one can fit the bill of that ‘perfect partner’ that you have built in your head.
If you believe that the relationship is worth the effort, then any challenge can be overcome. Having said that, a majority of relationship challenges for couples arise from an inability to reconcile with the good and the bad that both partners bring to the equation.
How to overcome mismatched expectations
The first step for overcoming relationship challenges of this nature is to identify whether the difference in expectations that you have with your partner is a severe one or not. If they don’t like the same food as you, it shouldn’t be a huge issue. However, if they do not meet your base expectations, that is another matter entirely.
If your partner does not meet some minor expectations, you should try to understand that everyone has a different temperament and love language. Trying to mold your partner into a version that you prefer isn’t going to bode well for the future.
“It is very important to set boundaries and expectations. Regardless of gender, we all have to compromise for the success of a relationship. This isn’t a sacrifice but rather letting go for the benefit of the relationship,” advises Geetarsh.
3. Being honest is one of the relationship challenges for couples
Honesty may seem like a given in any relationship. However, in practice, it can be harder than it seems. You may always want to present your best self to your significant other but that isn’t feasible in the long term. Practicing honesty with your partner lays the groundwork for a functional relationship. You might not always be on the same page but, as long as you are honest you can bring your real self to the partnership.
Many people run into this relationship challenge because they feel they cannot be vulnerable with their partners. However, this dishonesty only starts a vicious cycle. You start being dishonest because you have things you wish to hide but this forces you into other lies which eventually creates a wall between you and your partner.
Having said that, it is also vital that you understand what being honest in a relationship means. “Ownership and possession are not the same as care. Your partner should care about you and ask about your life but they shouldn’t feel entitled to your information,” says Geetarsh.
How to overcome lack of honesty in a relationship
Actively practice honesty with your partner. Rather than telling your partner what they want to hear or what you think they do, tell them how you feel. This may feel strange, scary even, at the beginning but soon you will see that it allows you to be truer to your partner and helps you connect with them better.
Of course, this is not a license to be rude or curt with your partner. The idea is to be clear in your thoughts and convey them effectively. “A couple should be ready to accept that discomfort in a conversation is healthy and essential for growth. Maturely sit and talk about your issues rather than getting affected and indulging in blame-shifting,” says Geetarsh.
4. Familial issues can get in the way
Everyone knows that meeting the parents can be a particularly difficult part of any relationship. It reflects a level of commitment to introduce your partner to your family. After all, they’re the important people in your life. This holds for both partners.
Even after the introduction, there may be some friction between the family and your partner. Perhaps they don’t approve of your partner for some reason or your partner might have some differences of opinion with them. Either way, it can put you in a tight spot having to maintain the line between the two sides, making it one of the most daunting new relationship challenges.
How to overcome familial issues
You can’t make everyone happy all of the time. Sometimes you will have to take one side or the other depending on the topic. However, you can control how you convey your thoughts. Regardless of what side of the issue you fall on, make sure that you contain it to a single issue.
Don’t let the issue go out of hand and become a general fight over the character of the people involved. Let everyone involved know that your opinions are based solely on the merits of the issue at hand.
5. Finances can be a breeding ground for relationship challenges
In most relationships, there are differences in the ways each partner contributes. Perhaps one of you earns, while the other helps at home. Even if both partners are earning, the one with the bigger paycheck may end up picking the lion’s share of expenses, and in turn, call the shots about financial management.
Or the views of both partners on saving and spending can be poles apart, leading to constant bickering over money and even making the relationship susceptible to financial infidelity. Similarly, surviving on a single income because one parent has to take a sabbatical from work can lead to a host of relationship challenges after a child.
In short, money can be a breeding ground for all sorts of relationship challenges, which if not addressed the right way can become chronic issues.
How to overcome financial issues in a relationship
Overcoming relationship challenges of such delicate nature requires careful handling. If you notice a sense of resentment in your relationship, this is your cue to face the issue head-on. Of course, both partners should contribute equally to the relationship but there often comes a time where one is doing more due to the circumstances.
At times like this, you should find a way to support each other. If one partner is not earning as much, they could try to contribute in other ways with the understanding that if the shoe was on the other foot, your partner would do the same.
Geetarsh says, “No one in the relationship should be winning or losing. If the relationship has devolved into a game of getting points against the other, then things have gone too far.”
Related Reading: 25 Most Common Relationship Problems
6. Lack of personal space in the relationship
You probably don’t think about space on a day-to-day basis. It is something that we often take for granted when we have it. However, when you start living with someone and sharing a space, you are quickly forced to question how much space you and your partner need.
For instance, you may have just moved into a new flat with your partner. Arguments over personal space in a relationship can arise due to anything from not having enough closet space to not getting any alone time for unwinding after a long day at work.
What’s worse, the level of comfort might be different for each partner. You might be content to have their clothes at your place, but they might not be ready for such a step. The issue of personal space has also been among the leading relationship challenges during COVID, augmented by couples being forced to be holed up inside their living spaces for months on end.
How to overcome issues of personal space
Like with everything else, the key here is to find a middle ground. Perhaps, you and your partner can both come up with a list of what space and ‘me time’ means to you individually, and then, sit together to figure out how best you can combine the two to evolve a shared vision for what healthy space in a relationship should look like.
7. Time management (or lack thereof)
Time is a limited resource. Given how fast-paced our lives are, each second has become a prized possession only to be used for the most productive activities. That is why, when it comes to a relationship, it can be hard to allocate time to all aspects that need attention.
