How to Deal With That ONE THING That’s Not Working In Your Relationship

dealing with relationship problemsFill in the blank in the following sentence. Ready?

Everything about my current relationship is great…except _______________________.

What did you put in the blank?

It sucks when almost everything about a dating relationship works. It is because it feels like you are just so close to heaven on earth… If it wasn’t for that one annoying issue.

And yet, it’s extremely common. Often, even really solid couples have one or two core complaints about each other.

But as common as this is, most folks don’t know how to get over the hump. And, ironically, when everything else seems to fit, it makes that one thing that doesn’t fit really stick out.

Like a thorn in your side.

Recently, I came across some good advice for dealing with this kind of thing. In a constant quest to bring you the very best relationship tips, I read a lot – everything from psychological journals to the kinds of magazines you find in supermarkets.

This little tidbit was in an article in Glamour. It was specifically about sex, but the principle can be applied to anything that’s holding you back.

Check out this quote:

“According to sex therapist Vanessa Marin, [getting past that one thing] all comes down to how willing you and your partner are to work on it. If you both are, there’s usually something that can be done. And if one of you isn’t, your relationship probably has bigger problems than sex.”[i]

That’s dead-on.

As long as you and your guy can communicate effectively, no single issue should undo your whole relationship.

So, the real question is when something’s holding your relationship back, how do the two of you work through it?

It’s not too tough as long as you have a good strategy, and the following pointers can help.

First and foremost, establish some ground rules for discussing the problem. Before you really dig into the issue, have a little chat. Agree that you’ll both deal with the difficult topic in ways that are productive.

Some good rules might include things like focusing on building a future.  That helps you stay focused on solutions rather than blaming (more on that in a bit).  Next might be avoiding sarcasm and refusing the temptation to bring up more than one irritation at a time.  Fix just one thing… not the entire relationship history.

And if things get tense, TAKE A BREAK.

Second, stay solution focused.

It’s easy to get caught up in blaming each other, but that doesn’t help anything. Even if the issue is clearly his fault, avoid blaming language. Don’t say things like, “Well, this is all because of you.”


You can discuss responsibility, of course. If there’s something he needs to change, you should be able to tell him. But even then, stay focused on the solution.

Finally, don’t expect to overcome the problem after one conversation.

Most relationship issues take time to resolve. After all, you can only take one step at a time. If the solution is three steps away, there’s no way to take one flying leap and be done. You have to take each individual step.

dealing with relationship problemsBut that’s okay. The goal is an improvement, not immediate perfection!

If you’re happy with everything about your relationship except one thing, that’s okay – as long as you and your guy can talk about it.

Come up with some solid rules for problem-solving, keep your focus set on improving your future interactions, and remember that it takes time to grow as a couple.

[i] Weiss, Suzannah. “What to Do When the Relationship Is Great but the Sex Isn’t.” Glamour., 17 Aug. 2016. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.

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15 thoughts on “How to Deal With That ONE THING That’s Not Working In Your Relationship

  1. bernadette said:

    James, you always give food for thought. Thanks for that. I want to know when dating long term, in my case three years, who pays for the date and vacations. I feel like he should pick up most of it. Otherwise it would be like a friendship. We don’t travel because he doesn’t want to pay for me basically. If I pay my own way I would be resentful. I pay my way with family and friends but Im looking for a strong man to help take care of me to feel special. I dont know how to discuss the money topic and it does bother me. Any handy tips to discuss the topic?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Bernadette. If you were in his shoes, would you want to know this (what you’ve shared here and how it causes you to hold back)?

      If so, you should open a discussion about the way money impacts the way you feel about a relationship.

      But keep in mind, the origin of a man paying for a date comes from an era when men had all the money, because most women did not work for income, or did not receive equal pay. In modern times, it should be considered whether or not he actually is “strong” in the financial sense, relative to you. Otherwise, it may feel confusing to him, as if you are saying the relationship is only equal if he pays for more than his share of the expenses you incur together in your adventures.

