50 Most Common Relationship Problems

curated by Charlotte Hilton Andersen

Letting Annoyances Fester

“Can we just be honest? People do stuff that gets on our nerves at times. That’s true of all of us, even with the people we love the most. Great couples have learned not to let those little things distract from the major things — like love and commitment. Instead of creating a mental list of all the things your partner does that annoy you, make a list of all the things they do well. Then extend grace for minor annoyances, knowing that your partner likely does the same for you.” —Fran Walfish, Ph.D., Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author, and co-star on Sex Box, WE tv

Putting Everyone Else’s Needs First

“It’s very common for couples to put their work, household responsibilities, needs of the children, and even extended family’s needs before that of their relationship. To fix this, you must be conscious of it and deliberately prioritize your marriage first. Check in with each other several times a day, maintain daily physical touch like offering a hug or sharing small caresses, express gratitude for even simple acts of caring and thoughtfulness, and put aside dedicated couple time at least once a week.” —Toni Coleman, licensed psychotherapist and certified marriage counselor

Expecting Them To Be Your Everything

“Many of the biggest problems in a relationship stem from wanting your partner to be your be-all and end-all, to fill all the holes in you, and to keep you feeling loved and appreciated at all times. That’s a lot to ask of one person! Instead of waiting for them to ‘complete’ you, work on completing yourself. When you come into a marriage as a person who can stand on their own two feet and have a positive sense of self, you’ll realize you don’t need your partner to complete you. Then you will be able to feel truly loved and secure.” —Evie Shafner, marriage counselor and founder of the Los Angeles Women’s Therapy Center

Thinking If You Complain Enough, That Will Make Them Change

“Couples become impatient with one another over time. That personality quirk that use to be so cute becomes irritating and annoying after years together. And instead of finding a way to be at peace with it, realizing that this is who they are and not interpreting a certain intention behind the behavior, you are determined to point out how much you hate this behavior. So, your plan is to complain and even overtly show your disdain, hoping that this will get them to alter their ways. But that only ends up in fights and feelings that distance you in your relationship. Learn how to accept and find ways to appreciate the idiosyncrasies in the other person.” —Rhonda Milrad, founder and Chief Relationship Advisor of Relationup

Giving Up On Sex

“Sex can become predictable and boring after many years with the same person, and, for some couples, it is easy to move into a comfortable feeling of being best friends and lose their sexual passion for one another. The answer is to address it as fast as possible. Make a plan to initiate sex on a regular basis. Not being interested week after week can easily put you in a rut. Introduce new locations or positions and even visit a local adult store to find toys that you might be willing to try and have some fun with.” —Milrad

Mistaking Anger for Not Caring

“When a spouse loses their cool and lashes out in anger, you may be tempted to think they’re verbally abusive. And while some spouses may be verbally abusive, most of the time their hysterics are an over-reaction to a trigger due to stress. Everyone has different ways of responding when under stress. While some minimize their energy and withdraw into their shell, others maximize their energy by making a lot of noise and being overly dramatic. Neither one is right, they’re just ways of protecting ourselves. By creating safety in relationship, we can avoid these knee-jerk reactions and learn how to communicate and connect in a safe and productive way.” —Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, licensed clinical professional counselor and co-founder of The Marriage Restoration Project

Assuming All Conflict Equals Divorce

“Many couples think that when the going gets rough, it’s the end of their marriage. The truth is, all couples experience the power struggle, and as they explore it in greater detail, they will realize that it’s not a coincidence why they picked each other. They did not make the wrong choice, rather they made the right choice—one who will uniquely challenge them and push their buttons so that they can achieve ultimate personal growth and healing.” —Slatkin

Losing Curiosity in Your Partner

“When we first meet and get married, there’s a lot of conversation and sharing about who we each are. As the years go by, we think we know each other and continue to act as if neither has changed. But we don’t stay the same over time. One way to avoid this is to keep asking each other questions. Make a specific time where you ask about each other’s day. What was interesting? What was challenging? What was enjoyable? Don’t assume you know. Also make sure you are really focused on each other.” —Lesli Doares, couples consultant and coach, author, and host of Happily Ever After is Just the Beginning

