What gets in the way of a satisfying couple relationship? There are many things that prevent a couple from really enjoying each other. Differences of opinion, misunderstandings, power struggles, unmet needs, and lack of time together are just a few. In order to be successful in our approach, we first need to understand what is going on. Let’s identify and consider some major stumbling blocks and where they originate and then find ways to navigate, if not remove them.

What are these obstacles? Generally, I see them falling into the following basic categories of challenges.

Personality Differences

Here I am referring to the regular differences that we all have. As people, we are all individuals—no two are exactly alike. In addition, we are often drawn to people whose traits are opposite to ours, thus complementing us. These differences can result in communication fall-outs and conflicts, ranging from major to minor—and everything in between—or they can be a means of creating balance. One partner communicates more with words, the other more with actions. One likes to include others in most outings, the other wants more one-on-one time. One makes plans, the other enjoys spontaneity. One has ideas, the other gets things done. One is sharp-thinking with analysis, the other majors in diplomacy. One spends generously, the other saves wisely. One keeps everything in its place, the other creates new places for things on a daily basis. All in all, these are not either right or wrong ways of being and doing; they are preferences or differences of style. Personality inventories such as the Myers Briggs can help assess and describe each person’s profile.

Values, Faith, and Beliefs

Differences in this category may result in insurmountable obstacles. Each couple has to make their own determination as to how important it is to go to the same church or synagogue together, how to identify or discover their individual beliefs, and whether or not to have their children baptized or to wait until their children declare their own faiths. Some have successfully created ways to live with mutual respect and acceptance of differences. Some try and then decide the partnership is unworkable. On the other hand, agreement in this area does not guarantee relationship success.

Mistreatment and Control

On some level, we all experience and mete out something we might label as “mistreatment” of each other from time to time. The question is whether this behavior is relatively minimal or infrequent, such as your partner leaving a mess in your working space or eating the last piece of cake, or whether it is serious abuse that threatens your safety and well-being. It is essential to get outside help in such cases. Whether it is verbal or physical or both, it does have an emotional impact, and the damage can be great. Feeling threatened or controlled in a relationship does not make for mutuality and equality. Happiness and satisfaction are thwarted. For best results, control is shared, and each has self-control.

Maturity and Personal Development

If one or both partners are lacking in personal growth, or if one forges ahead in working on personal issues and the other does not, this can become a hindrance to enjoying the relationship. One scenario is the couple who has been used to a particular way of arguing. One partner decides that it is not productive and no longer participates in the same way. The other then feels some form of disengagement and may either continue trying to provoke the other into the usual fight or may withdraw, feeling abandoned or cut off. It is not impossible to find some satisfaction with your partner in this setting (consider the “kiss and make up” theme common in stories), but it can bring up chronic frustration in the one who wants to move beyond this pattern.

In all these differences, I see a continuum, just like there is a continuum or range in the pitch of musical notes, the volume of sound, colors on a spectrum, and the intensity of light and dark. Your problems will range from differences you expect in a relationship and do not worry about to issues that are aggravating and intolerable. You may not decide to part ways with your partner if he or she squeezes the toothpaste a different way (or refuses to use it!), but you may decide not to join up with someone who wants children when you do not.

How can these obstacles be navigated successfully?

• Reading books or articles. Many couples are able to arrive at workable solutions by helping themselves to information in print form or online.
• Discussion with others. Talking to others who have faced similar issues and figured out what worked for them may be enough to help you with yours. This may come in the context of friends, family, acquaintances, church and community forums, or support groups. Grassroots support is a valuable resource that can stand alone.
• Consultation with a professional. This may take place in an individual or couples counseling setting with a professional marriage counselor. One benefit of this mode is that the focus is on you and your unique combination of challenges. As a therapist, I tailor make strategies in the moment, using your input, with you and your partner and your current circumstances in mind. Personally, my common sense approach has been derived from years of reading, education, and experience, resulting in a distilled wisdom uniquely my own.

Your success in crafting a satisfying relationship with your partner is your own to achieve. Many resources are out there for you to employ. Knowing where to give in and let things go—to transcend the problem—and where to look further into getting your needs met is the critical balance to find.

May your partnership be all you have imagined and more!

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways3.html

Author's Bio: 

Sheryl Brown, MS, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Issaquah, Washington, and is the owner of Sunray Counseling, a place for hope and healing. She provides individual and couples counseling for those who want more satisfaction in their relationships. Her training as a systems therapist uniquely equips her to understand the issues an individual presents in the context of his or her family background and cultural and community influences. Visit her Web site at http://www.sunraycounseling.com.