Something I hear a lot from my clients is that they are having problems in their relationships. Everyone knows that the course of true love never runs smoothly. But why is this such a common complaint, and why do 42% of marriages end in divorce? Here are what I believe to be the 8 biggest relationship pitfalls couples fall into, and some ways that you can avoid the making the same mistakes.

Before I get into this I want to make it clear that I am not a relationship expert, and I am certainly not claiming that I have all of the answers. I would simply like to share some of my own insights in the hope that you find them thought provoking and helpful in some way:

1. Possessiveness

It’s true what they say – “If you love something set it free”, because the more desperately you try and cling onto someone, the more you push them away. In my experience, it’s important to have your own interests and spend time away from your partner – Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, and you don’t want to be one of those couples who have nothing left to talk about because you are together all the time. So, give each other some space, learn to miss each other occasionally, and you won’t take each other for granted.

2. Communication

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and if you have read that book (and I highly recommend that you do) you will know that men and women have very different ways of looking at things, and these differences can cause all kinds of misunderstandings and arguments. It certainly doesn’t help that men are notoriously bad at talking about their feelings, and that women often don’t say what they really mean. I could write a whole blog about the differences and the implications, but the point I am trying to make here is that communication is the key ingredient in any relationship. If this is good then you avoid things like assumption, and many of the other issues listed below. So take the time to understand the differences and needs of the opposite sex. It can make life a whole lot simpler!

3. Expectations

There is nothing wrong with knowing what you want in a partner, and making sure that you are compatible before committing to each other. But , when you are constantly setting expectations about how you want your partner to be, you are essentially setting your partner up to fail, and you will consistently feel let down and frustrated. Learning to accept people as they are, and as they aren’t can enhance your existing relationships, and save you a lot of stress. No one is perfect and change is inevitable – so go with the flow.

4. Resentment

Not being able to let go of the past is bad enough when it comes to our own happiness, but in a relationship holding on to resentment can be toxic. It is like a ball of negative energy constantly lurking in the background, and could erupt at any moment. There are only 3 things you can do in any situation – accept it, do something about it, or walk away. Holding on to resentment doesn’t solve anything, and long term it can be damaging to your health. So, learn to forgive, and try not to go to sleep without sorting things out, or it can build up over time and cause even bigger problems.

5. Money

It would be nice to think that relationships weren’t driven by, or influenced by money, but studies show that even the happiest couples experience some friction when it comes to their finances. So, what is the answer? Well the obvious thing would be that you need to talk about it in the early stages of your relationship. Everyone has different ideas about how to manage money. So it is essential that you discuss your preferences, and long term financial goals with your partner.

One of the main issues around money seems to be control, and collaboration. For many people having financial freedom and independence is very important. So, the idea of putting everything into a single bank account that both people use can feel like a loss of identity, and being under the scrutiny of the other person. One solution is for both partners to keep their personal bank accounts, but to also open an additional joint account that you both pay into for all of the monthly outgoings.

This way both people retain some level of independence while still contributing to the financial commitments of relationship. There are lots of other budgeting strategies that you can try, but the main point here is that you need to communicate and plan ahead. Couples that avoid the issue, or just work it out as they go, generally have the biggest problems

6. Technology

There is nothing sadder than seeing a couple at dinner table or on the sofa turned away from each other on phones or tablets. I recently saw some photos where the artist had removed the mobile phones from the images, and it really emphasised the disconnection we experience when we are using these devices. Sitting in front of the television while you eat your dinner is another common scenario.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with enjoying these things, but if this is all you are doing from the time you get home until the moment when you turn the light off at night, then it is bound to have an impact on your relationship. So, make an effort to eat at the table sometimes, or have an evening without technology. You might discover something new about your partner, or experience a deeper connection when you spend quality time together.

7. Trust

Trust issues can be caused by several factors. E.g. A person who has low self-esteem may expect their partner to cheat or leave them altogether. Another example is in relationships where the trust has been broken either by the current partner or a previous one, a person may believe that it is only a matter of time before this happens again. Whatever the cause might be it needs to be dealt with because without trust the foundations are weak, and one way or another it will come crashing down in the end. People usually end up finding what they are looking for, or sabotaging what they have. So either trust each other completely or call it a day. Self-esteem can be worked on, and old beliefs can be changed, so don’t let these things come between you and your happiness.

8. Intimacy

This is a slightly taboo subject, but it is worth mentioning because one of the most common complaints I hear about is that couples have little or no sex in their relationship. Now you can argue that things are bound to slow down once the honeymoon phase is over, and even more so after a few years. But if you having little or no sex at all, you have to ask yourself if you are still in a romantic relationship, or are you just friends?

The interesting thing is that a lot of the time both partners want more sex in their relationship, but despite promising to make more of an effort nothing seems to change. So why is this? Well I have a theory that may explain one contributing factor. When sex becomes less frequent and couples aren’t getting their needs met by their partner they tend to turn to masturbation. This compounds the problem further and they stop making an effort, and start relying on self-gratification. So in my opinion the only way to get this back on track is to reverse the problem.

If you both agree that your only means of release is your partner, you will suddenly pay them a lot more attention and you will both start to make an effort again. It seems obvious but I’m not sure how many people have actually realised the problem it causes. All I would say is make sure that both partners agree to stick to the rule, and that you both actually want the relationship to work – or one of you is going to be very frustrated!

I would like to close by adding that in my experience the healthiest couples seem to be made up of people that are secure and happy on their own, and then choose to be in a relationship. If you are looking for a person to complete you, or make you feel better about yourself, then you will keep having the same dysfunctional relationships. Take care of what’s happening on the inside – the outside will take care of its self.

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