Keeping Score

“Everything each person does directly or indirectly impacts the other. Making sure the relationship is working for both of you is the only way it will survive long-term. If one of you isn’t happy with the way things are going, the relationship cannot be happy. When you’re a team you will win together or lose together. The way you do this is to make decisions together. Learning how to reach agreement that you both can support and implement is critical. It keeps scorekeeping at bay as well as resentment. It can be fun—come up with a mascot, team colors, a mission statement, etc.” —Doares

Dropping the Bomb

“When you bring up the ‘D word’ — divorce (or breakup) — you threaten the relationship’s security. This creates distrust and is a slippery slope. Unless you are genuinely considering divorce, a breakup, or a separation, do not bring it up.” —Rori Sassoon, relationship expert and founding partner of Platinum Poire, an invite-only couples service

Not Saying “Thank You”

“It’s such a simple thing that it often gets overlooked, but expressing appreciation to your partner for things they have done for the relationship and family is so important. Make it a practice to thank your spouse every day for something. This could mean thanking a stay-at-home parent for taking care of the kids, thanking the person who cooked the meal, or thanking your partner for working to provide income for the family.” —Allen W. Barton, Ph.D., research scientist at the University of Georgia’s Center for Family Research and founder of LiveYourVows

Telling White Lies to Avoid Confrontation

“Based on my research, I’ve found that many people tell white lies to their partner, and while the majority of people say that white lies are not OK, they still find excuses to tell them. For instance, on one survey, only 6% of people said it’s better to lie if it prevents conflict, but when asked if there was ever a time that honesty was not the best option, about two-thirds could think of times they wouldn’t be honest. The bottom line is that even small lies tend to cause distance, so it is better to thoughtfully be honest in the relationship, which will strengthen trust and improve closeness.” —Jason B. Whiting, Ph.D., professor of marriage and family therapy at Texas Tech University and author of Love Me True: Overcoming the Surprising Ways We Deceive In Relationships

Silently Resenting Your Partner

“Many couples enter counseling because of buried resentments. A resentment is a need one person expects of another that isn’t getting met, like frequency of sex, domestic responsibility division, life dreams, having a child versus not, or even something as simple as being late. Buried resentments cause relationship damage because they create a wedge between the couple, which leads to distance and contempt. If you need something from your partner, you must request it. Your partner cannot mind-read your unspoken expectations. It is your job to ask for what you need in a kind, compassionate way.” —Erika Boissiere, licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of The Relationship Institute of San Francisco

Constantly Criticizing

“There is nothing quite like being criticized your partner — it can really sting. A criticism is an attack on the character and is usually a broad sweeping statement, starting with ‘you always’ or ‘you never.’ Eventually, the partner on the receiving end feels like they can never be enough, a feeling that can lead to the partner either giving up, or the partner going inward and creating distance to get some relief. Instead of ‘You’re always late!’ use an ‘I statement’ paired with a request, such as, ‘I really value punctuality. When I sit at a restaurant by myself waiting for you, I get increasingly lonely, anxious, and slightly embarrassed. I’d really like it if you could try to be more on time, especially when it comes to our dinners at a restaurant.'” —Boissiere

Telling Your Partner to “Just Get Over It”

“A major marriage mistake is when someone does something reckless, threatening, or destructive, and then expects the other person to just get over it. The truth is that sometimes a partner just can’t ‘get over it’ and it’s unrealistic to expect that. Instead, look for ways to openly discuss it in a calm way.” —Wendy Brown, clinical member of the Ontario Society of Psychotherapists and author of Why Love Succeeds

Expecting Your Partner to be a Mind Reader

“Too many people think their partners should know what they need and want without actually coming out and telling them. The solution to this communication gap is simply to ask – very specifically – for what you need. ‘Can you please take the trash out?’ or ”When I’m crying, please don’t try to fix it, please just give me a hug and hold me until I’m done.’ Be as specific as you can and don’t expect them to read your mind.” —Bette Levy Alkazian, therapist and parenting specialist

