This article lists all the major relationship problems which have been proven to negatively impact relationship or straight lead to break up.
How to use this article
The aim of this article is to give you a quick overview of all the most common relationship problems.
It’s all based on research and data. It condensates, in a shorter and easier format, all the more in depth articles and books previously appeared here.
If you need more details, you can then just click on the hyperlinks.
- 1. Lack of Intimacy
- 2. Emotional Unsafety
- 3. Ignorance of Our Partner
- 4. Lack of Interest in Partner’s Life
- 5. Unmatched Attachment Styles
- 6. Harsh Arguments
- 7. Bad Communication
- 8. Negative Outlook
- 9. Vicious Circles
- 10 Refusing Influence
- 11. Power Struggles
- 12. Bitterness
- 13. Affairs
- 14. Ambivalence
- 15. Dysfunctional Relationship Dances
- 16. Abusive Relationship
1. Lack of Intimacy
What men should know is that with more intimacy and connection not only they can also enjoy a better relationship, but they can also fix their two major complaints: too much arguing and not enough sex.
Emotional intelligence is key to fix relationship problems related to intimacy. Here are two articles to help you fix the lack of intimacy:
2. Emotional Unsafety
In some bad relationship partners are afraid of opening up and sharing intimate details. They hold back on affection and signs of love in fear they might be spurned.
Amir Levine in Attached explains that feeling secure in the relationship makes us feel secure in life. Not feeling secure in our romantic relationships instead make us feel insecure for life.
To fix emotional unsafety both partners need to look and act in the relationship as a sanctuary to being oneself.
And they both must restrain to use any personal details as a tool to attack and undermine their partners during arguments -which amounts to emotional abuse-.
3. Ignorance of Our Partner
Many relationship experts agree that a crucial element that make couples stick in the long run is a good friendship.
It can be hard to develop a strong friendly bond though unless we know each other. Couples that don’t know each other well cannot fell understood and cannot develop a strong bond that transcends all other relationships.
4. Lack of Interest in Partner’s Life
This is an offshoot of knowing our partner.
Knowing our partner is not something that we do once and it ends for ever. It’s a continuous interest and curiosity that we keep for our partner.
- How did their day go
- What do they think about the latest scandal
- Why did they decide to vote for this candidate
- How do they feel about the new boss
Keeping curious about our partners is also a way of saying “I care about you”.
As a bonus, a common refrain of people who develop affairs is that “the affair partner understands me so much better”.
Knowing each other well and updating that knowledge with curiosity also becomes an antidote to affairs.
As one woman said:
I share all significant events with my husbands. How could I have an affair, I’d have to immediately run and tell him about it
5. Unmatched Attachment Styles
Attachment styles mismatches is an extremely common relationship problem.
Most people miss both the warning signs and the fixes though because, well… Very few people know about attachment styles.
Attachment styles in a nutshell
In a nutshell, people are categorized through attachment style depending on how they stand in relation to intimacy (here’s a quiz to find out where you stand).
- Crave lots intimacy and are afraid of losing it (anxious attachment style)
- Are afraid of intimacy and push it away (avoidant attachment style)
- Are comfortable with intimacy, both asking for it and giving it (secure attachment style)
You can already see from this description the worst mix you can have is between an anxious who craves intimacy and an avoidant who pushes back on intimacy.
That’s what I describe in this article of a match made in hell.
6. Harsh Arguments
Arguments have a strong, strong tendency to start as they start.
That means that couple starting arguments harshly or with an heavy critical tones are likely to spin their wheels in the ugly swamps of pointless fighting that solve nothing except of increasing bitterness.
Becoming more skilled at having arguments will mean that you will solve more problems, reach more resolutions and have less and more pleasant arguments.
Here are the keys to better arguing:
- Start gently
- Take a break when things get too heated
- Drop meanness and the mindset of hurting your partner
Here’s how you can improve your arguments:
7. Bad Communication
How often have you heard this is the crux of all relationship problems?
Well I’ve got news for you, Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight make a compelling case that great couples don’t communicate any better than poor ones.
The key, she says, is in the emotional connection, not in the communication.
Communication overlaps with emotions
I agree with Jonson but also partially disagree.
