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The 9 Challenges Couples Are Most Likely to Face

Most partners will eventually face at least some of these dilemmas.

New love is abundant with resources. The partners in a new relationship make it their primary priority. In this blissful state, they cannot imagine anything they cannot overcome and believe that nothing will change the way they feel about each other. Their souls feel joined and their individual resources blend perfectly.

Every partnership is different, and resources of time, availability, finances, and outside support are more plentiful for some than others. In times of challenge, those couples that have access to that abundance do have a better chance of success, yet many couples more devoted to each other no matter what they face. The key is being ready and clear as to how to navigate those hard times together, keeping the relationship intact in the present and more resilient in the future.

Following are 9 of the most common challenges a couple will face.

1. Attraction to Others. Many people feel that, once they’ve chosen their long-term partner, they will never be attracted to another person. That is a dangerous fallacy. Many people have loved before and can love again if a relationship doesn’t work out. New possibilities always tempt and threaten but partners who love each other are not willing to risk taking advantage of them because their relationship is more important. They can talk openly about an outside interest before it becomes a reality and see that re-choosing each other is a testament to the quality of their relationship.

2. Loss. No one can predict the future and there are no guarantees that expectations can always be met. Even couples with the strongest devotion to each other can be temporarily derailed when the pain of grief hits either of them—as with the loss of a beloved friend or family member, an exciting career that goes sideways, the inability to have children, serious illness, or financial overload. If those losses are shared and mutually supported, they can bring a couple closer together.

3. Allergic Reactions. When love is new, there are always attitudes and behaviors that are irritating to both partners, but the positives of the relationship far outweigh them. Until they don’t. Being chronically late. Not keeping promises. Making other commitments more important. Leaving the other partner to clean up messes. Slipping self-care. Temper tantrums. Excuses that become lies. What once was bearable may at some point become intolerable.

4. Outgrowing Each Other. People’s desires and priorities can change. What once satisfied completely begins to be not enough. One partner decides that not traveling to save for the future feels entrapping and empty. A major career possibility upends the relationship, requiring one partner to sacrifice for the other and then get left behind. One partner strives to move out into the world while the other is content with life as it was.

5. Secrets From the Past. Many people do not tell a future partner everything about their past lives, hoping that those embarrassing and painful decisions would never arise. A child from a prior relationship emerges. A wayward family member threatens blackmail to hide a prior escapade. A known history of a potentially inheritable illness is revealed. A passionate love affair that ended too quickly now comes to light. Severe trauma from childhood now affects one's current capability to cope.

6. Extended Family Conflicts. Depending on proximity, cultural expectations, and socioeconomic differences, extended family members may put pressure on a couple to make decisions for others that may negatively affect their capacity to care for each other. One partner is caught in the middle, feeling conflicted between their responsibilities to others and their responsibility to maintain healthy boundaries that ensure their primary relationship stays intact.

7. Changing Dreams. What may seem like mutual hopes and commitments early in a relationship may give way later to new priorities not known before, like a major change in a career that affects availability, or a bigger or smaller family than once agreed upon. An opportunity may arise that could not be seen before and pulls one partner into a new world of desire, passion, and focus.

8. Relationship Priority Shifts. The “us” in a successful relationship must remain intact, even if it must be put on the back burner at times. Every relationship has to be parallel when outside demands are high and take the partners away from nurturing each other and their private and intimate world. When raising children, career sacrifices, unexpected challenges, daily maintenance demands, and illnesses take center stage, couples that forget to nurture their private connection can begin to lose their commitment.

9. Distribution of Resources. Every relationship has just so many resources at any one moment in time. Money, energy, and availability are just some. Stress occurs when the demands of life are greater than the resources a couple has to meet them. They may begin living in “what-if?” and “how can we do this?” and “I don’t know if I can bear this anymore” and “I’m tapped out and need to give up.” A couple far from their extended families or other sources of support can lose each other simply because they cannot get what they need from each other or from within themselves to hang in there.


Choose Dr. Randi Gunther a Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor who truly understands the complexities of human connection.

Reach out to Dr. Randi today and take the first step toward a brighter, more fulfilling future together.

Dr. Gunther is available by Zoom or Facetime


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