common relationship problems

Relationships are complex, dynamic, and often fraught with challenges. Whether you’re navigating conflicts with your partner, struggling with communication issues, or facing external stressors, it’s natural to encounter bumps along the road. In this blog, we’ll explore practical strategies for dealing with relationship problems, fostering understanding, and building a stronger, more resilient bond with your partner.

In order to address the conflicts in your relationship, it’s important to understand root causes. Common issues include communication breakdowns, trust issues, and differences in values or expectations. Be mindful of the impact of external stressors such as financial difficulties, work-related stress, or family dynamics on relationships. It is also useful to normalize the ups and downs of relationships as part of the growth process.

The Most Common Relationship Struggles and their Solutions:

(adapted from The Gottman Institute, “The Four Horsemen)

1. Criticism: verbally attacking core personality traits or character.

  • Solution: use “I” statements and gently verbalize your needs. It is possible to voice a complaint and offer a critique in a relationship without expressing personal criticisms.

2. Contempt: attaching sense of self with intent to insult or abuse

  • Solution: Learn to appreciate your partner, the positive qualities they embody, and focus on expressing gratitude for positive actions. It does not benefit the relationship or any individual in the relationship to disrespect, mock, ridicule, and simply make fun of someone. The person receiving the contempt might start to feel genuinely hated and worthless.

3. Defensiveness: victimizing yourself to ward off a perceived attack and reverse the blame

  • Solution: Take responsibility by acknowledging your role, considering your partner’s perspective (even if you disagree), and maintaining accountability for any personal wrongdoing. Take perspective and imagine how your partner’s background might foster what is happening in reality.

4. Stonewalling: withdrawing to avoid conflict and convey disapproval, distance and separation

  • Solution: Engage in self-soothing activities such as meditation, take regular breaks, and distract yourself with healthy activities (e.g. listening to music, taking a bath).

(Lisitsa, 2024)
Building trust and healthy communication to improve your bond

How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship:

Use the “GIVE” acronym to build positive associations and keep good energy flowing

  • (Be) Gentle: Be nice and respectful; No attacks, threats, judging, or sneering
  • (Act) Interested: Truly listen and appear interested in your partner; maintain eye contact; don’t interrupt; be sensitive
  • Validate: with words and actions; show that you understand the other perspective;
  • (Use an) Easy Manner: Use a little humor, smile, be light-hearted, leave your attitude behind, be considerate of other people’s feelings

Use the “FAST” acronym to replace defensiveness with assertiveness

  • (Be) Fair: to self and others; validate your feelings, hopes, wishes for self and others
  • (No) Apologies: Don’t over apologize or make yourself small; don’t gaslight yourself and change an opinion you wholeheartedly stand by; you can disagree and have your opinion without apologizing
  • Stick to values: be clear on how your values are informing your thinking
  • (Be) Truthful: Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate or make up excuses

(Linehan, 2014)

Getting Help for Relationship Issues

If confiding in a loved one, or journaling about your issues isn’t working, it may be time to seek professional help from a psychotherapist for individual therapy or couples therapy. This can allow for objective support and provide you with a safe environment to learn about any underlying mental health challenges contributing to conflict. Contact PCI today to learn about how we can support your journey as a couple, and as individuals.

Relationships are journeys filled with highs and lows, joys and challenges. By prioritizing effective communication, empathy, and self-care, couples can navigate relationship problems with grace and resilience. Remember, the strength of a relationship lies not in its absence of conflicts, but in the ability of partners to work through challenges together, fostering deeper understanding, connection, and love along the way.


1. Lisitsa, E. (2024, January 23). The Gottman four horsemen. The Gottman Institute.

2. Linehan, M. (2014). DBT (R) skills training handouts and worksheets, second edition (2nd ed.). Guilford Publications.

3. Romanelli, A. (2020, April 28). Flooding: The state that ruins relationships. Psychology Today.