Relationships are an important part of all of our lives. Whether romantic or platonic, our relationships with our nearest and dearest can bring us joy, meaning, and connection like nothing else.
But in part because they mean so much to us, relationships can be stressful.
While some level of conflict in any relationship is normal and can even be a healthy way to grow and connect, relationship issues can also lead to symptoms of common mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. In some cases, relationship issues can escalate into emotional and/or physical abuse. When relationship issues become extreme or frequent, they often interfere with a healthy lifestyle.
Prevalence of relationship issues
Because relationship issues vary so widely and are deeply personal, it’s difficult to know exactly how common they are. However, recent research suggest that general relationship issues are very common, especially around romantic relationships.
- A recent study in the United Kingdom found that only 57% of survey respondents reported being mostly or completely content with their romantic partners, while 13% of respondents said that they had no close friends.
Intimate partner violence, which can include physical and/or emotional abuse, is also relatively common in the US.
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that over 10 million people in the US experience intimate partner violence each year.
- Women are more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner violence, with 1 in 4 women experiencing severe abuse as opposed to 1 in 9 men.
Symptoms of relationship issues
Relationship issues are different for everyone, and people vary widely in their emotional and psychological responses to these issues. That said, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Anxiety or worry: You may be frequently preoccupied with concerns about your relationship and struggle to focus on other things.
- Sadness or depression: Relationship issues can lead to feeling sad, hopeless, or exhaustion.
- General stress: You may have trouble sleeping or experience physical symptoms including muscle tension, headaches, and digestive troubles.
- Conflicts with other loved ones: If a relationship with one person is upsetting you, you might find that issues also come up with other friends, family, or loved ones, sometimes because your loved ones are concerned about your stressful relationship.
- Low self-esteem: Feeling insecure or threatened within a close relationship can make you doubt yourself and your worth.
Different types of relationship issues
Though relationship issues come in countless forms, below are some examples of the most common kinds. Most of these could occur in both romantic and platonic relationships:
- Trust issues: You might wonder whether your partner is telling you the truth about your relationship or other aspects of life.
- Issues around attention and priorities: Relationship conflict often comes up around attention and priorities: how you spend your time, what’s on your mind, and, crucially, where the other person fits into all of that.
- Household issues: Issues around chores and use of shared space are common.
- Communication issues: You don’t feel heard; you wonder whether the other person understands you; you struggle to say what you mean. These are all forms of communication issues, a common setback in many relationships.
- Money issues: Some studies list arguments about finances as the top source of stress in intimate relationships.
- Issues relating to major life changes: Whether you’re moving, changing jobs, having a new baby, or making any other big life change, major life transitions could lead to relationship stress.
- Issues around sex and intimacy: Differing sex drives and questions around attraction and sexual satisfaction are just a few of the factors that might lead to relationship issues.
- Violence, abuse, and gaslighting: When any relationship issue turns into emotional or physical violence or intimidation from one or both partners, the relationship can be considered abusive. Abuse is usually far more dangerous and stressful than the other relationship issues described here.
What to do if you’re experiencing relationship issues
If you’re experiencing any form of stress, conflict, or danger in a relationship, you have several options. Some of them include:
- Therapy: Find a therapist who can help you address your relationship issues and work toward resolving them. You might work with a therapist on your own, or you and your partner might choose to attend couples’ therapy together. (See more tips below on selecting a therapist.) incl couples
- Hotlines and safety resources: If you think you may be experiencing intimate partner violence, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or www.TheHotline.org. If you’re having thoughts of suicide or need immediate support, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at at 1-800-273-8255.
- Meditation or mindfulness practices. Making space for quiet reflection can help you gain perspective on your relationship issues and give you a way to approach them calmly.
- Journaling. Keeping a written record of your thoughts and feelings around your relationship challenges may help you clarify your perspective on your relationship and its role in your life.
- Connect with other friends and loved ones. When one relationship is stressful, it can be helpful to rely on the other important people in your life. They may be able to help you understand your troubling relationship, and can also reduce the pressure on that one relationship by reminding you of the other people you love and rely on.
How to find a therapist for relationship issues?
Therapists differ in their approaches to treating relationship issues. Common approaches include:
- Couples Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Mindfulness Practices
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Interpersonal Psychotherapy
New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.