When was the last time you went a week or more without an argument, felt angry with your partner, or even worse, were left feeling hopeless that things were ever going to improve? You are not alone! Many of us spend hours trying to understand why things have gotten to this point and why we can’t make things better. There are three basic reasons why we struggle in relationships...
We did not experience healthy relationship models
If we were fortunate, we grew up in a home with loving parents who treated their partners with kindness and respect and expressed their love overtly. Disagreements, though seldom, were managed in a supportive way with compromise and care.
That ideal situation is not what most of us experienced, however.
Most of us witnessed various degrees of conflict between our parents that was not resolved amicably and often we ended up feeling it was partially our fault that they did get along.
It’s pretty difficult to be good at relationships when you never get to see how they are supposed to work. And it’s also a skill that is not taught in any school curriculum. So all we are left with is trial and error!
We spend too much time focusing on who we think others want us to be
We are all too aware of what we perceive to be our shortcomings. Heaven forbid we trot those out on a first or second date when we are probably feeling our most vulnerable. Instead, we try to be what we think the other person wants us to be. Over time, that becomes the norm and before we know it, we’re really afraid to admit we aren’t that perfect person we have been pretending to be. But, most people can sense when we’re not being our true selves, and sooner or later conflict will ensue.
Strong relationships are built on good communication and high levels of trust. No one expects perfection but they do want the truth.
We are the only ones who can be us. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
We put commitment before compatibility.
We probably all know someone who claims they knew the moment they meant their partner that they “were the one” – love at first sight. But I’ll wager we know far more people who discovered later on that this person they fell head over heels in love with after a couple of weeks didn’t turn out to be so wonderful after all. They confused love with hormones and infatuation.
It takes time to really get to know someone. Not just their likes, dislikes, and favorite activities, but things like their closely held values, core beliefs, positions on religion, politics, money, having and raising children. And importantly, how they handle disagreements and conflict. Early on, couples can be so into each other that conflict never arises. But sooner or later it will.
Establishing a high degree of compatibility takes months, possibly a few years. By that time, many couples have already decided to live together, marry, and possibly have brought a child into their world. Discovering a lack of compatibility after these commitments have already been made is a risk that can result in future relationship struggles.
The solution: spend more time getting to know your partner before you make big commitments. Being exclusive after a few dates makes a lot more sense than moving in or getting engaged. Engage instead in conversation about the things I listed above. Meet each other’s friends. Talk about what life was like growing up and what each of you learned from that time in your lives. Discuss what you perceive to be your areas of high and low compatibility and what you can do to improve your overall level of compatibility.
Dave Hunt is a certified professional coach, experienced mediator and teacher. With a background in corporate finance and business development, he has 40 years of experience in identifying and achieving goals. Specializing in finances and relationships, Dave helps people figure out what they need and develops a customized plan to achieve it.
Get started today