      • bernadette said:

        Im thrilled you have advice for me. I do have an honorable job. Should i say i will pay my own way? I want to know what is the norm today. I dont want to be ” giving away the farm”. I could do that but what makes me special if we are pals on equal playing field. Thanks so much

      • James Bauer said:

        Hi Bernadette. There is something kind of magical about letting him step into the role of a provider. But remember that finances represent just one tiny fraction of the many ways to invite him into that role in your life.

        Consider this question: If money did not exist, how would passion, exclusivity, romance, desire, and that special possessive form of love appear in my relationship?

      • bernadette said:

        James,you pose some great questions that makes me think. We have been together for three years and we care about each other i feel.We are attracted to each other we trust each other we have good communication and we never really argue but we occasionally diagree. I thought the big problem was the money issue. He is a nice guy and appropriate with most situation. I dont understand why i cant fall madly in love. I do love him Whats wrong with me.? I have had the roller coaster love in the past and its crazy and painful. .

      • bernadette said:

        I am thrilled that you addressed the issue. I do have an honorable job and so does he. Money wise, we really are close in income. I want to feel special other then a friend or pal. I am trapped in an old way of thinking and need to address this differently or it will ruin the, otherwise stable relationship. Sometimes the word “cheap” comes to mind and I really wish to change that and feel differently. I know I am not alone from a baby boomers perspective. What is an appropriate way of dealing with this in your knowledgable perspective. I seriously need some advice. Thank you kindly James.

      • Lorna (LaLa) said:

        Bernadette, you do not say how old you are, or where you live. This all makes a big difference to your principles. I think you are still working on very old-fashioned principles, according to Western society. You start off saying that he does not WANT to pay for you, so you do not travel – so you have to take that into account. I get the feeling that men these days generally expect women to pay their share – or most of it. Or you could “take turns” – but that means you have to keep account of where you are financially, which can get tricky. Maybe you could buy the food if you eat in, or find some other way of compensating. On holiday, maybe you could pay for your own ticket and start off with a shared kitty for spending money for meals, drinks, trips out, etc. As you both earn similar salaries, it is only reasonable that YOU should pay your way – unless he wants to treat you for a special occasion, or vice versa. Why don’t you try to talk to some other people in your social circle, and see what they feel? I think you need to change your way of thinkng, if as you say you would feel “disrespected” and more like just a friend, if you had to pay. Maybe HE feels the same way? A man I met a couple of times through online dating was quite definite in his thinking that women should “put their hands in their pockets” – in other words pay their own share – otherwise he thought they were mean. And yet I have another man friend – who is only a friend – who was absolutely shocked and highly offended when I wanted to pay for myself, and insisted emphatically that we “settle up” privately, out of sight of others, so that he could be seen to be paying for us both, and would not feel less than a man and embarrassed by me opening my purse. I felt that as we are just friends, I should pay for myself – otherwise it puts it on a different footing. Everyone has different ideas on this, so it is crucial that you get it straightened out with your man and come to a mutual understanding. You need to talk to him about this. If you have been together for 3 years, it is way past time you did this – are you not yet into the committed “partnership” mode, where sharing would be easier?. But first before you do talk, you need to give it a lot of thought and try to change your mind-set about it by talking to as many people as you can. Personally, I feel extremely proud that I can support myself and no longer “need” a man to take care of me and pay for me (I am 68, divorced). And I would feel guilty and ashamed if that was the situation. However, it is still nice to be treated occasionally – so I think the “taking turns” at paying works well for me, and turning up at his with a big bag of special food, goodies and wine now and then. But I am still old-fashioned enough to like to go into a restaurant or bar or whatever and have my own special man pay for me. And I think that is what you are trying to say, in a round-about sort of way. However, I think you will find that the youngsters have a very different “take” on it now. At the end of the day, it is what you both feel comfortable with. I hope this helps in some way – it is not an easy situation. Lorna

  2. Lana said:

    Thank you James for the quick reply.

