Introduction

Most couples experience challenge’s at some point in their relationship. Some of these common challenges may include infidelity, loss of intimacy, communication difficulties, coping with stress, financial pressures, difficulty balancing individual and couple expectations and separation. Whatever the challenge, it is important to note that all dyadic relationships will experience some kind of distress at some point. We will examine some of the more common romantic relationship challenges below.

1. Communication

A healthy romantic relationship is often characterised by good communication. Healthy couples speak openly and directly with congruent non verbal cues allowing them to convey the intended message accurately. Communication in romantic relationships connects and reassures partners and allows them to discuss and solve problems and share important information and views. Challenges occur when the messages we send to the other are misunderstood or misinterpreted.

It is not uncommon when a couple experiences problems in their relationship, communication becomes broken. Problems and challenges in intimate relationships are often resolved through developing healthy, productive and effective communication. Therefore, the goal of enhancing communication skills may be a great starting point for the couple therapist.

2. Intimacy

Intimacy is not just sexual. It also involves the physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects that can enhance the feelings of togetherness between the romantic couple. Intimacy includes emotional bonding, feelings of connectedness and loyalty.

Intimacy has also been conceptualised as a sense of self disclosure, sharing of one’s self and feeling closer to one’s partner. Intimacy is maintained by engagement in intimate conversation and is considered a major part of romantic relationships. It is fair to assume that the quality of the romantic relationship will often be judged by the frequency of intimate interactions. It is these unmet intimacy expectations that can often affect the relationship negatively and pose challenges for the couple. Therapists dealing with loss of intimacy in romantic relationships should help clients develop trust and communication skills that can help to overcome barriers to intimacy.

3. Conflict

Conflict in intimate relationships can range from less serious mild disagreements to more intensely heated arguments. Marital conflict often stems from unmet needs, wants, and desires. It can cause significant psychological pain which manifests in withdrawal, depression, anxiety and/or aggression. Not only between the couple but also with those who are living around them.

The role of the counsellor, when dealing with couples who are experiencing conflict, is to help them identify the source of such conflict and its style and to assist them in implementing skills to resolve the disagreements.

4. Sexual Problems

Sexual intimacy is one of the most important factors in romantic relationships. In the early stages of the relationship, it is common for couples to experience intense feelings of love, affection and a strong desire for one another. As the relationship grows, external factors such as children and busy schedules can begin to have an impact on the sexual intimacy of the couple, often resulting in frustrations experienced by at least one member of the relationship. As the frustrations develop over time, problems may begin to surface.

If sexual problems are an issue the therapist can help clients explore options for achieving emotional and sexual intimacy in their relationships.

5. Infidelity

Generally, infidelity is a violation of trust by one or both members of a monogamous romantic relationship that involves a third party individual, with whom one member has an improper relationship. Infidelity is defines as an act of emotional and/or physical betrayal characterised by behaviour that is not approved by the other partner and that has contributed to considerable ongoing distress in the non offending partner. Infidelity can be in the form of an emotional affair, a sexual affair or a combination of both.

It is not uncommon that couples who have experienced infidelity in their relationships experience challenges in their attempts to resolve relational problems associated with it. As such, infidelity is considered one of the most challenging issues to treat in couple therapy.

6. Divorce and Breaking Up

Divorce rates are increasing at an alarming rate. In Australia, 40% of marriages end up in divorce where as in USA, 50% of marriages end up in divorce . For romantic relationships that continuously experience high distress, low satisfaction and low relationship quality, at some point one partner or both come to a decision to end or terminate the relationship, if such challenges are not resolved.

Divorce and break up can be a difficult and painful experience for many. The termination of a relationship or divorce can affect an individual financially, socially, emotionally and psychologically. Feelings of depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders are often experienced during this time. The role of the therapist is to assist clients through this life changing transition.

Original article is from the Mental Health Academy

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