Common Relationship Problems that Can be Solved with Better Communication
Everyone will encounter some sort of problem when they’ve committed themselves to a relationship, and each stage of a relationship will present a new set of problems. But these can be dealt with in a healthy, respectful manner to help you stay together for years to come.
If you ever find yourself having these thoughts, read on for our solutions you can implement at home.
It can be tiring to repeat yourself over and over when your partner just doesn’t get the message. After a while, you might begin to feel unheard and naggy and stop trying altogether. But don’t give up just yet.
Communication in a relationship is key.
Honest, consistent and effective communication. Your partner can’t hear your thoughts and neither can you read theirs. Needs need to be expressed.
The good news is, the experts have come up with something called the Communication Model that helps us better understand why our messages are sometimes misunderstood and how to better get our intended meaning across.
The easiest to tackle is Noise. When having a conversation, put aside any distractions or distracting thoughts, put your phone on silent and focus on your partner. If you can, find a quiet place or a public place to keep your emotions in check.
Next, we need to understand that every person communicates differently. The way we Encode and Decode messages relies on our past experiences— how we’ve been treated before, what we know of the situation, the values we hold. In other words, everyone has a different lens we see the world through. Putting yourself in your partner’s shoes will help you better comprehend what your partner is saying.
Now we can work on effectively getting the Message across. Be mindful not just of what you say, but how you say it— your tone and body language also tell your partner how you feel— and when you say it.
An important skill in communication is Active Listening. Compare these two scenarios:
Person A: I just wish you would do the dishes!
Person B: What are you saying? That I don’t do the dishes?! I come back from work so tired every day and I must still do the dishes?!
Person A: I would like you to do the dishes more. It will help me to feel less stressed.
Person B: I heard you say that you’d like me to do the dishes more. It will help you to feel less stressed.
In Scenario 1, Person B senses an accusation and instinctively puts up defensive walls, bordering on an argument. In Scenario 2, Person A says a statement (Encoding) without judgement or condemnation and Person B repeats it back to show that they’ve heard (Decoding & Encoding back).
Remember: Communication works both ways.
You’ll both have to agree to put effort into it, to be honest and open, and to really listen to what the other is saying.
Disagreements are bound to crop up as long as there’s someone else to make decisions with. But when they turn into spiteful quarrels, it doesn’t end well for anyone involved. All it takes is a slip of the mouth before a slew of naming and blaming ensues.
When you sense an argument rising, check yourself and:
- Pause. Think before you speak. Is what you are about to say helpful or hurtful? Does it build up the relationship or place a stumbling block? Take a breath and stay calm.
- Mind your language. Refrain from swearing or making sweeping statements like, “You’re always…” to avoid raising tension. Check your tone when asking “Why…” or stay away from the question altogether.
- Focus on the issue at hand. There’s no need to bring up past hurts or keep a scoresheet of mistakes. Staying on the topic can help you see clearer and come to a solution sooner.
- Listen. Really listen, without strategising what you will say next in order to win.
- Accept. Sometimes, one person really just has to give way to the other.
Remember: You’re both on the same team, not competing against each other.
In the end, you don’t always have to be “right”; showing forgiveness and love is what matters in staying together. Agree on a solution or compromise and clearly map out what each will do to resolve the issue.
Finances can often make or break a relationship. It boils down to our values regarding lifestyle and spending habits. These are practical steps and soft skills you can work on to better manage your finances:
- Have that conversation. Remember: Communication is key. Come clean about your money tendencies— are you a spender or saver? Do you often take risks in investing? Be honest about any financial baggage you may carry so you can strategise how you can pay off your debts as you work to become financially stable together.
- Budget. Come up with a simple budget you can agree on— whether you will have a joint account and how much each will contribute to it or a pooled account for everything, and how much to spend on what monthly and yearly. You can start with a range and adjust it as you go along.
- Plan long-term. Set goals together for your house, kids, retirement and caring for elderly parents. A rule of thumb is to have at least 6 months’ worth of savings for rainy days (to tide you over between jobs)— that means having a reserve fund worth the amount you normally spend in 6 months that you don’t touch until necessary.
- Ask. Especially for large sums, consult with your partner before making a purchase, so that they know their opinion matters. Even for smaller items that you will share, like frying pans and coffee machines, it would be ideal to make your decision together, so that you both get the best value out of it.
Sharing your lives and finances means making compromises and finding a balance. You may not get that new pair of shoes in your wishlist as soon, but you’re working towards your dreams together, and that’s far more valuable.
Parenting a child together can be difficult especially if you have different parenting styles and contrasting expectations.
Oftentimes, we think about how we were raised by our own parents and pick what we’d like to do similarly or differently. But chances are, our kids have vastly different personalities from us and we’ll have to parent them according to their needs. No two kids are the same.
Take time to understand your child’s needs and work from there.
- Talk with your partner about how you want to parent your child, what you both did well and what you could do differently.
- Set house rules. Come up with a list of clear boundaries you can agree on— what behaviour from your child is acceptable and what isn’t, how you will manage misbehaviour and what consequences and rewards you will give.
- Be consistent. Support your spouse in what they say in front of your child so that your child doesn’t get mixed messages. If you don’t agree, you can have a private discussion afterward.
Also, remember that when your child grows up and leaves the nest, you’ll still be a couple. Make time for one another too.
One person may be more inclined to enjoy doing housework than another in a relationship, but when the chores pile up or work deadlines near, resentment begins to creep in.
- Say “Please”. Tell your partner if you need help. Steer clear from the blame game and voice your concerns in a calm, even tone coming from the perspective of working together.
- Come up with a schedule. Set up a chore system that fits both your routines. Agree on who will take responsibility for which tasks and keep it flexible for busier periods. You might have to discuss how neat you want your home to be and come to a compromise.
- Accept your partner’s style. You’ll both have your own ways of washing the dishes, sorting laundry or even squeezing toothpaste. And you probably wouldn’t appreciate your partner telling you how to do things as much as they wouldn’t— that at least puts you on the same page. Instead of “cramping” each other’s styles, try to find an in-between that suits the both of you.
- Say “Thank you!” Gratitude is like a magic gift that gives back; the more you receive, the more you give. Notice the little things your partner does and thank them for it with a word or a hug.
Relationships are marathons
Have you ever noticed how sportspeople call out or signal to each other before making a move? Communication is what helps them get to their end-goal. The same goes for relationships: You’re in it for the long-haul and— it’s not a race; no one is vying to win first place— you’re running together towards the same goal. Communicate.
Even if things are getting tough, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Maybe you need to hear this today: There’s hope for your relationship.
Learn to let go and let live. Be in the moment and enjoy each other.
Seeking help? Book an appointment for Couples Counselling with our experienced therapists at TherapySG
Reading up before tying the knot? Join our 4-session marriage preparation course: Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Programme (PREP 8.0)