“It is more rewarding to resolve a conflict than to dissolve a relationship,” said Josh Mcdowell, author of The Secret of Loving. Isn’t that the essence of what you are looking for from the internet today? What will get you through this rough patch is intention, patience, and most importantly, the curiosity to know how to solve relationship problems without breaking up. We know our relationships are mired in problems. It is inevitable. But it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to resolve these issues daily and ensure they don’t keep popping up in your life.
We brought in Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in separation and divorce counseling, to share some insights into ways to fix problems in a relationship before the point of breaking up. In the process, we also talk about common long-term relationship problems and how to fix them.
What Causes Relationship Problems
Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, in their book, Conscious Loving: The Journey To Co-Commitment, say, “You are almost never upset for the reasons you think you are.” Struggling relationship problems are “a series of bubbles coming up through the water to the surface. The big bubbles near the surface are caused by something deeper but hard to see. The big bubbles are easy to see and therefore get our attention.”
Shazia too echoes Hendricks’ bubble theory. She says, “These problems that couples take for granted are initially so small that they go unnoticed until the bigger ones appear, or a feeling of suffocation or doubt surfaces inside you all of a sudden.” But that’s not the end of it. She adds, “When two people start taking their relationship for granted, that is when they unconsciously plan its failure.”
So, from where are these relationship issues cropping up and what are some of the greatest relationship challenges that many couples face?
- Loving each other and working toward conflict resolution is a deliberate practice. Most common relationship problems begin with the absence of a conscious effort, when partners stop working on the relationship
- If one partner gives the other enough reasons to lose faith in them and the foundation of the relationship, problems are bound to occur
- Financial infidelity, lack of financial freedom, or even poor management of finances may spell doom for a loving relationship
- For couples who are living together or married, unequal distribution of household chores and other responsibilities can cause resentment
- The emotional connection between partners often gets affected due to miscommunication or poor communication, especially in long-distance relationships
- When you fail to appreciate all the things that are admirable about your partner, they may not feel loved and important like before
- Differences in parenting ideas can get in the way of a happily married couple
Shazia says, “Because you ignored the small problems, trust issues and confusions may have developed. You feel overwhelmed and start responding in ineffective or even inappropriate ways, which damages a broken relationship even further and may bring it to the point of a breakup. Then you wonder how to solve the underlying issues without leaving your partner.” To stop a relationship from breaking up, read on to learn more about these common relationship problems.
15 Ways To Solve Relationship Problems Without Breaking Up
It is time to look at how to solve issues in a relationship without breaking it off. Of course, couple’s therapy is an alley to explore, but let us add a very interesting dimension to this question that will resolve more than half of the confusion you are buried under. It is Dr. John Gottman’s theory of perpetual problems and solvable problems. Yes, it is as simple as it sounds.
He says in his book, The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, that all relationship problems fall into one of the following two categories.
Related Reading: 10 Things That Make A Good Relationship – As Per An Expert
- Solvable: These problems can be resolved. They seem very small but collect over time. They are caused by a reluctance to see each other’s point of view, compromise, come to a common ground, and well, just solve them
- Perpetual: These problems last forever and keep recurring in a couple’s lives in one way or another. Perpetual problems can look like conflicts in ideologies or ways of thinking, ways of raising children, religious issues, etc. that people find very hard to change in each other
What is most interesting here is that Dr. Gottman says that in a healthy relationship, emotionally intelligent couples “hit upon a way to deal with their unbudgeable or perpetual problem so it doesn’t overwhelm them. They’ve learned to keep it in its place and to have a sense of humor about it.”
If couples could resolve most of their solvable problems, they would have developed effective strategies and enough trust to accommodate the more difficult or perpetual ones before resorting to the thought of a breakup. So, take a deep breath, and let’s jump right into the 15 tips on how to solve relationship problems without breaking up. Ugh, at least the solvable ones:
1. Accept that your relationship is not perfect
How do we look ahead and strive for more without humbling down and accepting our limitations? As human beings, our romantic relationships are vastly limited by our individual life experiences, past mistakes, points of view, and ideas. Accept that love cannot be perfect all the time. Know that nobody’s relationship is perfect and take solace in that knowledge.
The concept of perpetual problems does just that. It solidifies your conviction that it is okay to have problems and it is okay that they just don’t seem to resolve. Happy, successful relationships also face those problems but never crumble under their weight. Now that the pressure is off – phew! – these actionable tips to solve relationship problems will seem more doable.
2. Give each other time
To allow yourself the perspective of time is honestly the simplest of resolutions one could commit themselves to. The challenge is that in the face of conflict, we are so trapped in our egotistically driven desire to prove ourselves right or tackle the conflict head-on that we refuse to step back. The solution? Be prepared. You think it is time for taking a break in your relationship, but maybe you just need to take some time and space to evaluate. Shazia’s relationship advice for our readers is as follows:
- Anytime you face a conflict in your relationship that feels too emotionally taxing or complex to handle, just take a bit of time
- Don’t make any hasty decisions and give the issue at hand some mindful reflection
- It could mean taking a short break to think upon your problems
- Try not to jump to any conclusion and take time to understand the other person’s perspective and clarify yours by being in the relationship
- Equipping yourself with the right strategies and inner work will help you make that conviction
- The next time you find yourself in a conflict, your brain will take over your instinct and remind you to take a wiser course of action
Related Reading: How To Deal With Taking A Break In A Relationship – 7 Rules
3. Give each other space
Allowing each other the perspective of time is naturally complemented by the perspective of space. It is advisable that you take space in a relationship without breaking up and walk away from that problematic situation if it feels too overwhelming for you. But it’s important to ensure how your partner feels about it. So, do it gently after expressing your reason to your partner and assuring them that you will be back when you feel more centered.