    My man was saying he was committed to me. But the commitment cam be on a different level, there are many type of commitment, I think. The commitment to have only one sexual partner while dating. This is the level my guy could get so far. He is looking for the same level of commitment and not getting any further. I am the only sexual partner he has right now, and I am not sleeping with anybody but him.
    My question is how to move to the next level of commitment in this relationship. How not to put any pressure on it and gradually move to something bigger and better? I guess the trust between two people needs to grow first, then it would be easier to develop a better understanding and create some plans for the future.
    What if we just stuck at the same level and not going any further? How to overcome this issue? I am 52 now and my guy is 59 y.o. We do not have the whole life in front of us, so rushing the things in the relationship would be not an option here. At the same time 11 month of dating him exclusively it’s a long period of time for me. I need to know, if this is going somewhere, where I would like to be, a walking to a sunset, living together and sharing finances, marriage and a new family sort of things.
    Those type of answers I am looking for right now. I hope I can find them in this mini course that you suggested.
    Is any advise directly from you, James? Advising me would be helpful.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Lorna (LaLa) said:

      Lana, please forgive me for saying this, but I think you are being way too anxious about this whole thing. I don’t think 11 months is very long at all to get to know each other. And once the “gilt has worn off the gingerbread” in the first stages of a relationship, and you start to relax and get to know each other better – other issues do start to raise their heads, and have to be sorted out. I seem to think James did an article on here about this very thing How getting anxious, jealous, upset and het up will not do your relationship any good, and will push your man further and further away. Can you look it up? You are both playing silly games with the internet dating thing. Can you not both agree to sit down together and try to see how you can actually delete your profiles from on there? I think that would make you both feel much better. Do not play silly “tit for tat” games – it doesn’t work – it just erodes the trust you are trying to build up. And you are right, still both being actively online is not a good basis for growing trust between you. You need to address this one important issue, then things should improve – but if he does not want to, then you probably need to do some serious thinking about him. It’s no good going backwards and starting to date other men at the same time as him – that will not work. You obviously are in a committed relationship of some sort now, if you are sexually exclusive. And you are both feeling jealous, which is a good sign. You just have to be patient and wait to see if it develops further into a more long-lasting thing – you don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future. You have actually answered your own questions if you re-read your letter. Yes, you DO have to build up trust first. It’s not easy lettng someone into your life when you have been hurt in the past. You have to learn to be with a new partner, consider him and his needs and learn to compromise. And anyway, what IS the rush? You are not in a hurry to make babies by now. So can you not just sit back, relax, and try to make it lighter, more fun. Think of some exciting things to do together to take the pressure off him. Enjoy what you have now, live for the day, be grateful that you have a man at all in your life (as there may not be anyone else out there who fits the bill as well as he does – I do know this from experience!! There are far more available women than men, so be careful). Try not to “spoil the present by worrying about the future”. Fill your own life with fun, exciting things, and do not expect him to make you happy – that is another article that James wrote recently – it is YOUR job to make YOU happy, then he can join in and add to it. If he sees you are doing exciting things without him, he may want to join you. Maybe join a yoga class, meditation, dancing, music events, art lessons, learn to play an instrument or sing, join discussion groups, a book club, language courses, do some sewing, knitting, crochet, etc. – there are loads of things going on out there, to enrich your life. But don’t hold them up in front of him and taunt him to make him jealous – just be a little less available, and invite him to join you, if appropriate. Just “Keep Calm and Carry On”. And remember, nothing ever stays the same – it is always evolving. Best wishes. Lorna

      • Lana said:

        Dear Lorna,

        Thank you so much for your reply on my question to James. You said so many good and useful things here, so I appreciate your time and thoughts you put into your message. I agree with many of your ideas.

        There were some developments in my situation with Bill. We both sat down and talked about this online thing and agreed to remove our profiles. It was a long discussion, but I am glad he initiated it. But we both understand that meeting new people can be done through some other ways too, so we need to be very careful when others are trying to approach us with innocent intentions. Right now we are spending lots of evenings together, and I feel like he occupied all my spare time. This does not sound right to me.
        I am very agree with you that I need to make myself less available for Bill and see, how his reaction would be after than. I started thinking he might be very possessive person, and would not like to share me with my friends for example.
        It feels like I need to observe him more and give this relationship additional time before I decide finally, if I am ready for the next step.
        Lorna, I would be glad to hear from you again, if you have time and willing to stay in touch with me.
        In the mean time I wish you all the best and will continue reading these comments and work on myself.



