There are many things that can get in the way of even the healthiest relationship. Some of these things may be issues that each individual brings with them into the relationship, and other problems can develop over time.
I will focus on two issues that seem to appear again and again in the relationships of my clients. One issue that can create conflict within the most loving relationship is difference in communication style. The other issue is the differences in expectations coming into the relationship, which aren’t always so obvious in the early stages, when less emphasis is on being on the same page, and more is on the excitement of getting to know and loving a new person.
Let’s start with how differences in communication can create conflict. Susie (made up for purposes of this example) thinks it’s important to discuss her feelings and often tells her boyfriend Leon (also fictional) how she feels and how much she cares about him. This makes her feel good and connected, but Leon does not like talking about feelings and rarely shares how he feels, although he may express them through his actions instead, such as getting her things she likes, and giving her most of his time and attention.
While they both love each other, Susie gets frustrated that Leon doesn’t tell her how he feels, and can sometimes interpret this as a lack of caring. Leon gets frustrated because he expects that Susie should know and understand how he feels, since he demonstrates it through his actions, and would rather spend their together time doing things together, as opposed to talking about their feelings.
Leon and Susie love one another, but the differences in their communication styles creates conflict in their relationship. They both need to better empathize with their partners, understand the meaning each has for their different ways of communicating, and make some adjustments accordingly.
This does not mean they have to become different people and dramatically change their personality. It’s about being sensitive and understanding about the differences we all have.
Now let’s talk about the expectations we bring with us into a relationship. In this scenario, Alex and Jean are very much in love, but have different expectations and needs from the relationship.
Alex wants to spend every free moment with Jean, and is happiest when they are together. Alex does not feel anything else is needed to make their life full and satisfying.
Jean, however is very social, and has a very large group of friends and feels that these relationships are also a very important and essential part of life. Jean loves Alex, but needs friends as well.
Alex does not understand Jean’s need to be with friends and sees this need as an indication that Jean feels less love for Alex than Alex feels for Jean. Jean resents Alex’s lack of understanding around friendship, and has seen less of friends as a result, and this is a source of resentment.
In this case, two people who love each other can start to develop resentment and/or a lack of trust in the other, simply based on their different expectations. They both have a different vision of an ideal relationship.
Ultimately, in order to make the relationship work, they must both become more empathic and understand the needs of the offer. There are plenty of strategies and work that can be done to strengthen the relationship, but you can see how loving someone isn’t always enough.
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