There are little speed bumps in relationships, and there are major roadblocks. Most relationships survive speed bumps, but when couples make major missteps regularly, continue to hurt one another, or create roadblocks to love and loving, things start going downhill—sometimes gradually, and sometimes unexpectedly with an affair. Wouldn't you like to replace these unloving behaviors and roadblocks with loving habits to build a healthy relationship instead? Looking for advice about love?
Roadblocks that Inhibit Love
There are three common roadblocks to love, which couples usually reinforce unintentionally and without knowing it. These problems in a marriage or partnership create static that makes effective communication difficult, near impossible.
Relationship Roadblock #1: Competing with Your Partner's Needs
The first relationship roadblock is competing for individual needs to be met instead of rallying for the needs of both partners to be met. We live in a highly competitive culture, so it's easy to slip into this habit. Competition may be fun in sports, but when it comes to relationships, competition often creates problems. What tends to happen is that when we don't get our own needs met, we start blocking the other person, and we get into major power struggles.
We sometimes also compete because we mistakenly believe that it is our partner's job to meet our needs. However, we are responsible for meeting our own needs, and the more consistently we meet our own needs, the more energy and love we have to give to the relationship.
Related reading: "Get More Love and Fun in Your Marriage Right Now."
Everyone has needs, and they are all equally important. Perhaps one of you requests to spend a quiet evening at home because of a long day at work, and the other is itching to go out for dinner and a movie. Typically, what happens? Right—one wins out, and the other feels unfulfilled and perhaps even a little resentful.
There is another way. Stop competing and start creating solutions that make both of you happy and fulfilled. In the example just mentioned, the solution might be something like going out for dinner together to a quiet place and then watching a movie at home snuggling on the couch, meeting both your needs. Or you plan for a night out when your partner is well-rested and can feel good about being in a public or social situation. Of course, during a Covid pandemic, it's more challenging to meet your needs, so be creative. Have a candlelight dinner at home; create a workout gym in your basement; set up a tent in your living room and camp out.
LOVE ADVICE: Don't settle on a plan until both of you are happy. It's not compromise in relationships that nourish the partnership—it's a commitment to make the needs of both of you equally important!
Relationship Roadblock #2: The Habit of Criticism and Faultfinding
The second common roadblock to healthy love is the tendency to criticize and find fault. Did you know that there is actually a good reason why we do this? One of the jobs of our brain is to keep us safe. One specific way the brain accomplishes this feat is by keeping a sharp lookout for anything wrong or threatening—which makes it natural to fall into the habit of criticizing your partner. This will be especially true if you grew up with criticism or lacked emotional or physical safety in the developmental years. The more unhealthy your upbringing, the more vigilant the brain is to protect you.
Do you say to yourself, "Why does he/she have to nag about every little thing?" or "Why can't he/she clean up after himself?" or "Why can't he/she just give me a few minutes of peace to read the newspaper?" or "It'd sure be nice if just once he/she would appreciate all the things I do." Sound familiar? We may keep these thoughts to ourselves, but they usually lead to verbal criticisms that begin to erode the relationship.
Criticism can be subtle and still eat away at the fabric of a relationship. No relationship will thrive while the virus of criticism is spreading.
LOVE ADVICE: Here's a tip to create healthy love: convert criticism to appreciation. Spotlight the good in your partner! Focus on what you love about your relationship. By focusing on the good, you'll be retraining the brain to spot what's right instead of what's wrong. When you practice this small but effective tip, you'll see situations that were once tense turn into moments of love and connection.
Related reading: "Transform Criticism to Appreciation and Triple Your Life."
Relationship Roadblock #3: Expecting Your Partner to Be a Mind Reader
The third typical roadblock to a healthy relationship is the tendency to require your partner to be a mind reader. We want our partner to show us they care, and many times, we think they should just know what we need.
Early in my marriage I definitely thought my husband was a mind reader. Noticing that I was often disappointed and feeling like he didn't care, I explored the specific reasons and guess what I discovered? When my husband didn't acknowledge an important accomplishment of mine or buy flowers for me unexpectedly (I love flowers!). He even made the excuse one time that "we couldn't afford such luxuries," in which I replied, "Then pick me a free bouquet or buy me a single two-dollar rose."
Another thing that bugged me was when my husband would watch television instead of talk to me in the kitchen while preparing dinner, I'd stew and pout. Then, it would somehow come out sideways later through an unkind comment or a sarcastic remark. Yep, I believed he should somehow KNOW what made me feel loved.
Related reading: "Love Is a Choice—the Best Marriage Advice!"
However, when I started helping him see the specific actions that meant a lot to me, things changed drastically. It wasn't that he didn't want to do these things, he just didn't know that these things would matter so much to me. By communicating simple and specific actions that he could do, it allowed him to be successful in ways that were meaningful to me. And what a boon for him—these were guaranteed to work! He no longer had to guess. This is exactly how to improve communication and begin to enjoy the fruits!
Trust me, your partner is not a mind reader! And the sooner you realize this, the sooner you can start creating more connection and love.
And no fair just hinting... that's like leaving bait in a trap! The key in communicating your needs is to sincerely want your partner to be successful in your relationship. Yes, maybe when we were infants, we had the right to expect our parents to anticipate and intuit our needs, but it's time to approach your love relationship with the maturity it deserves.
LOVE ADVICE: Communicate what you need and want in order to feel loved. When you begin to lovingly communicate your needs and wants, you'll have a buoyant give-and-take in your relationship. And learn about your partner's love language to understand exactly what helps them feel loved best.
Love grows and thrives in a relationship when we take responsibility for making sure the needs of both partners are met, when we convert criticism to appreciation of each other, and when we clearly communicate our needs to our partner. Then both partners will be much happier. You may even be very surprised how these three simple shifts in your approach can turn your relationship into a smooth ride and a closeness you only dreamt about up until now!
If you liked this article, you may also like my article "10 Everyday Ways to Nurture a Loving Partnership" or reach out for additional support and powerful relationship-building skills through my mentoring programs.