Bad communication goes deeper than words and becomes entangled with feelings and emotions.
When you accuse your partner of a global deficiency instead of addressing the issue at hand indeed you’re not just communicating poorly, but you are also negatively shifting the mood and emotions.
Communication styles to avoid
Avoid what John Gottman refers to as The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse, such as:
And also read:
8. Negative Outlook
Negative outlook happens when the relationship has become so bad that we filter everything that happens through negative lenses.
Couples who are badly entrenched in their negative outlook see everything that happens through negative lenses.
That means that you mostly see and focus on the negatives and miss on the positives.
And when you do see a positive, you spin its significance.
Him: She is being strangely nice… She wants something or she feels guilty for being such a bitch
Her: He’s being nice because his team won. If he could only care about me as much as his stupid football team…
The antidote, for your relationship and for a better life as well, is to consciously focus on the positive instead.
Here’s an in depth article:
9. Vicious Circles
Vicious circle is what happens when you let a negative outlook take over.
Mira Kirshenbaum, author of Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, says she has never seen a troubled relationship that wasn’t in the vice of a mutual shutdown -what I call here “vicious circle”-.
When we start a relationship there is a non written rule that we will do our best… As long as our partner keeps doing their best.
And the unspoken other side of the coin is that we will retaliate if our partner hurts us.
Little by little, each partner feels they are in debt and that they have to receive before they can start giving again.
But so feels the other partner. The result? There is little giving in the relationship while they are both acting hurt and entitled.
10 Refusing Influence
Accepting influence means to listen to what our partner says and taking it into account.
Not accepting influence means doing it our way without consideration for our partners.
It happens relatively often that, especially men, are not very open to accept their partners’ influence. And the impact is huge: More than 80% of couples who don’t accept influence split up.
How to accept influence
How do you accept more influence, then? It’s a simple shift, yet one of tectonic proportions: you must go from “I” to “US”.
And believing that there can be no win unless both partners are either on board or accept the decision.
Here’s more information on the subject, including examples:
11. Power Struggles
A consequence of refusing influence is that of a relationship that becomes a power struggle. Partner think how they can win in stead of winning together.
Unluckily much dating literature for women and for men focuses on power games which don’t always lead to the best relationships you can have -unless you’re able to make a U-turn for the relationship-.
Here are some typical power moves:
Bitterness is the feeling you get when the relationship is based on power struggles and games. Partners caught in a vicious circle and mutual shutdown are also often bitter towards each other.
And of course, partners who use the four horsemen of the apocalypse are also often bitter towards one anther.
The antidote is:
Affairs are traumatic events which in a matter of minutes within the discovery shutter trust and goodwill.
- Signs your partner is cheating
- Why do people cheat
- What’s an emotional affair
- Myths and facts of infidelity
And most important:
Ambivalence is straddling on the fence, not knowing whether you want to stay in the relationship or not.
It’s one of the major relationship problems because you stop giving fully, you second guess everything and you keep your options open.
The antidote, simply, is to decide.
But of course, deciding is not always is, and this is a really good article to help you decide:
- How to know when to break up (or stay)
15. Dysfunctional Relationship Dances
Dysfunction relationship can actually stay together for a long time. However, they are simply not optimal.
Growing out of a dysfunctional relationship sometimes means to grow as individuals first and foremost, because each partner enables the other like two planets in each other’s orbit.
This is an article on some of the most typical dysfunctional relationships:
16. Abusive Relationship
Fixing all the relationship problems will NOT help if you are in a relationship with an abusive man.
Doing any fixing with an abusive man is actually likely to make the problem worse because it focuses on joint responsibility.
And focusing on joint responsibility gives the abusive partner -most often albeit not always, the man- all the excuses to keep blaming you.
But you cannot fix anything until you first fix abusiveness -which is difficult and unlikely-.
And this article might help if you are mired in an abusive relationship (albeit it’s not fully tailored to abusive relationships):
Guys, this will take you quite some time to read.
If you want to shorten your learning curve, consider getting the relationship guide.
Sources: this article leverages decades of research and relationship literature. I won’t list each single source as it would get way too long, but some of them you can check here.