1. You spend more time apart than together.
Of course, it comes down to your very personal definition of “enough” time spent together, but the couple who plays together stays together.
FIX: If one or both of you needs is on a high horse on their career, always busy doing other people’s work or simply not making enough time to spend together, there’s some administrative planning you both have to handle. Start by booking dates in advance, and take some time to discuss your feelings with your partner. Take them to a place they feel comfortable and happy about, so they can relax and feel safe to open up. Take short trips or city breaks together to reconnect in a different ambiance. Nevertheless, use the phone for sexting to keep each other hot and running when you can’t meet in person.
2. You spend ALL THE TIME together, leaving no space for your own individual growth.
If your partner is your best friend, I congratulate you! That’s a wonderful thing to have and share – friendship – but while you may love doing every single thing together, it may not turn out the best scenario for your romantic relationship. People need to maintain their individuality in order to grow and develop, and being in a relationship does definitely not terminate your hobbies, collateral friendships and obligations that are bound to the outside world.
FIX: Allocate time in your schedule to do some soul searching and invite your partner to do the same. Meditate, take long walks in nature, visit your friends, a museum, a new gallery or cool place you’ve been dying to see – even if you’ll feel inadequate or lonely at first, you will grow fonder of it with time. One of the most creative and empowering exercises is to take yourself on a date, every week, and use those 2 or 3 hours solely to do something that feeds your mind and your personality. Keep a journal if you must, but mostly, don’t cheat! Alone time is quality time, most of the time.
3. You constantly fight about the same issues.
…and you’re probably heading for the same tantrums as I type this. Revisiting the same conflicts all over again a long way into your relationship can prove nerve wrecking and counterproductive, regardless the topic you’re fighting for. It can be dirty laundry, a clogged sink, the way you two handle the living costs, that unfriendly grimase he makes when he’s bugged – sky is the limit.
FIX: Remember that the point of a relationship is for the people in it to feel good together, confident about each other and presumably a safe place to grow and experience life with a special someone. Be patient and be kind, and try to instil the same virtues in your significant other, especially if they’re short tempered or they struggle with anger management. Remember the things you are fighting for and literally take a step back each time a touchy issue emerges. If you simply can’t bear avoiding a certain topic until things cool off, suggest your partner to sit down with you and dismember the problem – deconstructing issues is a great way to get to the core of the matter.
4. You don’t like their parents (or viceversa).
Well, sorry to hear, that’s a tough one. They didn’t choose their parents (and neither did you) – so if you’re not feeling any special kind of connection with your partner’s family, don’t take it out too much on yourself.
FIX: Consider the elephant in the room and instead of trying to eliminate it, try to emphasize it. Are these people really as bad as they seem? Maybe your partner’s mom is no interior decor genius, nor a great cook, neither a master debater, but you have to look past these details at the way she raised her son. Because that’s what truly matters, and how her attitude reflects in the good ways he treats you. However, considering the scenario his or her parents are truly maleficent, disrespectful or simply unfriendly, you are not obliged to sit with them, or welcome them in your life like you otherwise would. Your partner also should hear about your feelings – you are together in this and they are supposed to defend you, stand up for you and intervene wherever his family grows too weary.
5. You feel insecure about your future together.
You’re planning to go big in your career, while they want to take a sabbatical. Or: you want to have kids in the next 3 years or so, while they’re still breaking up with their own parents. Or: you want to move to a different country together, while they want to start a business and can’t afford both investments.
FIX: We can’t have everything, we already know that. Life means a multitude of opportunities that will be missed because we’ve made certain decisions. That doesn’t mean the decisions were bad or we didn’t do our best, it’s just that life’s not multidirectional. Your partner and yourself may want to take different paths in life, but before you get to that point of no return, there are numerous ways in which you can adjust your wishes so that they all get fulfilled. This doesn’t imply one of you has to sacrifice their dreams for the sake of the relationship. It means navigating the dreams together, deciding how they can work out in the same boat, and operating the necessary changes so that everyone has a chance to be happy.
