I’ve often told my clients that at any moment World War III could break out in your intimate relationship—if you let it. You really do have to pick your battles and your moment, tone, words, and emotional intensity. Here are some key ideas from Part 1.

Quick Review: Managing relationship disappointments, setbacks and hurt require skills in:

Keeping a perspective on what to let go and what to talk about (No knit-picking)

Maintaining a positive emotional management and style (No criticism)

Becoming a problem-solving team with your partner (No endless replaying of the situation)

Seeking professional advice when your problem doesn’t go away or when your attempts to deal it don’t work (No more of the same when the same doesn’t have a positive impact).

I can’t possibly address in this article all the top annoyances and hurts, but here are some of the main issues from my clients and women in my study. I’ve offered several of their successful choices of dealing with the situation. Not all solutions will work for you, but use them as springboards for thought. Let’s start with the most puzzling questions

“Why does my partner seem to continue to annoy me or make me lose that loving feeling?”

Here are the most common reasons:

Personality: About 50% of our reactions to life’s curve balls and challenges are written in our genes. Some people are naturally positive problem-solvers, while others are worriers and procrastinators. The good news is that there is always room to learn new effective life responses.

Habitual Behavior: More than 90% of what we feel, think and do is part of our Emotional and Cognitive Default Drive. These reactions are automatic and not conscious. Again, the good news is that you can become more mindful and deliberate in choosing how you react.

Family History: Parents and other caregivers can often be more caretakers than givers. They can erode confidence, resilience, views of women, men and the world, and optimism and intellectual and emotional functioning.

Your Relationship Pattern: You and your partner can get into ruts that are hard to get out of. You might be afraid to rock the boat or to act in ways that “don’t feel like you.” After all, you also bring along your family history. You and your partner might also be stuck in action/reaction traps where revenge, withdrawing from the relationship and withholding positive feelings or physically hurting or criticizing another.

How do my partner’s behaviors eat away at my patience and love?

Abandonment Fears: Experiencing your partner’s low mood and go-nowhere problem-solving frightens you. You no longer believe your partner is capable of being your wing-person. These thoughts and emotions can make you feel abandoned and disappointed in your choice of partner. You react by getting angry, withdrawing emotionally or feeling anxious and depressed. You might also have an affair or rely on maladaptive behaviors such as addictions to substances or shopping.

Here are the most common ways:

Lost Trust in Your Judgment: You begin to believe you made a very big mistake in choosing your partner.

Feelings of Not Feeling Loved: When your partner annoys or hurts or disappoints you, you interpret the behavior as being about his or her respect, value and love for you.

Now let’s look at a few solutions for managing the most common situations. Assume that every solution automatically includes getting professional counseling not only to solve your problem but also to get feedback and guidance for your method and decision in handling your issues both big and small.

BIG Issues

1. “My partner can’t bounce back from setbacks.” (Not getting a promotion, or breaking a wrist, or needing to repair the car or the home)

Possible solutions: Don’t criticize or attack. Don’t immediately give advice. Instead, develop a combination of a “team and you” plan. Ask your partner how he or she would like you to react or help (team plan.) But tell your partner that if his or her uses maladaptive behaviors such as drinking, getting angry, doing nothing or withdrawing lasts for more than two weeks or more then you will speak up (you plan.)

Work toward taking action. Become sleuths to find ways to get out of a bad mood, to develop a plan to change and improve the situation. You might contact people who can help you or make a To Do list of shared solution activities.

2. “My partner does not have good health habits.” What do you do if your partner eats or drinks too much? What if he or she won’t see a doctor for serious, ongoing health symptoms?

Possible solutions: The overwhelming first choice from my clients and study participants is to set an example. Only buy healthy foods, go to the doctor and exercise regularly, for example. Often, the smart behavior of one partner pulls the other partner up into similarly healthy activities.

The second choice is to sit down with your partner and tell him or her how much his or her destructive behavior upsets you. You can offer, as a team player, to develop a plan such as getting a trainer or making a doctor’s appointment. You can also say that if nothing is done within two weeks to a month that you will make an appropriate appointment that you both will attend. You can also tell your partner that you will arrange a family and friend intervention.

3. “My partner does not defend me in public—or he or she criticizes me in front of others.” Oh, it is such a horribly sinking feeling when your partner does these things. It’s so humiliating.

Possible solutions: Don’t attack or react negatively. Diffuse the situation by using humor and lightness by saying something like: “Oh he/she loves to tease me about that.” Or: “What he/she is really trying to say that is we’re going through some hard times because of….”)

However, when you get home, report your hurt feelings without reacting to your feelings by arguing, screaming or attacking your partner. Develop a team plan for the next time. You might discuss both of your moods before going out: Ask if anything is on your partner’s mind that might make him or her react unkindly. Examine your own mood.

Develop a signal system where you might tap your partner’s leg under the table to indicate to stop the undesirable behavior—and to “clean it up” by saying that you meant the exact opposite such as: “Actually, I’m teasing. He’s even up at night experimenting with recipes.”

