Troubleshooting Love: Handling Relationship Problems

Key Points

  • Every couple has unique dynamics within their relationship but many issues boil down to a common problem: poor communication. 

  • Poor communication is often the root of relationship issues as couples struggle to see each other’s point of view and effectively communicate their own perspective.

  • Keep in mind during relationship turmoil that you are on the same team, fighting for a resolution rather than looking to hurt one another.

  • Work through relationship problems together by finding solutions and staying respectful of one another through the process.

Relationships are an important, fulfilling aspect of life, but are often a source of challenges and stress. Learn to overcome these relationship problems together and continuously work on improving your relationship. From poor communication to trust issues to disagreements about finances, there are countless obstacles that couples face. Many of these issues come down to a few common sources of relationship turmoil.

When facing a relationship problem with your boo, work as a team to overcome the issue instead of fighting each other head-on. You share a common goal of solving this problem – even though it doesn’t always feel that way.


The most common root of relationship problems is poor communication. Relationship success is dependent on honest and healthy communication. 

Not expressing your feelings to your partner creates distance and misunderstandings. Listen to your loved one and allow them space to share their feelings in return. Communication is a two-way street where both parties openly share and actively listen to one another. 

Poor communication takes on many forms in relationships. Some couples struggle with not communicating enough, while others communicate in an overly critical or negative way. Unhealthy communication also includes talking over each other, not listening, acting defensive or dismissive, and avoiding certain topics altogether.

According to relationship expert, therapist, and author Darlene Lancer, “Couples get into problems when they’re afraid to be honest — usually because they think the truth will upset their partner and might jeopardize the relationship. They don’t express their hurt or ask for the love or support they want, or they do so in a way that’s critical or blaming.”

When communication is lacking, misunderstandings and assumptions lead to hurt feelings and mistrust. It’s impossible to work through problems and disagreements without effective communication.

Use some of the following tactics to work on communication in your relationship at times of turmoil, and other serious conversations.

Active Listening

Be fully present when your partner speaks and listen to what your partner is saying without interrupting or judging.

While they are speaking, focus on what they are saying rather than thinking of your response. Repeat back to them what you absorbed to ensure you understand what they are communicating to you. Take your time in building your response, and let them know you are collecting your thoughts rather than ignoring them or just waiting for your turn to speak. 

Nonverbal Communication

Body language, eye contact, and tone of voice are vital in communication. Pay attention to your nonverbal cues and your partner's nonverbal communication.

Don’t roll your eyes, break eye contact, or have a sour look on your face. Remain calm and face your partner when having a serious conversation. Maintain eye contact when you are listening and speaking to show you are paying full attention.

Express Your Emotions

When addressing turmoil in a relationship, be honest and open about how you feel in a non-accusatory way. Blaming your partner for your emotions causes them to feel defensive and prevents you from having a productive conversation. Instead, focus on how you feel and what you need.

Focus on finding a solution to the problem at hand, rather than just venting or complaining.

Use "I" statements to communicate your feelings. For example, by reframing the statement "You're always ignoring me," to "I feel ignored when you don't answer me," you give off a whole different vibe. Your partner is less likely to feel attacked when you keep the focus on you instead of on them. 

Use these statements to hold your partner accountable for their actions in a softer and non-judgmental way:

  • “When you did/said [their action], I felt [your feeling]. I know you likely didn’t intend this, but I’m hoping we can talk about it.”

  • “Can we talk about [situation] so that we can find ways to avoid it happening in the future?”

  • “I care about our relationship a lot, so I want to be honest about my feelings about [situation].”

  • “I feel [emotion] when [situation] happens, so if it does happen in the future, I will need to [set specific boundary].”

  • “Could you help me understand your perspective of the situation? I want to understand both sides and how we felt.”

  • “Is there anything getting in the way of you being able to [your need from them]?”

  • “I care a lot about you so I am here to work through this hurt. How can we find ways to avoid it in the future?”

Play around with these suggestions to find what feels the most natural and comfortable for you.


Timing is important when having a heavy conversation. If you want to talk to your significant other about a behavior that has been bothering you, don’t approach them when they are in a bad mood, just returned from a long day at work, or when they are about to fall asleep.

Choose a time when you are both feeling calm and receptive to have a serious conversation or address an issue. The conversation is more productive and you prevent escalation due to preexisting bad moods. Timing is key!


If you and your partner continuously struggle with poor communication, consider going to counseling or therapy. A licensed counselor assists couples in identifying patterns in their communication and develops skills for healthy communication. They also help to facilitate healthy communication between you and your loved one during sessions.

Hashing out problems in a therapist’s office is an opportunity to express your emotions in a neutral space. Having a third party present brings the emotional level down significantly and allows each person to share how they feel in an objective and non-offensive way.

