When you’re in a committed relationship, it is much more important and realistic to work on the issues in your relationship versus trying to solve them. Sure, it’s nice to be able to tackle something and move on, but that’s not the way it works most of the time.

Challenging expectations

Most people want answers and clarity. They expect that even complex issues should be solvable. This sets the stage for a negative reaction when things don’t go according to plan. It puts more pressure on the couple. This often leads to avoidance instead of better communication.

One of the first things I try to do when working with a couple is to understand their expectations of themselves and each other.

When the defenses open, the ears close

The more loaded a given issue, the more likely one will get triggered. When people are triggered, there will be defensive and protective behavior. When the defenses open, the ears close. It’s not fair to expect that this shouldn’t happen.

Avoiding possible conflict provides some immediate relief, but it doesn’t make the issues disappear. Understanding and acknowledging that there will be many issues that will never get resolved, but can always be worked on is a big step. It’s not a failure or a step back if you have a good discussion about a given issue one week and then get into a fight about it the next week. It’s normal.

Work on the issues versus trying to solve them

Just think about how many factors are at play at any given time not even directly related to the issue at hand. For example, how much sleep you got, what’s going on at work, finances, kids, etc. All of these variables are impacting you in different ways and to different degrees when you are having a conversation. That is why making the time and space for the conversation is much more important than fixing the problem.

Checking in

I recommend a regular daily check-in time with each other that is focused on just asking each other how you’re doing and what’s going on. If you are in couple’s therapy, that can be one of the spaces to work on issues that come up. If not, it is important to make that space yourselves.

Relationships are living, dynamic organisms. They are constantly changing because we are constantly changing. Avoiding the change does not mean that it’s not happening.

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If you haven’t already read the book, it’s a great place to start – Relationship Reboot: Break free from the bad habits in your relationship.

David B. Younger, Ph.D. is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

Originally published at www.loveafterkids.com