3 Hurdles Most Long-Term Relationships Inevitably Face
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Most people will tell you about certain challenges that arise sooner or later in long-term relationships. In most cases, it is enough to know that you are not alone and that rough patches are a completely normal part of intimate relationships.
However, there may be times when an issue prompts you to question the very foundation of your relationship. Luckily, research in psychology can give us clues on how to answer our deepest and most unnerving relationship questions.
Here are three hallmark hurdles that you might face in a long-term relationship and some research-backed advice to help you combat them.
1. Do you desire to change something about your partner?
An alteration in what you expect from a significant other in your relationship over time is natural. But asking them to change can be a delicate and potentially damaging process.
Being asked to change can evoke intense emotions in the changing partner. To make requests for change relatively easy and less stressful for your significant other, researcher Natalie Sisson of the University of Toronto gives a couple of tips:
- Make an effective change request. A clear and direct change request—as opposed to one that is vague or implicit—communicates that there is an issue in the relationship and helps the changing partner determine what they can do to meet their partner’s request.
- Be supportive. A change request should also be balanced with support and validation, given that we know change requests are difficult to hear. It is also important that changing partners feel supported during the change process and that requesting partners provide feedback about how things are going.
2. Do you feel like you’ve hit a sexual plateau in your relationship?
Any activity that is repetitive and lacks newness can feel obligatory. This is especially true in the case of sex, which is usually portrayed as an aspect of a relationship that keeps things exciting.
Psychologists suggest that couples can, and often do, engage in maintenance sex to keep their sex lives active.
Maintenance sex refers to sessions of scheduled sexual activity in a relationship wherein at least one or both partners may not desire the sexual activity they are participating in due to various reasons, including a lack of sex drive.
Researcher Cory Pedersen of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University of Canada says that indulging in maintenance sex can help couples experience greater relationship satisfaction as partners begin to develop a deeper understanding of each other’s needs, which often translates into better sex.
Another solution to the “sexual plateau” problem is to express more gratitude in one’s relationship. A recent study tracked 118 couples’ gratitude and sexual satisfaction level over the course of three months and found out that people were sexually satisfied to the extent that they expressed and received a high degree of gratitude from their partners.
“Maintaining sexual satisfaction is a critical, yet challenging, aspect of most romantic relationships,” says psychologist Ashlyn Brady of the University of North Carolina. “Results from our study suggest that experiencing and receiving gratitude increases the motivation to meet a partner’s sexual needs.”
3. Is your relationship with yourself suffering?
It can’t be said enough that a poor relationship with ourselves almost always translates into a poor relationship with our partner.
One’s self-relationship could suffer for various reasons, such as low self-esteem due to a failure at work or chronic issues such as depression or an insecure attachment style.
Lifestyle medicine and positive psychology are great resources when it comes to improving or repairing your relationship with yourself. Here are some tips from both fields to help kick-start your self-love journey:
- On the lifestyle medicine side, researchers recommend spending eight hours per night in bed without a device. They also recommend increasing your daily consumption of plant-based foods and doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise or walking 10,000 steps per day.
- On the positive psychology side, researchers suggest going out of your way to give someone a genuine compliment every day. They also suggest spending 15 minutes a day reflecting on things that went well and taking time to forgive people who have hurt you.
Love and romance are usually portrayed as mysterious and elusive experiences that human beings have little to no control over. However, many therapists and researchers argue that with effective communication, patience, and effort, there are no relationship problems too big to overcome.