There is no shame in going to therapy. Give it a shot to adopt new communication skills and work through issues in your relationship.


Trust is the feeling that someone has your best interests in mind – even in your absence. It’s a feeling marked by a sense of security and confidence that someone is acting in your favor. Everyone has different expectations in a relationship, so it's crucial to communicate openly with your partner about what you both desire.

Trust is built on honesty and consistency in words and actions. If your boo gets your coffee order wrong every time they go to Starbucks, you no longer trust them to bring you your caffeine fix. If your partner fills your gas tank up every Sunday and hasn’t ever forgotten, you trust them to continue this errand regularly. 

There are different levels to trust. Just because you trust your partner to cook dinner after work every Wednesday, doesn’t mean you trust them to remain loyal to you. Trust takes a long time to build and it's easily broken. Broken trust in a relationship is difficult to repair. It's possible, though, depending on the severity of the breach, your history of trust with your partner, and your dedication to the relationship.

The betrayed person experiences a range of emotions, including anger, hurt, and disappointment. A breach of trust damages the emotional and physical intimacy of a relationship, which is difficult to rebuild.

Some cases of broken trust are too difficult for a couple to mend and cause a breakup. Decide if you want to heal the relationship or if it's a deal breaker. If you decide to rebuild the trust between you and your partner, be patient and implement some of the following approaches:

Acknowledge the Break of Trust

The first step to overcoming a breach of trust is talking openly about the betrayal. Whoever broke trust in the relationship needs to be honest about what they did, recognize their fault, and sincerely apologize for their actions to move forward. 

Be transparent and honest about the situation at hand and recognize what you each need in order to move forward.

Follow Through

If your partner does not trust you, some extra effort to follow through on your word rebuilds their confidence in your actions. If you say you are going to do something, then do it – even for small commitments like calling your sweetheart during lunch break. 

Make promises purposely to show you follow through on your word to actively rebuild trust. Be consistent in your words and actions! It takes time for trust to be rebuilt, but stay patient and persistent. Give your partner the time they need to feel secure with you once again.


To move past a break of trust, be willing to forgive your partner for breaking your trust in the first place. Forgiving your better half is an essential step in moving past the issue and rebuilding trust.

Do not say you forgive someone then continue holding it over their head for years to come. Take your time healing, but be willing to forgive your partner and move past the issue. 

Build New Memories

As a breach of trust damages the closeness of a relationship, it’s important to rebuild positive experiences together to experience intimacy once again. Plan a date night, a weekend getaway, or a new activity together to facilitate a good time. 

This also serves as an opportunity to take your mind off of the issue at hand. Even if your mind trails during date night, bring your focus back to the good time you are having with your partner and keep your spirits high.


Seek the support of a professional. Counseling provides guidance and support for your relationship as you work to rebuild trust. Especially for serious breaches such as infidelity or a significant lie, it feels impossible to fix at times. Seeing a therapist neutralizes the conversations and brings clarity to your feelings.


Many relationships suffer from frequent bickering that escalates into arguments. This happens due to high emotional levels, poor communication, and underlying issues with yourself and your partner.

If you find yourself saying spiteful things to your partner, ask yourself what you are really feeling and take a moment to relax. Avoid most of these arguments by controlling your emotions and analyzing what is actually triggering you.

If you are dealing with a defensive partner, learn how to set boundaries and properly communicate with them.

It takes two people to argue, so even though it often feels like your partner is purposefully picking fights, be responsible for your own actions. To avoid petty arguments, try implementing some of the following tactics:

Breathe Before Responding

Before saying something hurtful or dramatic to your partner out of anger, take a moment to breathe and chill out before saying something regretful. 

Learn to let small things go. If the argument is irrelevant to the grand scheme of your relationship, starting an argument over it only causes harm. This is difficult at times when your partner does something that annoys you. Learning to step back and realize the argument is not worth it often stops petty arguments in their tracks.

Let Go of the Past

Holding onto past grievances and resentments causes distance and conflict in a relationship. Leaving hurt feelings unresolved builds up over time and causes unnecessary explosions. Communicate your feelings effectively and let go of past turmoil you’re storing.

When you forgive a partner for something that hurt your feelings, you must truly let go of this hurt and don’t hold it against them in the future. For example, if a partner cheats on you and you choose to forgive them and stay in the relationship, don’t continue to bring it up every time you argue. It’s totally valid to have scars and take your time to heal, but it is unfair to continuously give your partner a hard time over something after you claimed to have forgiven them.

Identify Root Causes

Perpetual petty bickering has an underlying issue within the relationship that’s not as obvious as leaving dirty laundry on the floor. Analyze the root of the issue or unmet needs within the relationship that are triggering these arguments. Work together to resolve these causes and learn to communicate in a healthy way to overcome the issues moving forward.