      • Lorna (LaLa) said:

        Hi Lana, it is so good to hear back from you. I feel from your letters that you are maybe a rather anxious person? That is not a criticism, just an observation, so do not judge yourself too harshly. We are all very, very different, with different personalities, and I most certainly know about feeling anxious in a relationship. I have been involved for four and a half years with a man who has a huge problem with alcohol, which I did not know about at first – he keeps it well hidden. I have spent most of this time anxiously trying and trying to make sense of it all. Going over and over in my head to find the solution. Reading massive amounts of books and articles. Talking to my friends. So I do understand. James’ articles have helped a lot, and comments from others on this forum. I have decided that being anxious is to no avail, and just makes you ill. Being proactive is the solution. If you can DO something about a situation, then do so, but if not, then just leave it to the Universe to come up with a solution. It’s taken me a long time to be able to meditate and chill and lean back and not put too much pressure on my man, or myself for that matter. Nothing in life is perfect, so we have to embrace the imperfections and learn to accommodate them and live with them. I am a perfectionist, which I now know is not good – it is a kind of self-sabotage due to a poor self-image and low self-esteem – but I am working on that!! I have a huge ego, so when he upsets me (which is very often, due to the booze) my ego jumps up and down like a crazy monkey saying things like “Don’t let him treat you like that”. “Get rid of him”. Sometimes we give our egos too much credit and lee-way. It is good to be humble, understanding, empathetic, caring and loving and try to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. And it does not help to talk to other people about things too much, either, as they will often have a different set of principles to yours. Listen to what they have to say, yes, but then sift through it carefully and take what is good for you. Of course, also, different cultures and religions have different perspectives on human relationships and morals and values, so that comes into it, too. But I find that if I keep a TRULY open mind and look deep inside MYSELF for the answer (which, after all is where it is, if we can just dig it out), then we don’t go far wrong. Relaxing and meditating helps. I have also started to look at videos of Tarot card readings for my star sign on UTube, and amazingly have found great solace from the wisdom of the readers. It has been very comforting.
        I’m so glad to see that you came to the same conclusion as me about talking about the internet thing. It’s good you have now resolved that. But I think you are still worried about someone stealing your man from under your nose!! James has another article about this – your man is much more likely to look elsewhere if you are jealous and insecure, and try to keep him shackled to you. It’s OK to look, but don’t touch!! It’s all about how he FEELS with you around, if you make him feel good, secure and knowing that you are there for him 100%. Try not to label him with this or that until you are really comfortable with him and get to know him better. He sounds like a good man if he is willing to come round and help you with decorating your flat, and it would be normal in that case for you to pay for the materials. See my response to Bernadette on here regarding money. As for the sex and not staying over with you at your place. He has touched a little on that. If he is very religious and moral, he may feel bad about having sex outside of marriage. That is just an idea I throw in. At his age, he may well have hang-ups about sex – especially as he mentioned his daughter and setting a good example. His sex drive may be low and he does not want to admit that to you. My man is very strange about sex, too – he is 64. He is worried about the neighbours hearing anything, and he is involved with the Church, so all the old-dears are gossiping about us and me staying over with him (gives them some excitement in their lives)!! So he is mostly impotent (and the drink does not help here). We have never actually achieved penetration. That is another hurdle you have to get over. I wonder, too, as your name is Svetlana and his Bill, if there is a cultural difference between you – where are you both from and where do you now live? It is now such a small world, but our cultures and religions across the world vary enormously – upbringing and family values play a huge role in our thinking and ideas of what is right and wrong, which it is very hard to shake off, as it is deeply ingrained from childhood. I am from England, so probably have different ideas, too, from you. Also, is there a slight language barrier? That can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, too. Misunderstandings.
        I hope some of this helps. Please – “give time time”. Enjoy your relationship, let it unfold naturally without pushing and shoving it to get what you think you want. I did feel like you at one time – because I wanted the “happy ever after”. I wanted to go to bed with my man at night and wake up with him in the morning. But I had to realize that that was not going to happen in a hurry. And it now seems, at least in England, that most older men do not want to move in with their partner – they want to keep a little space between them, and both have a separate front door. So I have changed my way of thinking radically over 4 and a half years. I love him and want him in my life, so I am prepared to be patient, work on the drink and keep my fingers and toes firmly crossed. Relationships are not easy, but it helps that we have forums like this, to toss ideas around. I hope it works out well for you. Do, please, keep in touch and let us know how you get on. Love and hugs, Lorna x

