Everywhere you look, people seem to be having trouble with their relationships. What’s going on?
Why are relationships so full of problems and conflicts?
Why are relationships so hard for people?
There are challenges in relationships at every stage, from courtship to parenting. For a relationship to thrive, both partners must navigate these challenges successfully. This article will present a comprehensive list of key challenges people face in romantic relationships and some insights on how to navigate them.
Reasons why relationships are hard
Assuming you’ve moved past the courtship stage, following are the challenges you’re likely facing in your relationship:
1. You have to put in a lot of time and energy
Relationships don’t grow on their own. You need to continually put time and energy into them. In this sense, relationships are a lot like businesses. Businesses die when you ignore them.
2. You have to be a good communicator
Communication is the lifeline of healthy relationships. Poor communication skills cause most conflicts in relationships. Good communication doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. So, they have to work at it continually.
3. You have to be understanding
Relationships aren’t for immature people who lack understanding. I’ve said repeatedly that the most important relationship skill is seeing things from others’ perspectives. To do that, you have to have peak levels of understanding.
Not only do you have to be understanding, but you also need the ability to make others understand.
4. You have to control your selfishness
We’re all designed to be selfish. We’re wired to think of ourselves before we think of anyone else. But doing so can be the death of relationships.
Relationships require you to control selfishness. You can be selfish but not at the cost of your relationship. You need to learn the art of being selfish without trampling others.
5. You have to go against your genetic programming
Humans are wired to be selfish and to help their genetic relatives. Helping one’s genetic relatives allows one to propagate their own genes. The closer the genetic relationship, the more likely they are to get help.
Your relationship partner isn’t genetically related to you, which makes your relationship with them very fragile. At the same time, you want them to propagate your own genes directly. These opposing forces can tear down a person’s psyche.
Sometimes, you’ll have to favor your partner over a close genetic relative, and you should be okay with it. It’s hard because you’ll be going against your genetic programming. In your mind, your partner will be the ‘other person’ you shouldn’t favor over your family.
But if you care about your relationship, you’ll have to do that. Ideally, you want to balance it out with your partner and genetic relatives. Easier said than done.
6. You need to be good at conflict management
This ties in with being a good communicator. Conflicts often emerge in relationships because people, being threat-sensitive, assume the worst. Their lizard brains are prone to seeing threats where there are none. It takes advanced communication skills to reassure people and calm their reptilian brains.
7. You need to heal past traumas
You may have worked on yourself a lot to deal with your past traumas. Kudos to you! But if you haven’t been in a relationship, your traumas are only taking a nap. You haven’t put them to deep sleep. They’ll wake up again as soon as you enter a relationship.
Traumas and past baggage significantly impact our relationships because they shape who we are and how we relate to people. Trauma causes you to overreact to certain triggers in your relationships. To truly overcome trauma is to overcome it in the context of a romantic relationship.
8. You can no longer resist growth
Relationships force you to grow. If you’ve been avoiding growth, you can no longer continue it because now your lack of growth impacts another person. Relationships make you more responsible, mature, and socially smart.
9. You have to improve your EQ
A considerable part of growing as a person is developing your emotional intelligence. Relationships require you to control your fears and insecurities. They also need you to have infinite patience.
10. You have to compromise (without getting resentful)
All relationships are essentially transactions, but it’s not appropriate to admit they’re transactions. By ‘relationships are transactions,’ I mean there’s give-and-take involved. This give-and-take needs to be balanced for the relationship to thrive.
Ideally, both partners should feel they’re getting more out of the relationship than they’re putting in. Of course, that doesn’t work out mathematically but the perception of it is all that matters.
This means you must be ready to compromise if a situation demands it. If your partner is in need and you have to sacrifice, you should be up for it. The same is true for your partner.
If relationship partners compromise when needed (like one’s genetic relatives) without keeping score, the relationship seems less transactional. You don’t get resentful for compromising.
11. You have to save yourself
It’s easy to lose one’s identity in a relationship. When you’re single, you spend a lot of time maintaining your identity. But when your identity merges with your partner’s and you have to spend time maintaining this newly formed relational identity, your original identity can get lost in the transition.
Although hard, you can maintain your original identity while feeding your relational identity. You do that by taking the time to do things for yourself. By preserving your passions, interests, and hobbies.
12. You need financial intelligence
Relationships will teach you to handle money better if you’ve been bad with money. Your financial decisions can affect your partner. So you must consider them before doing anything major with your money.
13. You have to deal with the outsiders
Once you iron out all the problems in your relationship and start thinking about living together or getting married, a whole new set of problems can rain down on you. These problems are caused by ‘outsiders’ to the relationship- friends and genetic relatives.
Since these outsiders are not in the relationship, they don’t understand what the relationship is like. They easily find flaws in the relationship and try to influence you.
If their own relationship sucks, you can’t take relationship advice from them. If their relationship sucks, they probably haven’t worked on themselves.
For instance, a typical ‘warning’ given to someone in a relationship is:
“She’s trying to control you.”
“He’s very dominating.”
People only see relationships in terms of power dynamics. They can’t see things beyond power dynamics. They don’t see the sacrifices and compromises of your partner. They don’t see how you resolve differences in a healthy manner.
When they look at a relationship, all they’re interested to see is who’s controlling and who’s getting controlled. It gives them a kick of sorts.
You’ll hardly find anyone in your circle who says:
“Their relationship is great! They both respect each other!”
I’m not suggesting that there can’t be a power imbalance in a relationship, just that others likely see it more than you do.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve published one book and authored 400+ articles on this blog (started in 2014) that have garnered over 4.5 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur. Feel free to contact me if you have a query.