Compromise and Negotiation

Compromise and negotiation are key conflict-resolution skills in any relationship. Learn to resolve differences and prevent arguments in a way that both parties get a little bit of what they want. 

Compromise by finding a middle ground where both partners get some of what they want. Each partner gives up something in order to find a solution that satisfies both parties. For example, if one partner wants to eat at their favorite restaurant and the other wants to stay in, compromise and order takeout.

Negotiation is when both partners work together to find a mutually beneficial solution to a problem. Discuss your needs, preferences, and priorities to come up with a solution that works for both of you. This is necessary for situations where finding a middle ground isn't possible. For example, if one partner wants to move to a new city for a job and the other wants to stay put, negotiate by discussing the benefits and drawbacks of each option and coming up with a solution that works for both partners, such as a long-distance relationship or a compromise on the location.

Each partner must be willing to give a little in order to find a solution that works for both parties when compromising and negotiating. These skills take practice but are typically effective in resolving differences and building a stronger relationship.

A Difference in Love Language

Love languages are how people express and receive love. This includes words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and gifts. When partners have different love languages, it often leads to problems in paradise as they don’t feel loved or appreciated in the ways that they need.

For example, if one partner's love language is physical touch and the other partner's love language is acts of service, the partner who prefers physical touch feels neglected or unloved if their partner does not show physical affection. Similarly, if one partner's love language is quality time and the other partner is extra busy with work, the partner who needs quality time feels lonely or unimportant.

If partners don't understand or acknowledge each other's love languages, it leads to feelings of frustration, disappointment, and even resentment. Over time, this may lead to a breakup or even divorce.

Speak Their Language

Communicate your love languages to each other and make an effort to express love in the ways that your partner needs. This requires awareness and understanding of each other's needs and a willingness to make changes to improve the relationship. By doing this, partners strengthen their connection and make each other feel more loved.

Time to Talk About Sex

Sex provides physical pleasure and intimacy in a relationship, as well as emotional connection and bonding between partners. Couples feel closer and more connected as they express their love through sex.

When partners have different levels of sexual desire or needs, it creates tension and conflict in the relationship. One partner feels neglected or rejected if their needs aren’t met, while the other feels pressured or overwhelmed when asked for sex.

Sexual incompatibility is also a common cause of frustration and dissatisfaction in a relationship. If left unaddressed it quickly spirals, leading to resentment and loss of emotional intimacy.

Talk About It

Communicate openly and honestly about your sexual desires, needs, and expectations. This establishes an understanding of what each partner wants and provides an opportunity to identify underlying issues that are contributing to the problem. You and your partner deserve a fulfilling and fun sex life, and discussing your individual needs is the best way to find it.

It’s common for long-term relationships to fall into a sexual desert, or go months without undressing each other. Sexual excitement is difficult to maintain for an extended time! If you find yourselves in a rut, find a new way to spice things up. Have a threesome or put on some lingerie to catch your partner off guard and rediscover your passion. Of course, talk about your needs, too.

Financial Disagreements

Money is a common source of stress and conflict in relationships – especially when each partner has different attitudes towards spending and saving. Disparities in income and financial responsibilities create a power struggle and disagreement in relationships.

If one partner earns significantly more than the other, this creates a power imbalance. The partner with more money feels entitled to make decisions about spending, which leads to resentment and conflict. The partner making less money gives in to the other’s decisions as they are financially dependent on their partner.

Communicate and Plan

To address financial disagreements in a relationship and avoid future turmoil, have open and honest communication about money. Discuss your attitudes towards money, financial goals, and spending habits. 

Create a budget together and agree on how to spend and save money. Establish boundaries around money and financial decision-making. For example, partners agree to consult each other before making any major purchases or to set a limit on frivolous spending. By working together and communicating openly, partners overcome financial disagreements and strengthen their relationship.

See a financial advisor for expert guidance and support when struggling with financial disagreements. Develop a plan to address financial challenges and set long-term goals with a professional. Many online budgeting tools work wonders in helping you manage your money more effectively.

Practice empathy and understanding for one another during this conflict. Make an effort to understand each other's financial perspectives and values. Don’t be judgmental or dismissive, but rather practice healthy communication to arrive at a common agreement.

Work Together

Navigating the complexities of a relationship is difficult. It’s possible to build a stronger and more fulfilling partnership by recognizing the common problems, identifying how these apply to your relationship, and taking proactive steps to address them. Remember to communicate openly and honestly, respect each other's needs and boundaries, and be willing to compromise and negotiate when necessary. 

Remain patient and committed to one another as you navigate your relationship problems. Be willing to grow together in order to overcome any obstacle and enjoy a long-lasting, fulfilling relationship.

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