Let’s face it, no relationship is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. The relationship that stops growing, evolving, and developing will suffer the consequences: problems. It is important to realize that relationships are a partnership, a team, and cannot be dependent (long term) on one person evolving and improving while dragging the other person through life. In other words, you are either growing together or apart. The first thing you need to do is be real and genuine about where your relationship is at because one of the biggest causes of relationship problems is distance.

Not all problems are created equal, but some of them ARE created.

Ask yourself, are any of the problems you have in your relationship helping you to avoid dealing with more profound issues?

Do you focus on safe problems or quality problems? You may be wondering, “What is the difference and how would I know?” Quality problems are core issues that you may hide by covering them up with a lot of safe problems, to the extent you often forget what your quality problems are.

To truly change any of our problems we must remove the layers of safe problems that hijack and confuse our minds and our relationships. Before I explain I will give you an example: I was talking to a young lady, and she told me that she has a problem losing weight. No matter how much she “tries,” she just cannot maintain a diet or exercise program. She told me she was very skinny and had a great body when she was younger, but she just let herself go. We talked for several minutes as she continued to go from excuse to excuse about this big perceived issue impacting her life.

However, when the discussion shifted to her relationships and when she started to gain weight she had an aha moment. She looked at me, as if finally feeling she could be real with herself and the world. She stated, “When I was younger, men only wanted me for my body and I felt like I was just an object. I am afraid that if I lose the weight I won’t know if the person loves me for me or for my body.”

At that point I wanted to jump for joy for her…You may think, “Jump for joy?” Yes, jump for joy because she has finally, truly understood her quality problem. You see, she has a fear of not being valued for who she really is. Her weight gain and all the other excuses are just safe problems she keeps around so she won’t have to face that fear (quality problem).

Safe Problems:

These are issues that distract us and linger in our lives even though we could control them at some level: For example:

Fighting about the dishes or house chores
Bickering and communication problems
Blaming other people
Avoiding making decisions
Time management problems
Having a people in our lives that always have problems
Minor medical issues

Quality Problems:

These are core issues that, if changed, would greatly alter our identities or life circumstances, making them feel “risky.” Some example are:

Moving to a different area
Letting go of people in our lives
Career changes
Committing to a relationship
Leaving a relationship
Making an educational decision
Learning to trust people
Starting a family
Low self esteem
Not feeling worthy
Issues that limit us from our past (baggage)

Quality problems require us to make decisions and change our identities and our lives. Most people fear change and so safe problems are created to protect us from the feelings of losing control and uncertainty that facing quality problems would bring.

Many times people stay in situations or maintain patterns in their lives because they bring comfort, even if it is not serving their highest good. You can see this clearly when you are trying to help someone brainstorm how to solve a problem and he or she will not consider any of the possible solutions, almost fighting to keep the problem. For example, I was questioning a person about his life and almost all of the problems that he mentioned were safe problems. We discussed the possibilities of how to get rid of them, at which point he came to a realization and stated, “What am I suppose to talk to people in my life about if I am not talking about my problems?”

Ask yourself:

I am getting any benefits from this problem?
How would it change my life if I got rid of this problem? (In both a negative and positive way.)
Is this a safe problem or a quality problem?

Safe problems are abundant in most people’s lives because they are so easy to create, and the alternative—facing quality problems—is so scary. Safe problems protect us from our fears, which include that if we try we will fail and that we will not be loved or appreciated in life. Even though safe problems are more readily within our control, they are the ones that have the most powerful impact on our bodies, relationships, and spiritual well-being.

To live a truly rewarding life, we must deal with our quality problems. If we do this, the safe problems will take care of themselves, for the most part.

One couple I know told me that they can never seem to make time for each other and when they do have time together they argue about petty stuff. As they talked more about their life, it was obvious (to me, not to them) that they had created all these safe problems so that they would not be able to spend quality time together. Their underlying quality problem was the fear that they are no longer compatible and that they have grown in different directions. However, once they faced the quality problem, they realized that they shared more in common than they expected and that their “new” relationship was worth investing time into. The best part is that their safe problems disappeared because they had dealt with the quality problem.

I understand it may be scary to change and to look at the core of an issue in your life. Just remember, the more open you are to change and dealing with quality problems the better the life you can live and the better the relationships you can have. So each time you are up against a problem, ask yourself: “Is this truly a core problem or is there something deeper that I need to work on?

Author's Bio: 

Joeel A. Rivera, M.Ed., Ph.D. (ABD) holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is currently completing his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Psychology. Joeel’s extensive career as a relationship coach includes certifications in P.R.E.P, a 30-year research-based program for couples, Nurturing Father’s curriculum, and Parenting 21st Century. Joeel is now taking a select number of Life, Relationship, and Entrepreneurship Coaching clients. Contact Joeel at joeel@transformationservices.org