When a relationship is brand new, everything seems perfect: the sex is good, you’re still super curious and into each other, and, well, the sex is good. But as your relationship grows and develops, you are bound to run into obstacles and relationship issues that will test your love.
But here’s the bright side: you’re not alone. In fact, relationship challenges are common for most long-term relationships and there are a lot of issues that are perfectly normal but important to address.
We talked with individual and couples therapist Irina Firstein, LCSW, about the major relationship issues everyone encounters to find out how to navigate them.
Taking each other for granted
After couples have been in a relationship for a while, they tend to dial down the level of effort they put into the relationship. The small gestures that couples used to make for each other at the beginning of a relationship, are no longer being appreciated and partners begin to feel undervalued. “This is a grave mistake,” says Firstein. “Because with this attitude, a relationship goes stale, becomes boring, one or both partners stop putting effort into how they treat each other or look in front of each other, and they don’t pay attention to one another and basically become disconnected emotionally and sexually.” To remedy this, Firstein advises couples to be more aware of how they behave and act in your relationship. “Make sure you connect on regular basis, and ask yourself all the time, ‘what can I do to make him or her happier? How can I be more attractive to my mate?’” Otherwise, Firstein warns, that an emotional or sexual involvement with someone else could occur.
The sex is boring
Action in the bedroom is bound to decrease as a relationship develops, thanks to changes in sexual desire, disconnected schedules, and just plain boredom. “People stop being romantic or the sex is monotonous, infrequent and unsatisfying. Often this happens slowly overtime as other life pressures come around, especially with couples with kids,” says Firstein. “Often time kids become a priority over a spouse and while that spouse seems understanding, there is resentment and distance. This is very problematic since sex and romance are vital to any good relationship and most people will eventually seek it somewhere else.”
Firstein says it’s important for couples to prioritize sex. “It’s critical to think about sex in your relationship, and create time and space for it. It’s also important to take trips, even short ones alone, away from kids and work, to be alone, to reconnect and to be physically close.”
You don’t have fun anymore
One of the most common relationship issues for couples that have been together for awhile is to start experiencing less fun and excitement in their relationship because the novelty of a new love has worn off. Gone are the days of spontaneous road trips to the beach, or surprise pillow fights in bed. But Firstein says that all work and no play makes a relationship a dull one. “Many people in long term relationships do not do new things and become complacent in making plans that are just fun,” she says. “It’s important to think about the beginning of your relationship and remember all the fun and varied things you did. You need to think of what used to be fun for you two and why it stopped happening.” To inject more fun into your relationship, try looking into new things that you and your partner can do together, like a sports league or a new hobby.
Old wounds remain unhealed
Past hurts can disrupt a connection and slowly pull at a relationship until it ultimately untangles. “Over a long relationship many old conflicts and resentments are not healed or dealt with,” says Firstein. “These create a great divide between partners and lead to disconnection. Unresolved anger makes you feel alone. Feeling alone in a relationship defeats the reason for relationship.” Firstein recommends continuing to discuss your problems and issues with your partner. Attending couples therapy is another suggestion. Above all, Firstein reminds that “sweeping anger under the rug does not work, it leads to bigger problems.”
Part of growing together and creating a strong, healthy relationship is learning how to deal with obstacles and problems even when things aren’t that great between you. By becoming aware of and confronting relationship issues as they arise, you’ll develop an even stronger, fresher relationship and can even became closer than you’d ever thought.