Work and other issues can take up a huge amount of time and energy, leaving you feeling drained. This can make partners drift apart, making them feel less and less in sync with every passing day.
This growing distance can become a root cause of myriad other challenges in a relationship. Managing time and making sure you’re connecting with each other, meaningfully and mindfully – without distractions or half-hearted efforts – is also among the top long-distance relationship challenges.
How to overcome lack of quality time
To overcome this relationship challenge, it’s vital to never lose sight of the fact that communication and love need dedicated time to ensure a strong bond. “Time to communicate effectively is extremely important. You cannot build an enduring relationship without investing time and effort in it,” says Geetarsh.
Spending this time to develop the relationship between you and your partner shows that you are still invested in the relationship. Nothing gives your partner a sense of security more than knowing that you are willing to spend your limited time with them.
8. The inability to empathize
Empathy is among the baseline expectations in any relationship. However, this may start to get limited over time. There are only so many things that we can care about on a daily basis, and with time, your partner can slip way down on that list and vice versa. Lack of empathy can take a toll on your relationship, eventually driving you and your partner apart.
Your partner may have had a hard day of work, followed by a long commute, and they expect you to commiserate with them. However, you have also had a long and tiring day, perhaps your work isn’t even over yet. In this situation, it can be hard to empathize with someone else rather than focus on your own needs. In some cases, you might still feel empathy for the person but might not be able to express it due to other issues taking up space in your mind.
How to overcome lack of empathy
If you are finding it hard to care about the problems in your partner’s life, look internally to find what the issue is. Do you still want to empathize with them or does it seem not worth the effort? If you are sure that you still want to be in the relationship, then try to take some small steps to show that you are thinking of their issues and are invested in helping your partner resolve them. “Don’t be problem-focused but rather solution-focused,” advises Geetarsh.
9. Dwindling intimacy is one of the top relationship challenges
Contrary to popular belief, it’s a lack of intimacy more than sexual incompatibility that causes couples to drift apart. Maybe you have been together for a few years. From being comfortable, you go to being complacent in the relationship, and before you know it, the spark has died down. In such a situation, it can be difficult to make an effort to maintain intimacy.
Intimacy isn’t just about a physical or sexual connection between two partners, it’s also about sharing a level of vulnerability and being emotionally connected. One of the major relationship challenges for couples who have been together a long time is to continue fostering different forms of intimacy in their connection.
You expect your partner to assume that you still have the same amount of love for them as you did when you started dating, but this has to be conveyed through words and actions.
How to overcome a lack of intimacy in a relationship
Include your partner in major events and decisions in your life, share your thoughts, feelings and desires with them. Open your heart to them and be receptive when they do the same. This shows that you value them and their opinion. Besides, making a conscious effort to create new equations within an existing connection by planning date nights and soaking up new experiences together is a great way to keep the love, romance and intimacy alive.
10. Arguments begin to take a toll
Arguments can be hard on any relationship. No one wants to argue, especially in a relationship where you both care about each other; however, arguments and differences of opinions are also inevitable when two people come together to share a journey as a couple.
Each acerbic word can hurt a great deal and you would do anything to avoid it. However, arguments are only the tip of the iceberg, which if left unresolved can open the flood gates for chronic issues. This becomes one of the greatest relationship challenges for couples, especially if they don’t master the right conflict resolution strategies to resolve arguments without causing lasting damage to their bond.
How to overcome arguments in a relationship
The key to overcoming relationship challenges where you’re at loggerheads with each other is to not lose sight of how much your partner means to you. Consider why the argument happened to begin with. If the issue at hand is serious, you need to get to the root of it and resolve it for the sake of improving your relationship.
On the other hand, if the issue is relatively minor, then you must examine if you’re harboring resentment, which is causing you to blow things out of proportion. Unresolved issues of the past don’t just go away on their own, they fester at the back of your mind and taint parts of your relationship which they don’t relate to.
Instead of ignoring the minor issues, you can use arguments to find commonalities in your arguments and try to address them directly. Otherwise, you will only be dealing with symptoms of a greater problem.
Related Reading: 11 Relationship Arguments That Spell Doom For Your Bond
11. Trust issues in relationships
As many people can attest, trust is the foundation of any good relationship. Yet knowing you can trust your partner to have your back even in a tough situation is among the relationship challenges that many couples struggle with. At the same time, a lack of trust between partners can lead to insecurities, suspicions and a relationship where you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, fearing your partner will stab you in the back.
If there is a lack of trust in a relationship, then it can only result in discontentment and resentment. You have to be able to believe that your partner will be there for you and won’t betray you. Only then can you have any progress in a relationship.
How to overcome trust issues
If you feel there are trust issues between you and your partner, it is time to assess what may have caused it. It might be because one of you isn’t able to keep promises or has lied in the past. To make amends, you need to work on rebuilding trust in the relationships by ensuring that you keep your word and go out of your way to make them feel like they can rely on you.
No relationship is free of challenges and problems. Overcoming relationship challenges is an everyday concern and must be dealt with head-on. If you have the courage and the persistence to see past these issues and deal with them healthily, then you are one step closer to a healthier relationship.
Even if you feel overwhelmed by the relationship challenges you’re dealing with, don’t lose hope. Experienced and licensed counselors on Bonobology’s panel have helped scores of couples in similar situations. You too can avail of their expert guidance to steer your relationship in a new direction. The right help is only a click away.