One of the more common issues that is present within a relationship is when a couple struggles with power imbalances. Granted, it can vary on which partner is fulfilling which role. Typically, one partner is over-functioning in the relationship and the other partner is underfunctioning. You might be asking, what do these terms mean? Overfunctioning means to take on too many responsibilities, behaving in ways to prevent their partner from becoming upset, consistently worrying about how their partner will respond if they do not help, or consistently completing chores and “picking up the slack” for their partner. Under-functioning can look like someone who allows their partner to help them, do them a favor or over time, continues to do less work or contribute less to a relationship leading to a feeling of powerlessness or feeling controlled by their partner.
Where there is an underfunctioner, you are also going to find an overfunctioner. It may seem easier to spot someone who is underfunctioning and point the finger regarding their need to “do more” or “help more.” However, spouses in a relationship like this frequently enable one another in their over-functioning and under-functioning tendencies. A way to help identify if you are an underfunctioner is to determine whether you often feel powerless or lack authority within the relationship. The overfunctioner tends to believe that they have to do more or else things will fail, the home would fall apart, or chores will pile up and never get done. An attribute that is not often recognized within someone who is an underfunctioner is that they can be unknowingly giving away their power while the over-functioning partner may be taking power in ways they are unaware of.
This cycle typically leads couples into a place of burn-out, where they resent one another, feel as if their partner does not care about them, and possess a general lack of desire to work with one another to resolve problems. Serving one another and being helpful is meant to be a good thing! However, this dynamic often evolves over time, creating unhealthy narratives in the relationship and eventually leading to a break in the connection that once existed. It is critical to the overall health and longevity of a relationship to identify and intervene in a dynamic like this early on in the relationship before it can cause significant damage to the marriage. Allowing a professional to assist you in creating healthy boundaries and resetting potential power and balances is an investment that pays dividends over time.
The last reason for marital discord has to do with misaligned priorities. Not meeting eye-to-eye can be a common characteristic in any relationship. This realization can be shocking to couples early in their relationship who felt as if they were just alike and “had so much in common.” However, couples may begin to discover over time how different they are from each other. Discussing and getting on the same page about your values, morals, dreams, and expectations for your partner is a critical piece in every relationship. Some examples include ideas on budgeting, expectations for one another throughout the life of your career, the type of people you choose to spend time with or even, how much time you should spend with them. The list can go on and on; as you can imagine, these are just a few examples out of many areas in life where couples can become misaligned.
For some, it seems normal enough to discuss topics like this while dating or during engagement. However, what many couples struggle with is having a productive conversation regarding these priorities and instead, assure themselves that they will figure it out, or their love for each other will make it all okay. It’s not that either of these statements are untrue. However, if these types of topics are intentionally avoided due to the fear of conflict or misalignment, that motivation will eventually lead to significant conflict and relational issues. Often couples then begin attacking one another when differing priorities eventually come to a head, instead of working together to tackle or take on the problem itself.
Couples have difficulty getting on the same page or having these alignment conversations because of poor communication, reasons 2 to 4, and the previous mention about emotional maturity and self-care. These concepts and ideas previously discussed help to address the 6 most common factors that distort and interfere with couples having productive conversations about issues present in their relationships. Reach out to one of our trained therapists to assist you in navigating these treacherous waters, whether you are experiencing one or all of these issues within your relationship. Hope can be more focused, and a counselor can assist you in identifying the issues and coach you on how to utilize different skills and tools to approach conflict in a healthy way. Today is the start of something new for you.