6. You have a hard time relating to your partner’s issues.
This can happen a lot, especially if they are going through a rough patch. You may have different careers, face completely different challenges or harvest unique insecurities.
FIX: There’s no easy fix for this one, mostly if you don’t truly understand what they are feeling. Sit down with your lover and have patience with them as they open up. It may be a consuming, extremely difficult process, and you may lose your patience, and you may also not enjoy it, but this is crucial to your relationship’s well being. Even if you cannot offer solid life advice, you can give them your shoulder to rest upon. Sometimes people break down because they’ve been strong for too long. It’s your time to be strong for them, and don’t worry, sometimes just saying I am here for you can deliver more call to action than unsolicited, nagging theories about how they should live their life.
7. You or they feel misunderstood.
Communication is a two way road, and for those of you who feel lost in limbo whenever you have to talk to your partner about something personal, there’s more than one way to navigate on warmer waters.
FIX: You’re probably vocal about how misunderstood you feel. This reaction usually triggers detachment in the other, leaving you even more hopeless and consumed. Instead, tell your partner how you feel. Use metaphors if you must, talk to them as casually as possible and don’t stress too much about what will happen later. Learn to express yourself – the rest will follow.
8. You feel they don’t give you enough attention.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to how much attention you are paying to YOURSELF. Your relationship is not there to substitute for the love you’re supposed to cast upon yourself each day. Remember that you are blessed and that you are important, strong, and authentic in everything you experience.
FIX: If you and your partner have issues communicating what’s important for both of you in terms of giving/receiving, you can meet up with a couple’s therapist to dismantle the bomb. If you want to keep things in your own perimeter, think about what you can do to make your lover feel more wanted, and don’t be afraid to point out what they can do for you instead. Saying things I need help with this…. or I love when you look at me that way is a surefire way to communicate your intentions and teach your partner how to work with them.
9. You argue over money.
Money quarrels usually go wrong, but the thing is, they happen to everyone sooner rather than later.
FIX: Try to detect the underlying issue: is your partner earning much more or less than you do? If so, is that problematic for you? If yes, in which ways? Write down your answers and think for a moment what was different about your spending behaviours vs. earnings back when you were single and what has changed now that you’re in a relationship. On the other hand, if one or both of you are overspending, too indulgent or afraid there won’t be a secure future for you, the best way to go about this is to take it down to a financial analyst who can assess your goods and determine what should stay and what should definitely go. If it’s not working out or your views regarding financial well being are far too different, you may want to look at other areas of your life – like self confidence, achievements, failures, and how your relationship with money has shifted over the years. You may discover old beliefs that were ingrained deeply in your brain as a child or teenager – such as a man must always earn more than a woman or he has to pay for everything. Think about it.
10. You don’t tolerate their vices.
Show me one person who’s happy with their partners’ drinking or drug habit and I’ll show you at least one toxic relationship. It’s one thing to be both smokers, for instance, and tolerate each other, and a complete different thing to love one, live with one and still be unable to see through all the smoke with clarity. Who can blame you?
FIX: Some would joke here: Why don’t you start smoking yourself? Well, firstly, because you don’t have that habit, secondly because you shouldn’t feel forced to change your lifestyle over a person, yes, not even over a person you love. On the other hand, they obviously won’t find it easy to quit just because of you. Remembering chain-smoker Carrie Bradshaw aimlessly trying to quit in the dawn of her relationship with Aidan is a vivid example of that sort of a situation. People change only if THEY want to change, so it’s not your responsibility to teach them this lesson. Talk to your partner and try to reach an agreement. For instance, if they’re smoking, they should smoke only on the balcony or the kitchen. If they can’t get enough of the bottle, you’re not obliged to join them, they can get time off with their friends. Essentially, if they have a drug addiction issue, it’s your own health you also have to consider, emotionally and physically, and also whether you can truly help them (or want to).
11. You feel you’re giving away too much (and getting back too little).
Hate to break this to you, but if you’ve been feeling like a broken bag of feelings splattered all across the kitchen floor for a while – you’re probably truly getting back too little, or, worst case scenario, you’re being emotionally abused.