Abruptly walking away can make your partner think that you are emotionally stonewalling them, which can be a very hurtful experience. Shazia says, “Not just to solve a specific problem without parting ways but to avoid problems in the first place, partners should allow each other free space where they can just be, both physically and figuratively. Everyone should have the privilege of some privacy to their own emotions and that’s the key to any successful relationship.”
4. Communicate your feelings responsibly to save the relationship
After having taken time and space, if there has been a shift in perspective and if you have genuinely been able to let go, then, good for you! But if there are pent-up emotions or things you think you need to share, do communicate them. Believe it or not, fixing the lack of communication may actually resolve half your troubles. But be mindful of the communication strategies you are employing in the process.
- Make sure your partner too is ready to have that conversation
- Come together with a focus on finding a solution
- Be respectful toward your partner and your relationship
- Do not allow yourself to do or say something utterly regrettable
- Active listening skills are a part and parcel of healthy communication. Make sure you and your partner practice active listening while expressing your feelings
- And if it begins to feel overwhelming yet again for either of you, allow each other the space to ask for a ‘time out’ to get recharged
Shazia says, “There should always be open communication in a relationship, not just for conflict resolution but to build an intimate connection and a supportive relationship with your SO. It is also a preventive step and not just a curative one.” You can fix relationship problems with your boyfriend/partner by adopting this tool and learning tips to communicate better from the very start.
5. Maintain decency in arguments
In the heat of the moment, people often find it difficult to resist their basest instincts and hurt their partner’s feelings deeply. If you are wondering how to solve relationship problems without breaking up, make sure you do not take any regrettable steps or say anything humiliating or disrespectful to your partner. There couldn’t be a more obvious way to fix problems in a relationship without ending it.
Shazia says, “Always maintain a level of decency and dignity on your part. Respect your partner and their family. Love needs to be complemented with respect. Respecting your partner, their priorities, their choices, their emotional needs, and their individuality will help avoid heated arguments in the first place. It will allow you to discuss relationship problems without fighting.”
6. Don’t play the blame game
The blame game is an evil influence that can mess with a perfectly happy relationship. Gary and Kathlyn Hendricks say that to resolve a power struggle your, choices are:
- Agree that one person is wrong and the other is right
- Agree that both of you are wrong
- Agree that both of you are right
- Drop it and find a clearer way of relating
They then point to the obvious choice, saying, “The first three strategies are unworkable in the long run because right and wrong are within the realm of power struggles. A power struggle can be ended only when all parties agree to full responsibility for the creation of the issue. All parties agree to explore the sources of the issue in themselves.”
So, how to solve problems in a relationship? If you truly want to bring a positive change, abstaining from blame-shifting will allow you to shift your focus from each other to the problem at hand. That, at times, is enough to save a relationship from a rough patch. The moment you start taking responsibility for your own actions and words instead of throwing mud at each other, you will have enough headspace to engage in problem-solving.
7. Quality time is key to resolving issues in a relationship without breaking up
Couples often get trapped in the day-to-day humdrum and lose active connection as they barely get to spend time with each other. Many problems could be avoided or easily resolved if partners spent more quality time with each other and do all the things that bring them closer. Our expert suggests a few ways to stop a relationship from breaking up and overcome any big difference at the same time:
- Keep your phone away when talking to each other
- The best way to show your partner that they matter is to give them a dedicated time
- You could try cooking a meal with each other, taking walks, or planning regular date nights
- Try couple activities that you both are fond of and that increase your mental proximity
- Physical intimacy is just as important to assuage your discontent even if that means non-sexual physical touch like cuddling or holding hands
The point is that you need to nurture your commonalities so that you have more to agree with than disagree on. This simple change could save a relationship.
8. Don’t communicate through other people
Are you trying to figure out how to solve relationship problems without breaking up, but feel scared of communicating with your partner? You should know that involving anybody else, other than a professional, almost never goes well in a relationship. Couples in conflict who fail at effective and direct communication resort to involving third parties, such as one partner’s family member, friends, or even one’s children.
This never bodes well and is one of the major communication problems in relationships. It is disrespectful to your bond, to you, and to your partner. Do not do it. Do all you can to enable yourself with effective communication techniques. Write a note if you cannot share your thoughts with them in person.
Related Reading: Expert Talks About 9 Must-Try Couples Communication Exercises
9. Break the pattern of your argument
Similar to our everyday routines, all couples have a similar argument routine or pattern. If your pattern has been beneficial for you both in dealing with conflicts healthily, then good for you, stick with it! But if you are in a struggling or abusive relationship, you might have to look at your argument pattern with a critical eye.
