10 Dilemmas Every Couple Faces
We all know that perpetually happy couple that has kept the relationship magic alive for years.
What’s their secret?
A common assumption is that their years together have been easy and struggle-free. Not only is that likely incorrect, but it also fails to give these couples the credit they deserve. Every relationship has its complications, rough patches, stresses, and strains. Just like the rest of us. Yet, these couples remain remarkably resilient.
Recognizing that all couples navigate complexities offers two valuable insights:
- Your difficulties are not unique nor indicative of a fatally flawed relationship. Struggle is normal.
- You can avoid overreactions when these issues do arise and can “peer around corners” to anticipate and resolve problems in advance.
Following are 10 pivotal relationship dilemmas that many couples encounter. Each challenge presents two options, but it’s not an either-or decision, nor are there right or wrong answers. Instead, it’s a matter of balancing out the options and reconciling them in a way that works best for you and your relationship.
1. Should you stay single or be in a relationship? Your first challenge is deciding whether you want a relationship or would rather focus on yourself and stay single. Remember, staying single is always better than being in a bad relationship.
2. What matters more, appearance or personality? Is it more important to you that your partner is a good conversationalist or that they are hot? Though you likely want both, which are you emphasizing more? On dating apps, do you look at the profile first or all the pictures?
3. What’s more appealing, stability or excitement? Relationships provide different experiences at different times. Exciting partners are fun, but fun traits (e.g., being mysterious and unpredictable) become problematic later. Thinking long term, predictability, stability, and dependability become more of a priority.
Defining the Relationship
4. Are you in love?: Sparks vs. warmth. You have feelings for someone, but is it truly love? It can be hard to know. For some, love is about sparks and immediate chemistry. Those feelings are easier to notice and can feel more like love. But they can quickly flame out. Love also provides warmth that feels like building deeper emotional connections over time, becoming an enduring friendship where partners grow closer.
5. Confronting your fears: the fear of being alone vs. the fear of settling. When do you fully commit to someone? While we may not want to be alone forever, we also don’t want to settle for just anyone. It’s the predicament of not wanting to stay too long but also not wanting to leave too early. Is mediocre better than nothing?
6. Getting what you want: checking all the boxes vs. prioritizing what’s important. Everyone has a wishlist for the qualities their perfect partner will possess. We want, and feel we deserve, a perfect partner who checks every box. Yet, partners in real life inevitably fall short. That means some of your expectations are must-haves, others merely preferences, and some don’t matter much. You need to prioritize what matters most to you.
Keeping the Relationship Together
7. How close to get?: Vulnerability vs. safety. How much will you put up walls and keep your distance so you don’t get hurt? Or are you going to open up and let the other person in? It’s tricky because the same walls that protect you from being hurt also keep out the good parts (i.e., emotional connection).
8. How much say should you have?: Asserting yourself vs. deferring to your partner. Two people will often have different opinions, desires, and decisions. Power struggles create friction. Who takes the lead? Early on, you may have happily let your partner decide everything because you wanted to avoid conflict. But how long can that last? Ultimately, couples share power and adopt leader and follower roles at different times. One person shouldn’t always get to lead. How will you balance it out?
9. Should the best relationships be easy or take work? Even the best relationships take work. Great relationships feel easy. Both of these feel true and are true to some extent. The truth is a matter of degree. Strong relationships are mostly easy, but the best couples put in the work when there are difficulties. Working hard on problems makes relationships easier.
10. Stay or go? This comes down to “Will I find something better?” When your relationship has problems, the answer feels like an easy yes. But every couple struggles. Every couple has a ton of great qualities, too. No relationship is perfectly great or completely horrible. That’s what makes it hard to know what the best decision is.
Each dilemma is a relationship “million-dollar question” with no obvious or easy answer. To find what’s best for you, consider both sides while continuing to learn about healthy relationships and building your skills.