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6 Problems That Test Relationships, According To Couples Therapists
The honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever: Couples who stand the test of time experience countless hurdles throughout their relationships, some more common than others.
Below, marriage therapists share six of the most widely cited issues couples complain about — and how to work through each relationship test as a team.
1. The “I-need-time-to-myself” test.
Carving out time for yourself is essential when you’re in a relationship. Being alone allows you to explore your interests, connect with friends and realize that while you love your partner, you don’t necessarily need them to feel whole.
Sometimes, though, couples struggle to find the right balance between “we” time and “me” time, said Liz Higgins, a couples therapist in Dallas, Texas.
“I often see couples having difficulty with how to express their personal needs for separateness,” she told HuffPost. “They feel guilt for even asking to be alone or have a weekend to themselves. When that happens, they may begin to question if they chose the right mate, which often manifests in resentment and frustration toward their partner.”
Higgins tells her clients that they may be able to work on spending more time “alone but still together” through better communication.
“Couples need to learn the skill of asking for what they want in a way that leaves their partner feeling like they understand them and don’t have to get defensive or take it as a personal attack,” she explained.
2. The meddling in-laws test.
Jokes about pesky in-laws are a dime a dozen, but the truth is, parents can have a major impact on your marital well-being and happiness. A recent 26-year longitudinal study found that when a husband reported having a close bond with his wife’s parents, the couple’s risk of divorce decreased by 20 percent. (Interestingly, a couple’s risk of divorce increased by 20 percent if the wife was close to her in-laws.)
Regardless of closeness, most in-laws have a way of involving themselves into their grown children’s marriages every so often. When this happens, marriage therapist R. Scott Gornto tells couples to establish or reinforce clear boundaries. (For instance, “Our parents can share advice on the kids’ schooling but we decide where they enroll.”)
“You have to protect the marital relationship first,” the Plano, Texas-based therapist told HuffPost. “When possible, protect your partner from being in the middle by talking to your parents about issues they have with your S.O. — or issues your S.O. has with them.”
3. The lackluster sex life test.
It’s common to experience a lull in your sex lives when you’ve been together for years. If you’re less than satisfied with your sexual connection, aim to address the issue without blame, said Rhonda Milrad, a relationship therapist based in Beverly Hills, California.
“Broach it in a positive light,” she said. “For instance, explain that you desire your partner and wish you had a more robust sex life.”
The conversation should be focused on how you can create a satisfying sex life together, without judgement.
“You want to feel close to one another, on the same team and united against the problem,” Milrad explained.
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