The 4 Most Common Relationship Problems & How to Fix

Common Relationship Problems

The 4 Most Common Relationship Problems & How to Fix Them


The well-known fact that ‘communication is key’ in relationships is likely the directive that many couples take most for granted. Unhealthy communication occurs when couple’s are unable to express feelings, needs, desires, and opinions in an open, honest, and mutually respectful manner. Unhealthy communication can occur with a couple being ineffectively expressive with one another (i.e., strained communication) while other couples may withdraw from communication altogether (i.e., absent communication or communication avoidance).

The Solution: Healthy communication requires practice and much dedication from both partners, but it is possible for couples with strained communication to learn tips and strategies to improve their interactions and expression of feelings. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing healthy communication between couples, most couples respond to the stop, break, listen, and discuss approach. This strategy involves couples stopping communication and removing themselves from a potentially unhealthy interaction followed by taking a break to cool down and regroup. Once both partners are ready to address the conflict/stressor (with the time period during the “break” varying from couple to couple) then the couple agree to listen to one another’s thoughts and feelings about the conflict and discussing a solution that satisfies the needs of both parties.


One-upping between couples involves each partner attempting to compete with the other during conflict with the intention being trying to win an argument, outdo one another, and establish control in the relationship. This relationship problem often occurs between couples that are highly competitive and may be rigid or inflexible in most social and interpersonal relationships. One-upping can cause a continuous power struggle between the couple where the focus of conflict is each party getting his/her own “way” or own needs met without considering the other. In addition, one-uppers often feel that they must have “the last word” and this can cause conflict to escalate, as one or both partners may not walk away from the argument when necessary in order to cool off and instead may perpetuate the conflict.

The Solution:

Since being highly competitive is often a character or personality trait, it can often be challenging when the one-upping occurs in a romantic relationship. When both or even just one partner is the one-upper, it is important for the person(s) to self-examine and ask themselves what is their priority: Their relationship with their partner or their need to win an argument and get their way. The one-upper(s) in the relationship must be willing to understand the destructive pattern that one-upping causes and must agree to be flexible and agree to the other partner’s wishes during 50% of arguments. This agreement creates a “give and take” scenario where the one-upper is allowed some control but agrees to also give up control “half of the time.” It is important to present this approach gradually, as trying to convince a one-upper to give up control entirely is typically not effective.


Pride is a relationship problem that occurs when one or both partners refuses to admit fault, apologize to the other partner after conflict, or take responsibility for actions or circumstances. Pride is a natural human quality that many people express to a certain extent; however, in excess, it can be damaging to romantic relationships. Individuals who are proud in their relationships often do so to avoid demonstrating vulnerability and may have difficulty with trust. They stand their ground during conflict due to interpersonal insecurity or lack of self-confidence, as they believe that if they “give in” they will lose respect, power, control, or will show neediness to their partner.

The Solution:

Resolving the damaging effects of pride in a relationship often involves the partner(s) individually working on their self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as understanding the importance of ” give and take” in their relationship. Developing confidence allows the partner(s) to be able to willingly admit to faults, apologize, and make amends for the good of the relationship and for the sake of their partner’s feelings. Overcoming pride involves seeing beyond the immediate conflict and making the relationship the priority over self-serving needs.

Revenge Seeking

Revenge-seeking occurs when couples resolve feelings of distress, frustration, or anger with one another through acts of “getting back at” or retaliation. Revenge-seeking can lead to much hostility between the couple where dynamics, such as power struggles, an “I’ll show you” attitude, or “You will pay for this” intention takes place, causing the couple to drift further and further from conflict resolution. Once revenge seeking becomes habitual by one or both partners, the couple will resort to this in order to attempt to get their needs met.

The Solution:

Revenge-seeking is an indication that the couple must develop healthy outlets for their frustration and anger in the relationship, such as effective communication of each other’s needs and desires and most importantly, listening to one another. Such couples may benefit from seeking counseling in order to express feelings to a neutral third party who can facilitate the process of each partner understanding the underlying emotions that contribute to resorting to revenge. Once these feelings are brought to the surface, the couple can begin to work on mutual recognition and acknowledgment of feelings and ways to find mutual satisfaction during times of conflict or disagreement. When the couple develop healthy coping skills to replace revenge seeking, this behavior can be replaced with positive and adaptive expressions of emotion.