4. “I think my partner is addicted to porn.” You might be thinking, “How disgusting.” Or, “I guess I don’t please my partner.” Both of these reactions might be accurate, but there are other thoughts you might consider. For example, people who are addicted to porn might be depressed. They might also have seriously maladaptive sexual problems such as violence.

My clients and the women in my study who discovered that their partner was addicted to Internet pornography realized that this behavior was more related to the partner. These partners were using ineffective ways of regulating their anxiety, anger, depression and sexual compulsions.

When my clients and research participants talked to their partners, they made sure to be supportive—at least at first. They worked hard at not acting with disgust, accusations or anger. Yes—you surely might feel that way, but you might get greater partner cooperation if you turn off your initial responses. The best strategy is to go with your partner to therapy.

5. “My partner has abused me (physically, verbally, sexually, financially and/or emotionally).” I discussed this crucial topic in Part 1, but it’s too important to leave out some tips. The best solutions emphasize developing a safety plan with a counselor, family and friends. If you find yourself excusing and accepting hurtful behavior, try this technique: Pretend you are not you. Pretend you are your child or best friend. Would you recommend that he or she tolerate this behavior? Be mindful of how many times you “explain away” these harmful behaviors.

Always assess your physical safety. Some partners just cannot handle “a wakeup call” from even the most loving partner. When in doubt—well you know what to do—get counseling. Don’t threaten your partner with leaving. Don’t flame your partner’s anger by being too emotionally reactive.

6. “My partner cheated on me.” Again, I discussed this issue in Part 1, but here are some more thoughts. Cheating can be a function of relationship problems. Of course, not all people respond to relationship problems by cheating. However, when cheating occurs, the other person can use this betrayal to spark a serious examination of the relationship and his or her possible contribution to an unsatisfying relationship.

Also, about a third of couples not only recover from infidelity but they build a stronger bond. The catch is that this richness in love can take years. Many say that at certain times the wound can still be felt. It’s your decision whether to stay or leave. But take your time. Don’t volunteer to close a door until you know you want to shut it.

And then again, as I’ve often said, almost all major decisions such as whom to marry—and whom to leave—are made with incomplete information. Sorry—but life always has blind alleys.

Little Issues

Many of your partner’s behavior that annoy you are little issues. They tend not to be about you. Read these most common statements from my clients. I’ve added the most successful solution.

1. “My husband gets road rage.” Solution: You say: “You can drive anyway you want when I or the kids are not in the car. If it happens again, I will drive or drive our other car.”

2. “My partner is like a little Pigpen.” Solution: Kindly ask your partner to clean up on messes that affect public areas in your home or that affect health issues—such as leaving out dirty plates or soiled rags. Or, you clean up together. Or, you overlook it and work around it. Or, you barter: You agree to work harder on whatever it is that bothers your partner if he or she agrees to do the same. Even though your partner’s behavior may not be about you and your relationship, keep in mind that it might be. Ask your partner if he or she feels “crowded or controlled.” Asking the question signals your partner that you are open to change.

This technique also works well with partners who don’t participate in household chores. Instead, ask your partner what he or she would like you to do more. Use this opportunity to talk about what you need from your partner.

On the other hand, some of my clients used “guerilla relationship tactics” where they gathered all their partner’s piles of shoes and underwear on the floor and put them in bags in the garage. It didn’t take too many trips to the garage to make the partner become more mindful and considerate.

3. “My partner hurt my feelings by forgetting my birthday/mothers’ day or by giving me something that is not anything I like.” Oops! Solution: Speak up, of course, but do it by—once again—reporting your feelings and not being your feelings. Inform your partner by giving a number from 1 to 10 to describe how hurt you are. Then move toward a solution such as: returning the gift; doing an Instant Reply where you celebrate the event at a later date.

4. “There’s no sex.” Similarly, when sex has become too inattentive, rote or infrequent, report to your partner how you feel. Be sure to tell your partner how much you miss him or her. Come up with fun solutions such as Playing School where you teach your partner what you want.

5. “I don’t know when to speak up.” This was one of the most nagging issues. You have several choices: Speak up on the spot. The consequence is that you might be adding fuel to an already burning fire. On the other hand, you don’t want to miss a chance.

Or, after your partner or you cool down, write your partner a love note about the things you like and love about him or her, and offer to be a team player in having a discussion where you each get to develop a plan to solve an issue.

You could also show your partner this blog while the two of you are in a good mood. Finally, ask your partner what he or she prefers. Always lead with kindness and warmth. Keep in mind how you would like your partner to approach you!

Well, the list of all those small things in endless—but most of them can be resolved. Don’t fume. Don’t get passive—or passive-aggressive. And please don’t let them spoil all the good things about your relationship.

Create a rule: “Complaints are welcome—only if you offer a solution that kindly involves pro-active behaviors from each of us!”

Author's Bio: 

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D, MSS, MA, is a nationally recognized psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, specializing in women's issues in love, life, work, and family. Sign up on her website, http://www.lovevictory.com, to receive free advice, blog, cartoon, and information about her two upcoming research-based, self-help books for women: The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie-a cartoon, self-help book and Smart Relationships. You can follow Dr. Wish on Twitter.