- When one of you voices a concern, how does that partner respond?
- How does the argument usually go?
- What does the first sentence usually look like?
- What is the body language? Is there a banging of doors? Is there dismissal? Shutting out? Is there crying? In what pattern?
Observe these and stop the buck where it comes at you. If you are the one who wants to express a concern, try doing it differently. If you are the one who storms out the door and shuts out, think of a different response. Prepare yourself with it and respond accordingly. With that mindfulness, chances are your conflict will see a positive resolution.
10. How to solve problems in a relationship? Apologize when you are sorry
Apologizing for your mistake is truly accepting your responsibility in a relationship. It is a healing act for the person who needs that apology and the person who offers it. Apologies allow for the channels of communication to open again, which is crucial for effective conflict resolution.
Knowing that you made a mistake is another thing but offering an apology means accepting that mistake in front of another person, which many people struggle with. But if you have your relationship’s best interest in mind, it is worthwhile to keep your ego aside and offer an effective and sincere apology.
11. Manage your expectations
After having done all of the above, it is also crucial to keep a check on your expectations vis-à-vis the outcome. Allow the other person to take their time. Expecting your partner to react to a situation in the same manner or in the same time frame as you is an example of an unfair expectation.
Keep a check on and try to maintain a balance between unrealistic expectations and the bare minimum expectation. This holds for the entirety of the relationship and not just in matters of conflict. While trying to find solutions to your relationship issues, do not forget that there is no reward for an unreasonable expectation.
Related Reading: “My Husband Misinterprets Everything I Say” – 17 Tips To Help You
12. Have a personal life
A lot of problems arise in a romantic relationship out of codependency issues. The same can be solved if partners found more avenues to be their own source of joy (or sorrow). It can be incredibly suffocating for the relationship when partners look toward each other to fulfill all of their needs. Instead, you could just take space in a relationship without breaking up, by focusing on yourself and certain aspects of your life.
Having a personal life and personal goals will keep you and your partner happier (and busier). It will also make it easier for you to find something constructive to rest your emotions on while you give your partnership time and space. Moreover, more personally fulfilled individuals make for more patient and kinder partners.
13. Decide if you want the relationship to work
Nothing works if the people involved do not want the relationship to work. How to solve relationship problems without breaking up then? Both partners will first have to give each other the opportunity to make amends, to try again, and rebuild each other’s trust for any of the above points to hold merit.
Pushing yourself to make that decision can be a moment of clarity for an unsure partner. Once you decide you want the relationship to work, your focus shifts to the solution-seeking mode. In such a moment of deep thought, you may also realize that you do not want the relationship anymore, which is why you have been stalling any progress in conflict resolution. In either case, you will be able to come out of the conundrum with more clarity.
Related Reading: 15 Relationship Red Flags In A Man To Be Watchful Of
14. Agree to disagree
Will you always have an effective answer to how to solve issues in a relationship without ending things with your partner? Remember how we talked about some problems that cannot be solved? Shazia concludes the discussion with this extremely important point. She says, “Don’t forget that disagreements don’t make people good or bad. Sometimes there will be no right or wrong, you will just have to agree to disagree. That is the be-all and end-all of this issue.”
15. Seek professional help
We are all broken individuals in one way or another. Relationships trigger our traumas and the unhealed parts of ourselves. Another way to look at it is that relationships also provide an opportunity to heal those wounds. Unless there is physical or emotional abuse and neglect in a relationship, problems between two well-meaning individuals can be resolved through professional intervention.
Do not shy away from seeking marriage counseling from experts, and do not wait too long. There is no need for drama to occur before approaching a counselor or therapist. Expert opinion can be sought at a very early stage to help you do some inner work. Even before your partner is ready for couple’s counseling, individual healing can be critical in alleviating relationship pains. Should you need that assistance, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is here to help you.
- Relationship problems are of two kinds – perpetual and solvable. Trust issues, money matters, miscommunication or lack of communication, chore distribution, and lack of appreciation are common issues couples clash over
- Couples take small problems for granted and let them go unnoticed until the bigger ones appear
- Because they ignored the small problems and let them collect, they feel overwhelmed and start responding in ineffective and inappropriate ways that damage a relationship up to the point of breaking up
- By resolving most of their solvable problems, couples can develop effective strategies and enough trust to accommodate the more difficult ones
Does that answer your question of how to solve relationship problems without breaking up? We advise you to fix relationship problems with your boyfriend/partner by keeping these pointers in mind, thereby avoiding a breakup. But we do not mean that one should ignore red flags in a relationship or tolerate abuse. Abuse, whether physical, mental, or emotional is not acceptable. If the relationship is not worth the pain it is giving you, it is all right to approach a trusted friend or a separation counselor to help you through the process.
This article has been updated in July 2023.
Breakup is not the solution for conflicts that arise in a struggling relationship. Conflicts in relationships are natural. Partners in emotionally mature relationships have been able to learn effective tools and strategies for conflict resolution. To learn how to solve relationship issues without breaking up, read the article.