      • Lana said:

        Thank you Lorna,
        I feel you are right in many things that you mentioned here. It becomes more and more personal to discuss our private life here, and if you would prefer to exchange the personal e-mail information, I would be very glad to continue our discussion that we started here. I totally understand, if you are not ready for that and respect your privacy.

        With all my best wishes to you and James and everybody who is reading it .


      • Lorna (LaLa) said:

        Yes, of course, you can contact me, if you think it will help you. I know I have had to change the way I think about things radically since my divorce eight and a half years ago, and now knowing my man for four and a half. I was very, very “green” and quite unworldly before that, having been in a relationship wth my ex-husband since I was 23. James’ articles have helped me to see things from a different perspective. Email me on Lorna

  3. Lana said:

    Hi James,

    Thank you for this informative advise, you are really strait to the point. One issue may create a real problem in the relationship, and the couple needs to work on it gradually. I agree with that 100%.
    What if the only issue that I have in My relationship with the guy, I was dating for the past 11 months, is the commitment issue? What if he is blaming me now for having my dating profile opened while he is also on the dating online service. I tried to bring this issue up on several occasions saying to him, if we are exclusively dating each other, why he is not closing his profile completely? He always answered, that he does not go there any longer and tried to close it, but it did not work. Those are not good enough excuses for me. To me it means he is not ready to commit and still keeps his options opened for any other reasons.
    That hurts me a lot, after being with him for over 11 months, I feel not sure where we are in our stage of relationship and if it goes any further then just dating each other. We live in separate homes, he never buys things for me, he comes to My place to visit me, never spends a night in my bed and rarely invites me to his house explaining that he lives with his daughter and wants to be a good example for her, so I can’t sleep in his house. But he likes spending time in My home and brings often something to eat with me there. He was helping me to paint my apartment and did a great job, but I was paying for all supplies and items to do the painting. This is totally fine with me, since it looks like a friend’s help to me. But what about the relationship? Is it growing or not? Are we going to be together in the future? Where is the sign for development in this love relationship?
    He came to me a couple of days ago being very upset with me and explained it as his friend saw my profile online and sent me a smile and received a smile from me in return. This was a Very serious matter for my boyfriend, so he decided to break up with me, because ” I was looking into his eyes and lied to him about not doing any online activities”. Frankly, I do not recall sending a smile to some guy online, secondly my online profile is not active, and I go there just to hope and see, if my boyfriend is no longer there, and I didn’t to see him being active there as well. Why is he Not closing it, if he is no longer looking for other women? I am not closing it either because I want him to do it first. To me it looks like a spying on each other, and this is very wrong.
    I went further with my guy and told him unless he did not proposed me anything serious, did not talk about our future together, I have all my rights to be with online dating service. Our relationship with him feels like dating to me, so I can date anybody unless I obligated to some serious proposition. I was not doing it before this conversation with him, but I might start it now. I told him that I am not going to put My life on hold and wait till he knows what to do with His own life. Then I walked away from him, since the whole conversation was outside on my house, and I literally walked away.
    He sent me a nasty text message later that evening saying that I was a lire, when I said that had no online activities on my end. I did not responded and stay quiet for the second day.

    I feel very disappointed and sad with the whole situation and just holding myself up not to cry and be calm. I am unhappy and depressed right now.
    Please tell me what you think about my story.

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