Fact or Fiction: Top 10 Relationship Complaints & What to Do

Blaming doesn't help but empathic communication does.

Posted Apr 04, 2013

In all my years of practicing psychotherapy, and in life outside the office, I tend to hear similar complaints over and over again. Here are the most common ones and some quick tips on how to deal with them. Some may be indicative of underlying patterns and difficulties that might require a professional’s assistance.

“She always wants to talk about heavy stuff when I just get home from work or when I am tired and want to go to bed. She never can let anything go.”

Address her need to talk about the issue with empathy, instead of annoyance and dismissal. Discuss the pattern of when “hot topics” are brought up and the effect it has on you. Set a specific time to discuss it, and make sure you follow through with what you promise. Explore whatever resistances and avoidance you might have to discussing the issue that is causing frustration for your partner.

“He never wants to talk about things, or tells me when I bring something up that we’ll talk about it later, but we never do.”

Discuss the importance of talking about your concern and the impact the avoidant behavior has on you. Be mindful of how and when you bring things up. Be aware of potential self- sabotaging behavior that ends up repeating a destructive pattern.

“I want to have sex more frequently than he/she does, and I don’t like to always be the one to have to initiate it.”

Do you and your partner have different sex drives and needs?  Have you discussed this with them? Sex is often one of the most difficult topics for couples to discuss because it touches on issues of vulnerability, self-esteem, attractiveness and control.  An open and honest discussion is a good start. Make sure to include whatever you might be feeling in talking about your concerns. With sensitivity, ask your partner to share their concerns because for the person who doesn’t initiate, even talking about them may be difficult.

“I texted him a few hours ago, but I haven’t heard back yet. I wonder what that means, and if he is seeing someone else.”

In today’s culture of instant messaging, instant gratification is rampant. While much of technology is good, one of the down sides is that it may compound the insecurities or obsessiveness, of an already insecure, obsessive person.  Honestly and realistically examine your anxious behavior. What is making you so worried, needy and dependent? Are you unconsciously picking up a problem in the relationship, or are you the problem?

“I know this isn’t a good relationship and if he/she didn’t call/text/email me, I know I would be able to move on.”

Why are you blaming them? You are really fooling yourself about your own dependency and difficulty separating. You need to truthfully examine what keeps you in a relationship that you have deemed “not a good one”. Fear? Dependency? Masochism? Replaying some destructive pattern with the fantasy that there will be a different outcome this time?

“I know this relationship isn’t good for me, but I can’t seem to stop calling him/her.”

People can often use another person to self-medicate uncomfortable feelings that arise as they attempt to separate from an unhealthy relationship. They become dependent and addicted to the other person as a way to avoid things they do not want to face. The focus then becomes the other person, and the need or obsession about calling. It should be on the underlying issue or feeling that is causing this behavior.

“He/she should know what I need. I’ve told him/her before, and after so many years he/she should just know.”

Have you really told them? Or do you secretly think they should know because if they truly cared, they would? Individuals sometimes exhibit “unrealistic magical thinking” in their primal wish to be cared about and have difficulty in directly expressing needs and wants. It’s important to honestly acknowledge if and how you have asked. If you have, then you need to question this unhealthy dynamic of the relationship.

“I’m afraid relationship will be over if I bring ________up.”

The ability to communicate with openness, honesty and sensitivity is the cornerstone of a good relationship. If something important is troubling you and fear prevents discussion, this already is a sign of a problem either individually or in the relationship. Are your concerns realistic? Is your true fear that in discussing the issue, you and your partner may have to make a choice about how to deal with an issue that is already negatively impacting the relationship?

“How come I’m the one that always does... have to do…?”

You don’t have to do anything. You are choosing to do something by continuing to do it. Negotiating tasks is an important part of any relationship. Sometimes couples hit roadblocks; either someone doesn’t like to, or even think to do something. Then they continue the pattern because it seems easier than facing a possible confrontation. Pick and choose your “battles” wisely deciding what is most important and then communicate what you need from your partner.

“I know he/she is not right for me, but we can just date, have sex and not have any expectations about it being anything more.”

Being honest with oneself is essential. Often people attempt to convince themselves that they can handle a more casual relationship, but end up feeling anxious, insecure and angry. If that starts to happen it is important to reevaluate what you really want. Look at what you might be attempting to avoid by staying in a relationship that is not meeting your real needs.

Many of the suggestions above may seem like “common sense” yet people find difficult to put into practice. Tuning into your gut (a topic of a previous blog), and being honest with oneself about wants, needs and fears are of pivotal importance. Blaming others and gender stereotyping is easy. “Men are like this, women are like that” is also a way of avoiding looking at your own part of the problem.

So is the difficulty of the situation a fact, or a fiction? And what are you prepared to do about it once you decide?