Intimate, loving relationships are one of the most amazing things in the world.
Finding a partner with whom you can share life’s adventures, tragedies, and joys is an incredibly wonderful gift. Like anything worthwhile, though, relationships require constant work, communication, and ongoing attention in order to thrive.
What do you do when your relationship begins to show signs of wear or is fraying a bit at the edges? Every relationship has its problems, so understanding ways in which you can identify problems and work toward a resolution is of paramount importance if your relationship is to survive and grow.
Let’s explore three common relationship problems and some possible solutions.
1) Regain Balance.
We often hear that relationships are a balancing act, requiring ongoing repositioning and adapting to our partner’s cues in order to maintain a healthy symbiosis. There is a lot of truth to this, but relationships also have the ability to become lopsided and imbalanced.
But what does it mean to really be “balanced,” and how do we get from a place of imbalance to balance? For our answer, we need to understand how our emotions, and the actions that impact those emotions in relationship, are regulated by our bodies.
Our bodies produce and release all sorts of chemicals depending on what a situation calls for. When we workout or push our bodies physically, the body releases endorphins, which lessen the pain from these strenuous activities and leave us feeling good. After all, if the body didn’t release those feel-good endorphins after a killer spin class, why would we ever want to go back?
From the relationship aspect, though, in order to understand why a relationship may be off kilter, it is important to realize that the way the body reacts chemically to certain situations may be at the root of relationship problems. Consider the fact that other feel-good brain chemicals such as oxytocin (a.k.a. the “trust” hormone), serotonin (an antidepressant), and dopamine (a “reward” chemical) all have the potential to play significant roles in our, and our partner’s, behavior.
Think of the phrase “having too much of a good thing” and how it may ring true in relationships. “Feel good” chemicals also have the potential to serve as a crutch when we’re feeling low or stagnant in our relationships. The release of dopamine, for instance, feels good and is rewarding, but those same characteristics can make it more addictive. In other words, the actions you or your partner take to get that rush of emotion may actually be harming your relationship, but the addictiveness of the feeling may make it harder to stop the behavior that is causing the body to release those feel-good chemicals.
When you recognize that you or your partner may be seeking “too much of a good thing” in terms of these chemical releases, you’re on the right path to fixing a broken part of your relationship. However, it is important not to impose this on your partner: they may feel attacked and emotionally vulnerable if you do, which may actually encourage more of the behavior that you’re trying to solve!
2. Look Inward.
When you’re trying to find your balance with your partner, you may be wondering, “If we’re hard-wired to release these chemicals, then what can we do to break the addictive nature and regain balance with our partners?”
The first thing that we can each do is to look inward. All of us are in control of our own selves and emotions. When we are able to take emotional stock of our actions, behavior, and feelings, we gain a clearer understanding of how that may affect our relationships. For example, if we recognize that we’re constantly engaging in behavior that has a negative impact on our partner, the question then becomes: what can I do to change my behavior?
Similarly, it is equally important that your partner take the same emotional inventory. Often in relationships, bad (or if not bad, damaging) habits formed early on don’t manifest until much later, because one partner or the other shrugs it off thinking it isn’t a big deal or that it will end soon.
By talking with your partner about your own process, you can encourage them to evaluate themselves. This relationship “work” has the potential to bring you closer together during tough phases of your time together. When your partner recognizes not only your emotional vulnerability and confidence in expressing these emotions in a self-aware way, you may just give them the confidence they need to start their own inward journey.
3. Stay Strong.
We won’t be so naïve to think that every relationship can be fixed by finding balance and looking inward. The unfortunate truth is that some relationships are just toxic, or even downright dangerous. Understanding the difference between a relationship needing “work” and a relationship that is causing emotional or physical harm is paramount.
However, sometimes you do need to seek balance and look inward to recognize you’re in a toxic relationship. If you come to this realization, understand this: you are not alone. Seek the guidance of trusted friends or family.
Our friends and family (and, if necessary, professional help) often see our strengths even if we cannot. Their support, love, and encouragement in times of struggle are often the boost we need to confidently recognize the impact unhealthy relationships can have on our lives.
Toxic relationships can be saved if the other partner is truly willing to make the necessary changes, but having the strength to recognize that your partner isn’t letting you be the “best you” is a giant step toward a healthy self.
No matter where you are in your relationship with your partner, never be afraid to seek the guidance of friends, family, or professionals. Alone, it is hard to see the forest for the trees or to recognize patterns that others may see immediately. Give yourself time to look internally to understand yourself. Trying to mend fraying or broken relationships is never easy, but it is possible, and it starts with you.
Author: Shelby Castile
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Taia Butler
Social Editor: Callie Rushton