Every couple experiences bumps in their relationship at some point; in fact, coming across the occasional roadblock is a normal aspect of intimacy. When your relationship experiences a blip, it might be a signal that connection or acceptance in the partnership is missing in a certain situation. The first step is to identify the root cause of the rough patch before you and your partner can overcome the barriers and return to appreciating the qualities that brought you together in the beginning.
Expecting a Fairy Tale
A common barrier in relationships is the expectation that you and your partner should be living a fairy tale romance. While most people recognize that no person is perfect, a common misconception is that if you meet “the one” you will get along and feel smitten at all times. Realistically, when a relationship gets past the infatuation phase, flaws become apparent. Accepting your partner's idiosyncrasies is an important part of gaining intimacy. According to Gerry Heisler, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist writing for “Psychology Today,” people put too much importance on a fault or blemish in their partner, and it causes them to withdraw. Ask yourself whether the barrier is something that you can get past or not. If one person in a relationship has vastly differing views on life or what they want in the future, it can pose a significant deal breaker. If you suddenly become bothered by the way your partner chews food, for instance, it's likely a defense against intimacy.
Accepting Peaks and Valleys
No relationship is smooth all the time. Accept the ups and downs as a part of life and look for opportunities to strengthen your relationship; relationships require maintenance and effort. If you are feeling disconnected from your partner, communicate openly and explain how you feel. Communication is more effective if you are able to speak calmly and express your feelings honestly. Try not to make accusations or focus on your partner’s faults. Placing blame won't help overcome the bumps, but communication can lead to increased support and connection in the relationship. According to Flannery Dean, writer and blogger for Chatelaine.com, being reliable, honest and available generates the trust required to keep your relationship strong.
Mountains or Molehills?
Couples who spend a lot of time together are bound to run into conflicts. According to writer and contributor to WebMD Carol Sorgen, recognizing what conflicts might occur ahead of time makes it easier to solve them. Some conflicts need to be resolved thoughtfully if they might affect your future, such as attitudes about money, marriage or religion, for example. Other conflicts are over small issues like whether your partner put away socks or left on a light. When a conflict arises, ask yourself whether it's something that needs serious attention. If you are continually upset about sharing household responsibilities, you must address the issue. However, if your partner leaves out a dirty dish one time, you should probably overlook it. Remember the old adage, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” in overcoming bumps in your relationship.
Focus on Strengths
When there’s a bump in the relationship, look back on what brought you together in the first place. Whether it's shared interests, good chemistry or a sense of humor, focus on the qualities that initially drew you to your partner. While the initial passion may subside over time, examine whether your quality of life is better with your partner in it. If it is, then being emotionally invested in the relationship will strengthen your bond. Working through conflicts will only serve to deepen the connection in the relationship. According to relationship experts at The Couples Center in San Francisco, acquiring flexibility and heightened awareness enables you to navigate through the bumps and currents underneath the surface of your relationship.
Lauren Mills, L.C.S.W. is a licensed psychotherapist and mental health writer with a private practice based in New York City. She has extensive experience providing psychotherapy to children, adolescents, adults and families. She holds a Masters of Science in clinical social work from Columbia University.