The key and first step to solving your relationship problems is admitting that you have problems.
You have done that by landing on this page. And that is a great first step.
Most of us have trouble admitting to this. We like to pretend. We cope and try to survive our relationships and marriages instead of facing the truth. When asked how our relationship is doing we might say, "OK" or "We are coping" or "We are doing fine".
There is a good reason for the pretence. It is difficult to admit to ourselves that something that looked and felt so wonderful once is now falling apart. We sometimes think we are the only ones that have relationship problems.
We think there is something wrong with us. We might feel embarrassed and we don't seek help because it almost feels like admitting to being crazy or something.
Here are a few truths: (which you might know already, but just to make sure we are on the same page ;))
You are human right? And humans are not perfect. Neither is life or love. That is our reality. If you have ever been in a relationship you know you have also had relationship problems.
And I am not even talking about love! You have had relationships with all, some or at least one of the following; parents, kids, brothers, sisters, family, colleagues, friends, lovers, soulmates, partners, etc.
All these are "relations" or people you are in a relationship with. And you have experienced relationship problems with these people that you needed to deal with.
Why would our closest, most intimate relationships be any different? Why do we sometimes fool ourselves that our marriage or couple-hood is perfect?
Fact is you and your partner are different individuals; each wonderfully unique and her or his own person. You feel, think, act and react different to life and all its dimensions.
Yes, you do agree or feel the same about some things. Otherwise you would not have met and fallen in love. You met at a concert that you both liked, or at a coffee shop you both frequent or started chatting about a band's music you both enjoy.
But of course that does not mean that you agree about EVERYTHING! In fact there are so many things we disagree on once we get past the falling in love stage that we sometimes wonder how we ever got together!
Relax! This is the natural way of things. When two uniquely wonderful people get together it is like two very different worlds or planets colliding!
So get comfortable with the fact that you are different and unique. DON'T try to change one another. Know that all of us have relationship problems. It's how we react to these problems that makes all the difference...
Ok, I know this sounds weird. It sounded strange to me when I heard it the first time.
Relationship problems are part of every relationship. We have discussed that already. So you now have a choice. You either ignore the problems, wish them away or try to cope with them without really addressing them...
If that is your choice, like a big fat elephant in the corner of the living room, your problems will never really go away.
There is another way to deal with your relationship problems!
You view them as wishes in disguise! You welcome, embrace and work with them and in the process (which is an intentional, conscious and deliberate process) discover growth, healing and a deeper level of love.
I know! It sounds easier that it is so let me give you an example from our relationship...
My wife and I were expecting twins! One Friday morning they decided they've had enough of the safety in mommy's tummy and wanted to explore the outside world. The problem was they arrived a few months before they were due...almost three months early!
Mila and Liam arrived prematurely and unfortunately only our baby girl survived as Liam passed away a few hours after they were born.
As you can imagine this was a very difficult time as we grieved over our baby boy while at the same time celebrating the wonderful new arrival.
My wife and I are two different people. Very different! We knew that but our differences never hit home as hard during this period of our lives.
I am someone who likes to get over sadness, despair and tragedy as quickly as possible. I'm not great dealing with such emotions and much better at being positive and always seeing the bright side of life or the silver lining of a very dark and ominous cloud.
My wife, on the other hand, is a deeply caring person who is comfortable with exploring her emotions, even the sad, angry or negative ones. Rather than moving on and "getting over" the loss of our baby boy she preferred to dwell on her feelings and the emptiness and sadness she experienced.
You can understand that as I threw myself back into life and work and tried focusing on our baby girl I got frustrated with my wife. I wanted her to also "move on" as quickly as possible, deal with the sadness and focus on the good stuff...
You can also understand that as she struggled to get over the loss and needed time to grieve she couldn't understand why I could "move on" so quickly and couldn't discuss her feelings of loss with me because I just wanted to forget about it.
We were dealing with major relationship problems that were threatening to pull us apart at a time where we needed each other more than ever before!
Can you see that the problem we were having was a wish in disguise; an opportunity for both of us to grow if we only knew how to approach, handle and discuss it?
Fortunately, and eventually, we made the right choice.
I will explain more as we go along. First the following:
Here is the kicker! Most people think in order to solve relationship problems there has to be a right and a wrong...
Let us continue with our story above to further illustrate the point.
Looking at the way we reacted to the tragedy, who was right and who was wrong?
If I were to "solve" or fix this problem by telling my wife to get over her sad feelings because our focus should be with the living and our beautiful baby girl who survived, would I be right or wrong?
Would she be right or wrong if she were to tell me that we need to grieve together and spend some time reflecting on our loss in order to deal with the emotion properly instead of moving on too quickly?
You see, in trying to solve or fix or deal with this problem we were also trying to figure out the right way and the wrong way. Surely in a disagreement or argument someone has to be right and the other one wrong?! Is that not why we have relationship problems, what we are trying to figure out?!
Luckily we got to a place where we realised the truth. It is summed up in this extract from a poem by Rumi:
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about."
You might have been able to side with me or with my wife in this "argument". Fact is, it doesn't matter. We do not have to figure out what the "right thing" is to do or who was wrong!
What we discovered as we gently starting unfolding these relationship problems, talking openly about our feelings, thoughts and ideas was our differences, why we are so different and what this meant for our relationship.
The fact that my wife (according to me) didn't seem to want to get over the loss of our son and the frustration I had with her wanting to grieve for a longer period had a lot to do with a wish I had...
I have never been good at expressing my feelings. This comes from childhood. As I grew up I developed a way that got me through emotional, sad and vulnerable times. What I needed when our son died was to acknowledge, face and even explore my grief and sadness.
This was crucial during that period especially but it was also something I needed in order to grow as a person. It was an ability I lost during my childhood and something I needed to become a better partner.
Can you start to see why my frustration and our problem was a wish in disguise?
My wife on the other hand had to explore her frustration with me and identify her hidden desire and "lost part" which had a lot to do about being positive, a "glass half-full" attitude and following an upward trend instead of looking back.
What I want you to start realising as you read our story is that neither of us were right or wrong. Both of us were being ourselves and wanted the other to be like us. Both of us thought we were right and the other was wrong. What we realised was something completely different.
What does all of this mean for you and your relationship problems?
In a nutshell, the following:
1. Realise that you are not alone. All of us have relationship problems
2. Don't try to FIX the problem, make it go away or FIX your partner.
3. View your problems differently. Embrace the problem. Face it front on! Invite it in. Learn a new way to deal with your problems and you will see NEW results.
4. Be intentional and conscious and your relationship problems will become your growth opportunities
Come with us on this journey and we will show you new ways, tools and methods to communicate and dissolve problems. It is working for us and is working for countless other couples...