If you’re in the early phases of a new relationship, the last thing you want to think about are problems. Why dwell on the negative? You want to focus on positive words, like potential, promise, and possibilities.
Still, if you’ve been in more than a couple romantic relationships, you know problems arise any time you get two people together. What’s more, you know that the distribution of problems isn’t equal and equitable: some relationships seem to evolve smoothly and easily while others are weighed down by disagreements and difficulties.
The question becomes whether you should try to fix a problem-plagued relationship or nix it and move on to better prospects. How much should you try to push through problems versus admitting the partnership simply isn’t meant to be? The goal as always is for you to find the best possible relationship.
If your road to lasting love is starting to be packed with problematic potholes, ask yourself:
Are these minor issues to work through or major ones that signal significant differences? Some concerns come up because two people don’t know each other well and haven’t figured out each other’s temperament, preferences, and communication style. These are bumps in the road that usually get smoothed over with experience and time. Other issues emerge from fundamental incompatibility and contrasting beliefs. These kinds of difficulties mostly likely won’t go away.
Are your opinions valued and validated? If each of you feels like your ideas and views are heard and accepted, you’ve taken a giant step toward overcoming any issue that appears. You don’t have to agree with each other, but you try hard to listen and understand. Both partners must feel free to offer their perspectives; if not, genuine communication will be stifled—and that’s big problem.
Do differences lead to helpful discussions or heated disputes? Many couples choose to address problems in a rational, unselfish way: “Let’s figure this out to together so we’ll both feel good about the solution.” Other couples let a little crack become a gaping chasm. When a dilemma escalates into a dispute, one or both partners may become intent on “winning,” and if only one person wins, the relationship loses.
Is respect maintained regardless of the size and shape of the problem? Both people have a legitimate right to feel and think the way they do. No one is wrong simply because he or she has a different point of view. There is something wonderful about being told by your partner, “I disagree with you, but I respect and honor your position.” This reduces the threat of feeling wrong just because you’re different.
Have you reached your tipping point? There is no predetermined number of problems per week or month that triggers an alarm to indicate “enough is enough.” Everyone has a different threshold for how many relational problems are acceptable and how many constitute the break-up boundary. If you’ve been in relationships where you initiated a break-up, you know there’s a point where you said, “This just isn’t worth it anymore!” Thankfully, the reverse also happens: problems crop up occasionally rather than regularly, and when they do they’re resolved successfully.
Because we live in a complex world, and because humans are complex creatures, problems are inevitable. Therefore, seek to find a partner with whom you can work through problems in the most efficient, effective way possible.