8 thoughts on “The 4 Most Common Relationship Problems & How to Fix

  1. I certainly agree with the first most common problem that couples face. Without communication, what do we really have? Can there even be a relationship without it? With a background in anthropology, I know how vital it is to view situations (including conflict situations) from various angles and points of view, without bias, in order to truly grasp a complete understanding of what is actually going on. One of the most interesting insights I ever gained from my studies was that it is best to study what people actually do, not what they say they do. I think that can be used in other areas in life, not just academically or in relationships.

    Great article with helpful tips, I’m looking forward to more of your content!

    1. Donovan, Thank you for your reflection on the post.Viewing the same situation from the different angles and points of view is normal. It is normal to have different opinions about the same situation.I can quote Scott Fitzgerald:”The mark of the first race of intelligence is being able to hold two competing ideas and still function”. I can add that good marriage can hold partners with competing ideas and still be able to love and accept differences.

  2. I agree on all fronts of all four relationship conflicts. I look at my relationship and know communication was one of the most if not the most difficult part we had. Nothing to do with her part but on my behalf.
    Over time we grow and it becomes easier to share and acknowledge each others true sides and that is when the relation builds to a new level.
    I would say us men have the tougher side of that arrangement because of just who we are. Men.
    Do you have any advice on how men should communicate?

    1. Santana, you may not realize this, but men and women are not that different in their communication style. However, there are some differences.
      Listening patiently (not passively) and developing curious attitude don’t come naturally to many men.
      There are some communication tips:
      If your wife (or girlfriend) wants to discuss something, listen calmly and ask her clarifying questions, trying your best to imagine the situation from her side. Do not jump to conclusions, as though you knew in advance what she is thinking. You are likely to be making the wrong guess.
      Do your best to imagine what it’s like for her. Respond with empathy and ask if you understand it correctly. Don’t defend yourself. Remind yourself that you don’t have to take what’s said so personally. If your partner raises an issue for discussion, assume the reason is that only to clarify the situation, not to fight with you. Partners start arguments not to win points, but because of pain inside.The most successful relationships and marriages are those where both partners have learned to listen, ask the right questions, look at things from each other’s perspectives with the open minds.
      It may be hard to sit down and talk about feelings, but it’s better than living with hidden confusion and growing resentments.
      All the best!

  3. I think pride is the big one I experienced in many of the marriages I’ve seen fail or struggle. After 13 years of knowing my wife and 11 years of being married to her I’d say we both try to one-up one another and we are both very prideful. Our altercations can be very entertaining for many as we have become almost a sitcom with our antics. I would say our understanding that no matter what we love one another and our strong faith in something greater than ourselves through God has helped us in times where many would give up. You make great points and thank you for your post!!!

    1. Hey, Bruce! It seems that you and your spouse were able to pass certain maturation milestone, developing of relationship skills.As a rule, when maturation in relationship develops, there follows an unfolding and strengthening of the bond in relationship. Your ability to understand the importance of your love and your faith lead you to a new stage of maturation. Good job!

  4. Hi Olina,
    Wonderful information.
    Being married for over 5 years I can say that our main problem with my hubby is one-upping. When we argue we actually both would like to win. And usually, we would just stop listening to the argument of the other and kinda keep our personal opinion. I know that is not a constructive dialogue. But after we cool down we actually manage to talk again and start listening to what another person is saying.
    I think we have passed the stage of pride and seeing revenge. Thankfully, so will work more on the one-upping (in our scenario two-upping) one.

    1. Anna, congratulation on overcoming one of the negative cycle of bad communication. It is not easy to do, let’s face it:)
      There are more tips on constructive communication you can find on my post “5-steps-to-take-when-you-screw-up-with-your-partner” to expedite you process on learning about effective communication! All the best!

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