(www.BlackDoctor.org) -- Romantic relationships can be difficult even in the most ideal of circumstances, and can quickly become a source of turmoil when issues of trust, betrayal and conflict arise. All relationships come upon times when things don’t run so smoothly. Communication problems, conflicting expectations, and difficulty with expression are just a few of the many issues that can rear their ugly heads during the course of a union. But if you recognize ahead of time what those relationship problems can be, you'll have a much better chance of weathering the storm, experts say. Before starting their lives together, couples should come together to discuss the basics -- such as money, sex, and kids.
Relationships are hard work and the most successful ones manage to work by hanging in there, tackling problems, and learning how to maneuver through the complex issues of everyday life, together. Here are some common issues and ways to resolve them:
•Make time ... yes, an actual appointment with each other, Shimberg says. If you live together, put the cell phones on vibrate, put the kids to bed, and let the answering machine pick up your calls.
•If you can't "communicate" without raising your voices, go to a public spot like the library, park, or restaurant, where you'd be embarrassed if anyone saw you screaming.
•Set up some rules ... like not interrupting until the other is through, banning phrases such as "You always ..." or "You never ..."
•Remember that a large part of communication is listening, so be sure your body language reflects that. That means, don't doodle, look at your watch, pick at your nails, etc. Nod so the other person knows you're getting the message and rephrase if necessary, such as, "What I hear you saying is that you feel as though you have more chores at home, even though we're both working." If you're right, the other can confirm, and if what the other person really meant was, hey, you're a slob and you create more work for me by having to pick up after you, perhaps they'll say so but in a nicer way.
•Plan, plan, plan, Fay says. Make an appointment -- not necessarily at night when everyone is tired. Maybe during the baby's Saturday afternoon nap. Or perhaps a "before-work quickie," Fay suggests. Or ask Grandma and Grandpa to take the kids every other Friday night for a sleepover. "When sex is on the calendar, it increases your anticipation," Fay says, adding that mixing things up a bit can increase your sexual enjoyment as well. Why not sex in the kitchen? Sex by the fire? Sex standing up in the hallway?
•California psychotherapist Allison Cohen, MA, MFT, also suggests learning what truly turns your partner on by asking him or her to come up with a personal "Sexy List." And, of course, you do the same. What do each of you truly find sexy? "The answers may surprise you." Swap the lists and use them to create more scenarios that turn you both on.
•If your sexual relationship problems can't be resolved on your own, Fay recommends consulting a qualified sex therapist, who can help you both address and resolve your issues.
•Be honest about your current financial situation. If things have gone south, continuing the same lifestyle that was possible before the loss of income is simply unrealistic.
•Don't approach the subject in the heat of battle. Instead, set aside a time that is convenient and non-threatening for both parties.
•Acknowledge that one partner may be a saver and one a spender, understanding that there are benefits to both, and agreeing to learn from each other's tendencies.
•Don't hide income or debt. Bring financial documents, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, debts, and investments to the table.
•Construct a joint budget that includes savings.
•Decide which person will be responsible for paying the monthly bills.
•Allow each person to have independence by setting aside money to be spent at his or her discretion.
•Decide upon short-term and long-term goals. It's OK to have individual goals, but you should have family goals, too.
•Talk about caring for your parents as they age, and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs, if necessary.
Struggles Over Home Chores
• Be organized and clear about your respective jobs in the home, Sherman says. "Write all the jobs down and agree on who does what." Be fair: Make sure each partner's tasks are equitable so no resentment builds.
• Be open to other solutions, Sherman adds: If you both hate housework, maybe you can spring for a cleaning service. If one of you likes housework, the other partner can do the laundry and the yard. As long as it feels fair to both people, you can be creative and take preferences into account.
Not Prioritizing Your Relationship
•Do the things you used to do when you were first dating: Make gestures of appreciation, compliment each other, contact each other through the day, and show interest in each other.
•Plan date nights. Schedule time together on the calendar just as you would any other important event in your life.
•Respect one another. Say "thank you," and "I appreciate ... ." It lets your partner know that he/she matters.
•You are not a victim. It is your choice whether to react and how to react.
•Be honest with yourself. When you're in the midst of an argument, are your comments directed toward resolution, or are you looking for payback? If your comments are blaming and hurtful, it's best to take a deep breath and change your strategy.
•Change it up. If you continue to respond in the same way that has brought you pain and unhappiness in the past, you can't expect a different result this time. Just one little shift can make a big difference. If you usually jump right in to defend yourself before your partner is finished speaking, hold off for a few moments. You'll be surprised at how such a small shift in tempo can change the whole tone of an argument.
•Give a little; get a lot. Apologize when you're wrong. Sure it's tough, but just try it and watch something wonderful happen.
•Be on time.
•Do what you say you will do.
•Don't lie -- not even little white lies, to your partner or to others.
•Be fair, even in an argument.
•Be sensitive to the other's feelings. You can still disagree but don't discount how your partner is feeling.
•Call when you say you will.
•Call to say you'll be home late.
•Carry your fair share of the workload.
•Don't overreact when things go wrong.
•Never say things you can't take back.
•Don't dig up old wounds.
•Respect your partner's boundaries.
•Don’t be jealous.
•Be a good listener.
Although relationships have their ups and downs, there are things you can both do that may well minimize marriage problems, if not help avoid them altogether, says psychologist Karen Sherman. Be realistic. Thinking your mate will meet all your needs -- and will be able to figure them out without your asking -- is a Hollywood fantasy. "
Use humor -- learn to let things go and enjoy one another more. And be willing to work on your relationship and to truly look at what needs to be done. Don't think that it will be better with someone else; the same problems you have in this relationship because of lack of skills will still exist.
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