Trying to Never Hurt Your Partner’s Feelings

“Rather than say something potentially hurtful, many couples opt for saying nothing at all. While ‘keeping the peace’ seems like a reasonable strategy in the short term, the consequence of silence is emotional distance and it is this emotional distance that over time erodes intimacy. Speak your truth and be prepared to risk hurting the feelings of the one we love can create an intimacy that is stronger than temporary tears.” —Sene Hicks, psychologist and relationship specialist

Being Afraid to Talk About Money

“Failing to get ‘financially naked’ can set you up for a number of problems down the road, both in your relationship and your finances. You’re married now, so your financial lives are tethered to each other whether you discuss them or not. Work to create an open dialogue about all of your personal finances – like how much is coming in each month, how much is going out, what goals you want to work toward together, and how you can best save for them, what your good and bad financial habits are, things you always like to splurge on – all of it.” —Kerri Moriarty of Cinch Financial

Saying “I Don’t Care” (When You Do)

“Being complacent and weak can kill a relationship in no time. If you give into what your husband wants all the time, you will both lose interest in your relationship. Instead, make sure you express yourself and share your thoughts. Remember that your attraction to one another lies in your differences as well as in your similarities. Next time your partner asks you to make a decision, do not brush off the selection. Instead, think about what you prefer and make your decision clear.” —Samantha Daniels, relationship expert and founder of The Dating Lounge

Playing the Blame Game

“When you and your spouse disagree and you insist that they are solely to blame, you actually miss out on an opportunity to be listened to and understood. This attitude creates the opposite result that you’re looking for from your partner. Instead, take a moment to drop your defenses and open up to your part in the power struggle. Setting aside time to resolve issues, will allow you to be more present and available to your spouse and allow you both to repair and connect with each other.” —Sarah Mandel, R.N., a psychotherapist and Imago Relationship Therapist

Skipping Date Night

“Busy professional careers, children’s activities and other commitments can make it too easy to put your relationship on the back-burner. Making it a point to have a date night weekly, whether it’s dinner out or watching a favorite TV series at home together. This gives you both time to reconnect, have fun, and focus on each other. The importance of prioritizing time for your marriage is the gift of connection and intimacy.” —Mandel

Being a “Good Sport”

“Keeping silent about a perceived inequity or accepting behaviors over and over that are troubling may seem like one is being a good sport or ‘taking the good with the bad.’ However, when the partner’s actions are genuinely hurting you or leaving you feeling perpetually less than in the relationship, speaking up is the only way to maintain true intimacy and closeness. Silent resentment leads to distance and ultimately loss of love. Couples must create a space for each other to share what is bothering them, and trust that doing so can lead to constructive change and help sustain their love.” —Jefferson A. Singer, Ph.D., co-author of Positive Couple Therapy and Dean of the College, Faulk Foundation Professor of Psychology, Connecticut College

Expecting to Start Out In the Same Situation Your Parents Are at Now

“Young couples starting out often try to have the same level of comfort they grew accustomed to living in their parent’s homes: furnished homes, lavish Christmas exchanges, and celebrating milestones in ways that are beyond their means. They don’t factor in the reality that their parents’ lifestyle is where their folks ended, not started out. Instant gratification often trumps long-term marital benefits when a “play now, pay later” mentality exists. One fix? Agree to not use credit cards for anything other than an emergency.Then get creative about ways to save up for the fun stuff.” —Shel Harrington, family law practitioner, professor, and author

Having “My Money” and “Your Money”

“Divvying up bills that one or the other is responsible for out of his or her money creates a me/mine dynamic rather than fostering a marriage-friendly we/ours dynamic. It creates arguments about things like fair shares, who contributes most, and who deserves final say in financial disputes. But the truth is, if the electric bill doesn’t get paid, regardless of whose bill that was, both parties will be in the dark. Instead, have a joint fund where all or most of your income goes. Each party keeps (or transfers) a matching designated amount to put in their own name for personal/gifts/fun spending or saving,. All joint obligations and joint savings comes from the joint fund.” —Harrington