FIX: There’s no easy way to say this, but you will have to pull yourself back on ground zero. If you can have an open conversation with your partner about the amount of time they invest in your relationship, remember to address the common effort that has to be made to keep any union going. If it feels unhealthy and you are stuck in a rut, consider the alternate, and ultimately leave the relationship. There are people out there who would kill for someone as intuitive as you.
12. The sex is missing in action.
When you’re together with someone for a long time, and mostly – if you are living together – the sex might become a rare bird. This is only natural – once the hormonal levels that make you jump on your boo non stop in the first couple weeks or month lower, you easily discover the comfort of just being cute together in your shared nest. When the sex comes around as often as Santa, though, you must start working on a strategy to bounce your intimate life back on track.
FIX: Intimacy is a mind trick, not just a chemical reaction. You can make yourself hot and horny about your partner once again, if you keep the right distance, the right attitude and an open mind regarding sexual dynamics. Fantasy supports fantasy, as one of my sex therapist friends says, and there’s nothing like a fantasy fulfilled to make you fall in awe all over again with your estranged lover. Consider breaking down taboos and escaping the old bed to a fancy hotel room, weekend break or peaceful nature retreat. Talk about what makes you tick and what makes you stale, get back to sexting and luring each other, mostly – remember that any solid relationship requires hard physical work. You can’t just sit on it, you have to learn the motion.
13. You don’t feel comfortable about their sexual preferences.
Are they too horny? Or too kinky? Do they simply like some stuff you’re not okay with, or is it more than that? Do you feel obliged to deliver their fantasies or are they being disrespectful?
FIX: Once you determine the root of the issue, sit back and tell your partner what you like in bed and, kindly, what you’re not really up for. Intercourse doesn’t have to be boring, but it sure does have to be consensual and respectful.
14. You don’t like their friends (or they don’t dig you).
There’s always going to be someone you don’t dig or who doesn’t dig you, and those people might turn out to be your partner’s buddies. There might be something small, but unbearable, such as the way they talk, brag, or gossip about others. There might be something big, like the way they look at you or the way they try to influence your partner into getting back with their ex. People have opinions, nonetheless, and it’s sometimes not your job to fix them.
FIX: How big is this issue for you and your partner? Do you constantly feel pushed or unwanted when all of you get together? If it’s affecting your relationship, your partner must become aware of the unhealthy dynamic and make ends meet. This doesn’t mean they have to cut the chord with their friends or choose between you and them, but they should stand up for you, protect you and make it clear you are a couple now. If you simply don’t get along with their friends, you don’t have to push yourself over the edge or invite the opportunity for scandal or a bad mood each time they get together. Let your spouse meet their friends separately and do something for yourself instead, so that everyone enjoys their own experiences fully.
15. You feel suffocated about living together.
Sharing life, furniture, pets, clothes, objects and underwear with the person you love the most can be a wonderful adventure…or a disaster. It can be thought provoking and intense, but it can also become a beautiful mess. What’s it gonna be for you?
FIX: You may not have been used to sharing everything with a partner before. This is especially difficult if you’re an only child, who never had to split things with a sibling. You may literally hate the way they leave their clothes on the floor (and never pick them up) before hitting the shower. You may find gross how they forget to wash the dishes for days. On the other hand, you might feel uneasy with the way they speak on the phone too loud, want to make small talk when you have nothing to say, or take up space in your already small studio. Essentially, you may feel like seeing this person day and night is too much, and there’s nothing wrong with that, some of us simply need more space in our lives and in our beds. Moving in together is a serious decision and you should abstain from doing it just to make rent payments easier on you. Consider the pros and cons of living together in opposition to living alone. Listen to what your partner has to say and try not to compete with them on claiming what’s yours and what’s theirs to change. If you can’t afford living alone, define clear rules for your personal space and theirs, and perhaps work a bit on the way the apartment’s laid out. With a bit of creativity and some simple interior design tips, you can declutter your living space and be able to even create your own comfortable nest, where no one will bother you.