As a psychologist, I often interact with couples facing relationship problems—some of them have been in the relationship for years, while others have just begun their lives together. The one thing that is common to them is that they are past the novelty and freshness of the relationship. The feeling of anticipation before meeting the loved one, the butterflies in the stomach before approaching each other and the first kiss have become distant memories. They are now facing the concerns inevitable to an intimate relationship, causing friction and fights.
It’s like someone said, “All relationships are happy. It’s trying to keep them together that causes all the problems.” While every relationship is unique, there are certain common issues that ignite the fire and fuel fights. I list them here so that you can watch out for them and throw them out of your relationship.
Too busy to get cosy
One of the biggest issues that cause concern in a relationship is lack of time for emotional and physical intimacy. Work pressures, family commitments, kids/parents can take up a lot of time and effort…leaving a couple with little energy for each other. This can cause major friction.
Ambition can also be a killer. Aspiring for a promotion and setting goals is good, but running after a work objective at the cost of your relationship is unfair to your partner and can be detrimental to the relationship. Ultimately, the issues in the relationship spill over at work, which further compounds the problem at home.
What to do: Switch off your mind from your work once you are home. Spend at least an hour with each other every evening before going back to your late night work calls [do away with them if possible]. During that hour, switch off your cell phones, shut down your laptops and focus on communicating face-to-face. Talking about your day; discussing your concerns about each other can prevent many a fights. Just being together, sharing chores and cooking together can do wonders for your relationship. Emotional intimacy needs to be nurtured and needs time to grow. Uninterrupted time together helps.
I wish you were more like him/her
Comparisons spell doom for a relationship and are a big reason behind all the bickering. If you have ever been compared to another man or woman, you will agree with me. Comparing your partner to another person, overtly or covertly, is an absolute no. It can be the start of insecurity, anger and resentment…everything that should not be part of a loving relationship.
What to do: Understand that your partner is a unique individual like you. Show respect and accept his/her uniqueness. All of us have some exceptional qualities. Focus on those and learn to accept the idiosyncrasies. When you feel tempted to compare, check yourself.
My family is always right
Any discussion regarding respective families of the couple is like walking on egg shells. It is yet another source for fights between couples. It is not unusual for each of us to defend our own families till we turn blue in the face. Any perceived criticism from our partner could trigger this reaction.
What to do: Examine the reasons why you get so defensive about your family—are you merely speaking out of loyalty for your family or have you assessed the situation objectively?
If your partner is the one who’s getting touchy about his/her family and you are in a fight, try detaching yourself from the fight and give an unbiased and impartial opinion. You can’t change how your partner feels about them. But, a patient hearing and looking at the issue from your partner’s perspective will go a long way in avoiding future blow ups. But before all, refrain from taking cheap shots at your partner’s family members.
I can’t do anything without you
That is such a romantic line. But hidden within it is emotional overdependence and clingy behaviour, which can manifest fights. A healthy relationship is about two whole persons coming together. Fights will be a constant companion if one or both partners seek reassurance and approval all the time. My friends faced a similar problem. They met in college and the relationship took off on the basis of the man being the protector for the helpless woman. It went well for a few years till the man got tired of protecting, providing and mothering his partner. He started shielding her less and expected her to become more self-reliant. She thought he was rejecting her and the insecurity increased, making her more demanding and clingy.
What to do: Realise that it is impossible for another person to make you whole. Talk to someone or work with a therapist to address your dependency issues and then see your relationship scale new heights.
I need my space
The exact opposite of being clingy is extreme independence. Being self-sufficient and assertive about one’s distinctiveness is a desirable trait. But when this quality is all pervasive, the relationship suffers. The concept of your space, my space and our space is a better precept for the relationship. ‘My space’ needs to be compromised to accommodate ‘our space’. But if you are not prepared for this, you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship.
Most of the couples I see seem to face this issue. Mayank fell in love with Bharati because she seemed so sure of herself. She had an opinion and voiced it. She was also independent in her day-to-day activities. Bharati came from a broken home and had an insecure childhood because of parental disharmony.
The only way to deal with the hostile world was to be independent and firm in her views. Marriage to Mayank did not change her responses. Mayank started feeling that he was not wanted, that she did not need him for anything. Slowly, this led to discord.
What to do: While independence is desired, it can sometimes make your partner feel that he adds no value to your life. His presence or absence is of no consequence to you. Learn to observe what signals you are giving out and how your responses affect your partner. Try to include your partner in your space, while drawing healthy boundaries.
Marriage of chalk and cheese
Opposites attract but building a rock solid relationship on basic value differences is difficult. Values by themselves are not right or wrong but if you stand on opposing sides of the fence, then you might perceive it as such.
A person who believes in thrift will have difficulty understanding why her partner needs to spend so much money on the latest gadgets/clothes or accessories. Try juxtaposing ‘hedonism’ and ‘voluntary self-denial’ with each other. Will a self-indulgent person ever understand the concept of simple living and vice-versa?
What to do: At such a juncture, it is important to recognise the differing values and to accept them. You should agree to disagree. Being tolerant and looking at things from a different perspective helps. If you continue focusing on the differences and label them as detrimental to a relationship, you will be fighting all your life. Everything in moderation is healthy. Simple living with a healthy dose of self-gratification could give you the best of both worlds. Try it sometime.
Fights are good for a relationship. They help clear the air and pave way for a calmer and smoother journey ahead. In fact, a lack of disagreement should alert you to something amiss in your relationship. But take care to avoid unnecessary and potentially dangerous friction.
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