Saying “You Make Me Happy”

“It may feel that way at the beginning of a relationship, but ultimately everyone is responsible for their own thoughts and feelings. Therefore, you cannot rely on someone else to make you happy. I encourage people to maintain their own interests, hobbies, and social lives, so that they can maintain a strong sense of self and find joy outside of their relationship. Additionally, I encourage them to be mindful of their thinking patterns and to take responsibility for their emotional experience.” —Laura Kelly, psychotherapist at Urban Balance

Believing the Hollywood Version of Romance

“Love is not like the movies. Romance and the accompanying hormonal fluctuations and fantasies will plateau, and when that happens many people feel disillusionment and resentment. There is the feeling of having been cheated or having gotten a ‘raw deal’. They ponder whether they married a ‘defective’ partner. This can lead to pursuing extraneous relationships (affairs) in pursuit of the romance they think is an inherent right. But this is a natural state of life and as new romance cools, in its wake takes place a mature, deep abiding love full of intimacy. Learn to respect and honor your partner, not just a fantasy of of them.” —Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, Ph.D., author of Why Global Health Matters

Trying to Control Your Partner

“Taking responsibility for your partner can feel controlling or overbearing. A sense of freedom and respect is foundational in a strong relationship and requires allowing each person to discover who they want to grow into and to not be micromanaged in the process. Stay in touch with your partner’s needs and desires so you’ll know how to care for him or her instead of control and demand. You do not have the right to take your partner’s power or make him or her into whatever you want.” —Charlotte Howard, Ph.D., psychologist at Deep Eddy Psychotherapy

Fighting in Public

“Having your disagreements in public is humiliating and makes the problem worse. Agree to handle anything negative in private. Spell this out with your partner and stick to it. You may want to agree to eye contact or other body language to signal a problem. Then sort it out afterwards when there is no audience.” —Laura MacLeod, author of From The Inside Out Project

Letting the Negative Interactions Outweigh the Positive

“Successful couples recognize what they appreciate about their partner and keep it at the front of their mind. For every complaint you have about your partner, identify 3 positive attribute about them. You should be your partner’s biggest cheerleader.” —Robin H-C, behaviorist and author of Life’s In Session

Keeping Secrets from Each Other

“It’s a major problem to keep secrets, whether it be about money, parenting decisions, emotional withholding. or anything you keep from your spouse because you are afraid of their reaction. It keeps you from developing the trust or intimacy of a good marriage. The fix is to be honest and open with your partner. Take responsibility for your feelings and actions and ask for understanding from your spouse. Secrets are childish ways of avoiding conflict.” —Mindy Utay, psychotherapist and marriage counselor

Skipping the Daily Check-in

“Many problems in a relationship can grow simply from the lack of open communication. Take a moment every day to sit with you partner and talk. Give each partner a chance to fully express themselves without interruption or any sort of comment for the entire time they are expressing themselves. Only after the first one has completed what they need to say in it’s entirety can the other partner speak. The partners can then take the necessary steps to make sure the other partner’s needs are met.” —Megan Weks, relationship expert

Settling for Good Enough

“We want to help our significant other. We want them to feel good about themselves. As a result, we often settle. We forget that we bring a set of skills and talents that can help raise them up. Try to be competitive in a caring way. Look at what they have that you don’t and strive to improve to get closer to their level. Maybe it’s becoming more compassionate, maybe more athletic, maybe more scholarly. You’re not becoming them, but taking their strengths and letting those set the bar for what you can strive toward. The advantage? You both push each other to be better over time. You remain independent but you never settle.” —Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Web

Fighting All the Fights

“Let go of the idea that everything that bothers you needs to be addressed. This belief is toxic to a relationship. A good rule of thumb I have for couples is if something bothers them but they aren’t even going to remember the occurrence the next morning, they are probably better off just ignoring it and moving on.” —Mark E. Sharp, PhD, clinical psychologist at The Aiki Relationship Institute

