The most common problem couples face are variations of two main topics.

1) Couples are forever attempting to “get” their partners to do, think and be the way they want them to be.

2) Individuals are selfishly thinking about what they want in their relationship without taking the time to understand what the other person wants and putting the needs of the relationship above their own.

Of course couples don’t come into therapy or coaching understanding those underlying issues. They come seeking help for financial, sexual, time and parenting issues, among others.

People have trouble agreeing on what to save and what to spend and even if they have agreed on that, they struggle with different ideas of how to spend and save. They come into relationships with different expectations for their sex life and often disagreements, inattention, or downright frustration leads to challenges to the relationship. Couples argue about how to spend their free time and with whom. Do they spend time together, apart, or mix of the two? Do they go to her parents house, his or somewhere totally neutral? Do they hang with his friends, her friends or mutual friends? And finally, when the couple becomes parents, often the disagreements center around parenting, e.g. rules, discipline and independence.

None of these issues matter though. They are merely symptoms of the underlying problem of trying to “get” each other to do things they don’t want want to do by criticizing, complaining, blaming, nagging, threatening, punishing or bribing the other into submission. When a person attempts to change someone through these behaviors, the other person predictably responds by digging in and resisting that control, further exacerbating the situation. Hurt and angry feelings abound and selfishness sets in. By this I mean that each person has stopped thinking like a couple and is now in battle mode, working for one thing . . . the accomplishment of their individual objectives.

The solution is listening to one another, really listening, to understand as best they can where the other person is coming from. They need to learn acceptance of the other person for who they are, while offering support and encouragement to help the person accomplish their goals and do the things they want to do. And finally, couples must develop the willingness and skill to negotiate their differences with a mind toward accomplishing the best solution for the good of their relationship, not necessarily their individual desires.

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