Relationship problems: when to address them – and when not to

“We need to talk” – right?
When we should and shouldn’t address relationship issues

Relationship issues: when to talk about them and when not to.

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Every couple knows relationship problems. But when are they worth addressing and when should you ignore them?

There is probably no couple who does not have relationship problems. But when should you address these issues? And should you even talk to them? Is it sometimes better to first or completely identify them with yourself or even ignore them?

Relationship problems are not uncommon – how we deal with them is what matters

As Psychology Today writes, there is a mix of all of these possible options in any healthy relationship, and it takes reflection and practice to recognize which action is best in which situation. It is often helpful to think about whether a certain problem needs to be discussed very urgently. Do you address it as soon as the problem arises, or do you choose to think about what just happened and why it bothers you so much first?

There may be factors that are negatively affecting your mood at that moment and compounding the problem disproportionately. Perhaps you have contributed to the situation with your own behavior, which is not yet clear to you in the heat of the moment. Sometimes it’s better to let a little time pass to see things more clearly – and to be able to describe to your partner if in doubt.

When and how to address issues

If you are convinced that the issue definitely needs to be addressed, it is time to consider the best way to do so. Some issues should be addressed right away to avoid becoming routine—this includes, for example, a hurtful comment from your partner. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when addressing relationship issues:

  1. Keep in mind that conversations of this kind are stressful – for you and the person you are talking to. Choose a good time to do this where you both have the space to talk.
  2. An introduction will help your partner prepare for what follows. Make sure to formulate this as constructively as possible. For example, “I don’t want us to fight, and I don’t want either of us to feel bad. However, there is something I want to talk to you about.”
  3. It is also helpful to give the other person the option to decline the conversation at this point. “Can we talk about the household?” should be taken by you as an invitation that can also be declined. In this case it might be better – as described in the first tip, such a conversation often means stress for those involved. Both parties should have the capacity for this. Then it is not wrong to make an “appointment”, for example later on the same day.
  4. Be as calm as possible when you start the conversation – this increases the chance that the conversation will end in an equally calm and respectful manner, writes Psychology Today.
  5. Try to stick to I-messages that describe your feelings and avoid blaming others. Saying “You’re always such a ruthless idiot!” has a very different effect than “I feel hurt and ignored if you’re on your phone while we’re alone.”
  6. Avoid ultimatums like “If you don’t change this, I’m leaving you!” Such threats are counterproductive and more likely to make the other person shut up.
  7. If possible, stick to one problem – listing a whole series of things that have been annoying you “since day one” only leads to the other person being overwhelmed.

When you don’t necessarily need to address an issue

Relationship issues: when to keep silent

Sometimes it’s okay not to discuss certain issues.

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The toilet seat is always up, the other person never vacuums, constantly forgetting this and that thing – of course, such things can be annoying. And when they’ve reached a level that crosses a line for you, then it’s important to address that as well. But many points of friction in relationships result from the fact that two imperfect people live next to and with each other. Addressing and discussing every trifle can quickly become exhausting for those involved.

Do you want to prove something to yourself or others? Do you want to correct the other person? Or is it really something important that you need to work on together as a couple?

Lots of things, like constantly leaving crumbs on the dining room table, can be frustrating—but the frustration usually goes away as quickly as it came. Also, sometimes the cause of the emotional reaction isn’t necessarily the other person’s, it’s one’s own, so it’s worth taking a step back and considering where the emotions are coming from and to what extent the partner is really responsible for it.

We are often extremely critical – of ourselves, but also of our environment. It helps to ask yourself why you want to address an issue: Are you trying to prove something to yourself or others? Do you want to correct the other person? Or is it really something important that you need to work on together as a couple? Asking yourself these questions honestly can help you decide whether or not an issue really needs to be addressed.

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