Listening… But Not Really

“Many people listen to respond instead of listening to understand. Listening to respond is not actual listening, so misunderstanding and conflict are more likely to occur. On the other hand, listening to understand is more than intellectual. It involves a feeling of understanding that you then check with your partner to see if it is accurate. When you do this they feel listened to and hopefully understood.” —Craig Polsfuss, psychologist

Believing Love is Enough

“Love is a great start but it takes work to make it successful. Each partner needs to be open about his or her needs or ‘love language’ then give specific action steps to meet that need. Put in the work and the love will grow.” —Barbra Russell, marriage counselor and author

Letting Yourself Go

“Couples let themselves go over time. They settle into a routine and forget to take care of themselves and the relationship. Sweatpants will rarely get a partner’s romantic attention, and when you don’t keep up your appearance and think that grooming is something you do for a poodle, not yourself, you’re on a slow road to relationship problems. If you’re using those sweats to overshadow weight gain, work out! Eat better. Treat yourself with importance and you’ll get better results in the relationship sector of your life.” —April Masini, relationship expert and author of the Ask April advice column

Having Fights on Repeat

“Every couple has a few things they will never fully agree on. One likes to save money, one likes to spend; one prefers a tidy home, the other is more sloppy; one is more strict with the kids, one is more lenient, and so forth. The mistake is trying to persuade, cajole, or coerce the other to change. Cue the recurrent “Here we go again!” arguments. Successful couples bypass recurrent arguments and instead approach the issue with the perspective ‘How would you like to deal with this issue today?’ They recognize that some days they go along with a partner, some days they get their way, some days they compromise.” —Paul Coleman, Psy.D., author of Finding Peace In Your Heart

Taking Each Other for Granted

“It’s easy to take one another for granted, but it’s also easily fixed. Capitalize on the Seduction of Selective Attention: You are never too old to captivate your partner the way you did when you just met, through making them feel as if they were the only person in the room. Try this the next time you are out at a restaurant,and see how many people wonder whether you are newlyweds!” —Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D., behavioral expert and author of Red Flags

Rejecting Your Partner’s Overtures

“Don’t reject your partner’s offers — and I’m not talking about party invites. This is based on the 40-year research by John Gottman who found that the happiest couples respond to each other’s ‘bids’ throughout the day. A bid or offer is when your partner might go, ‘That bird is cute.’ You can return the offer by ignoring it or countering it by saying, ‘No, it’s not.’ Or you can accept the offer with some response that provides humor, attention, affection, or support like ‘He’s a chirpy one.’ We make hundreds of bids with a partner in a week that they add up to form a happy relationship.” —Joshua Uebergang, relationship expert

Falling Asleep in Your Kid’s Room

“When our children were quite young, I often ended up falling asleep in their bedroom. My husband liked the arrangement and as the peacekeeper, I complied. I thought we were a typical couple, but soon after our 25-year anniversary, I discovered he had been sneaking out to see a woman for several months. When we decided to resurrect our marriage and make it even stronger, we realized that all of our sleep issues could,in fact, be resolved. No excuses will ever keep me from snuggling up to the man I love as I fall asleep each night. If you need a better mattress, better pillows, nasal strips, or even a sleep aid, do it. Never deny your partner the magical minutes to reconnect each evening and each morning as you share the marriage bed.” —Stacey Greene, relationship expert and author of Stronger With Love — A Couples Handbook

Playing the Victim

“The mistake is to think that holy matrimony requires another to take care of you and be responsible for your every need and happiness. This allows you to relax into a mediocre from of yourself and slip into victimhood. You think you get to sail through life and make someone else your savior, your financier, your bank, your father, your mother, and you never have to deal with yourself. Instead, base you life on the concept, ‘I am the creator of my own life, no matter what, and my reality and destiny belongs to me.'” —Audrey Hope, marriage counselor and host of Hope for Relationships

Thinking Marriage Should Be Easy

“Having a good marriage isn’t effortless. Educate yourself by reading or going to a couples therapist proactively to put good habits in place. Every couple should learn how to have weekly date night, how to disagree, and how to respond to each other’s bids for attention. You can learn these in the best marriage books and or go to couples therapy proactively for a little while.” —Paulette Kouffman Sherman, Ph.D., psychologist and author

Putting the Kids First

“Children add a lot of positives to a couples’ life, but can also add stress and decreased intimacy. It’s important to maintain a physical and emotional connection to your partner, which is often difficult when there are baths needing to happen, meals needing to be eaten, and toys needing to be picked out. It’s important to set boundaries with children. Do not share personal details of your relationship with them, and when it’s ‘mommy/daddy time’ make sure your children are clear on what this means for them.” —Kimberly Hershenson, couples therapist

Making Your Spouse Your Best Friend

“Many couples make the mistake of giving up their past friends to focus solely on couple time. However, doing everything together can create staleness in the relationship and is a great recipe for both partners to get sick of each other. Friends help meet different emotional and mental needs than a romantic partner. If your spouse is your only friend, you’re missing out on the different, yet still important aspects of male or female bonding. Make time for their separate friends, even if it’s just a couple of days a month. Schedule the time and stick with it.” —Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and relationship coach with The Popular Man

Fixing Problems Instead of Listening

“There’s a difference between listening and advice giving. For example, one partner will say something as innocuous as ‘I’m feeling lazy today.’ The other partner will then give a number of suggestions so that she doesn’t feel lazy. ‘You can go to the gym. Or, you mentioned you wanted to go get some fabric for a new quilt. You could do that.’ Meanwhile the first partner was simply meaning she was tired, and actually didn’t want to go out. Now she feels obligated to do something after a very busy week. Try reflecting their feelings or ask them if they’d like suggestions instead; don’t assume.” —Janet Zinn, psychotherapist

Losing Your Identity

“Often when people enter into a relationship, they become a couple, a “‘we.’ Then they may add ‘wife’ or ‘mother’ as well. Sometimes these labels are good in that they give us purpose, but taken too far, they become a role we play rather than being authentic to ourselves. It’s important to define your own roles in the relationship but also to still maintain your own separate identity. Work with your partner to make sure you have time to do things you have always wanted to do and have a little bit of time that is reserved only for you.” —Nikki Goldstein, Ph.D., sexologist and relationship expert

Texting Instead of Talking

“Modern couples often reduce their communication with their partners to abbreviated and often misunderstood cryptic acronyms on the screen of a device designed for talking. The impersonal nature of this misspelled and often mis-perceived communication builds barriers not bridges. The fix is simple: Talk, don’t text. Your partner is your lifeline. Uplifting, encouraging conversations infused with real emotion will revitalize your relationship in a way that no amount of emoticons could ever do.” —Patrick

Online Stalking Your Ex

“Cyber-straying involves covertly looking up old flames and high school sweethearts, despite being (supposedly happily) married to someone else. Curiosity compromises trust, and secrets are relationship saboteurs. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose by friending, following, or fanning old flames. Do not let this curiosity take hold. If it has, stop now, before you get burned. Ex-relationships are in the past for a reason.” —Patrick

Expecting Everything to Be Perfectly Fair

“There are no 50/50 splits of responsibility in a great marriage. There may be be times one gives 100 percent due to extenuating life circumstances. And there are other times the other spouse gives 100 percent. The key is that neither complains when it’s their turn to give all. Great couples learn to sacrifice willingly for one another without expecting something in return. This doesn’t come naturally, however. To cultivate this mentality, look for little ways to serve your spouse every day.” —Walfish

Taking Your Phone to Bed With You

“Taking your phone to bed and checking first thing in the morning in the morning destroy pillow talk. These two habits allow your relationship with screens to override your relationship with your spouse. Instead, snuggle in and share your triumphs and concerns without the distraction of interactive screen based technology. Couples who engage in pillow talk have been shown over and over to have increased intimacy, both sexual and otherwise. Those few moments keep couples strong, united, and current in each other’s lives.” —Mari Swingle, Ph.D., relationship therapist and author of i-Minds

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