5 Ways To Tackle Those Tricky Relationship Dealbreakers


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It happens: once the honeymoon period starts to fade, relationship niggles start to creep in.

Before you know it you’re asking yourself, Is this guy worth it? Are some rocky relationships salvageable, even if they aren’t plain sailing? “This depends on how you choose to respond to the challenges,” says relationship coach Gabriel Gonsalves of Heart Intelligence. “Reacting too quickly and breaking up could be a reflection of your own insecurities or low self-esteem,” warns clinical psychologist Cathrin Venter. “However, if your partner is unpredictable all the time, something is amiss and you need to assess whether the benefits of being in that relationship outweigh those of leaving.” Here’s how to tackle the following potential dealbreakers.

1/ He’s Let Himself Go

The snag: When you hooked up, you could spend an entire afternoon marvelling at his back muscles, then one day you woke up next to Seth Rogen.

What not to say: “Babe, do you want me to take your pants back to the tailor for you?”

The pro’s approach: Underneath all that blubber he still makes your heart skip a beat, but you’re not finding him as attractive. Does this make you Ms Shallow Hal? “Taking care of yourself is important in a relationship,” says psychologist Melanie Frazer. “It’s a way to show that you’re proud to be someone’s partner.” If you’re convinced his make-under is not related to depression or illness, it’s something you can address. The “tough love” approach is too critical and non-accepting, explains human behaviour and relationship specialist Jimmy Henderson. “Responding indirectly and sensitively is always the best option as he won’t adopt a defensive attitude. Take the initiative and start a new diet or exercise plan together,” he suggests.

Is it worth saving?
Yes. But only time will tell if he steps up (and shapes-up) to your joint get-fit plan.

2/ He Cheated On You

The snag: You thought you were the most loved-up couple until he pulled an Ashton Kutcher on you and had a random fling.

What not to say: “Who were you SMSing just now?”

The pro’s approach: Trust is paramount in a relationship and apologising for his “mistake” just won’t cut it, says Venter. “He needs to rebuild your trust so you feel safe and secure. Tell him where you’re at emotionally and explain that it will take time.” If you don’t resolve your issues properly, you could continue to harbour resentment, explains Henderson. “Also consider that often the reason for cheating is dissatisfaction in the relationship and it may not just be the fault of one person.” Tackle this head-on with an honest talk on the therapist’s couch.

Is it worth saving?
Yes. There’s a chance your relationship could grow stronger if expressing what you want is shared.

3/ He’s Stingier Than Scrooge

The snag: You end up paying for dinner and movies – every time.

What not to say: “Ooh, they’ve got fresh West Coast oysters on the menu?”

The pro’s approach:
Is he watching his pennies because he’s financially responsible but is capable of giving, or is this just a personality trait? If it’s the latter, it can be difficult to address, agrees Henderson, and again the best way to approach it is in a non-accusatory way. “Let him know that you appreciate it when he does pay for you,” suggests Gonsalves. “Making your man feel he did something good makes him want to do more of that same thing to win your approval every time.”

Is it worth saving?
Maybe. If he’s giving in different ways, you could overlook this. However, if there are other signs of a lack of intimacy or commitment, then consider what kind of partner he’ll turn out to be years from now.

4/ The Sex Sucks

The snag: He ticks all your boxes, but having sex with him leaves you yawning rather than screaming.

What not to say: “Have you read that article about female orgasms in Men’s Health this month?”

The pro’s approach:
“You need to share your feelings with him and try to pinpoint the root cause of the issue,” says Gonsalves. Does he know what turns you on, is he inexperienced, or is he simply a selfish lover? Venter explains that the way to spot a personality trait is through connecting the dots: if he’s lazy in other areas, not only the bedroom, that’s a personality trait and it’s unlikely he’ll ever give you what you need physically. “Men like this are labelled selfish lovers because they don’t care if you orgasm or not,” says Henderson.

Is it worth saving?
Maybe. Don’t be afraid to guide and direct him in the bedroom. Not all relationships are buzzing with sexual chemistry. “If you’re both happy and okay with the fact that your sex life is missing a certain spark, that’s fine, but if someone’s needs are not being met in other areas and they’re unhappy, it’s a dealbreaker,” says Venter.

5/ You Constantly Bicker

The snag: Your relationship went from kisses and starry-eyed glances, to curses and blowouts.

What not to say:
“Whatever!”

The pro’s approach:
Disagreements are normal in any relationship, says Gonsalves. “A healthy relationship is 10 percent fighting and 90 percent harmonious.” But ongoing conflict could simply be caused by how you speak to each other. “Be willing to open up and use ‘I feel’ language, as this is less confrontational,” suggests Henderson. Professional support might be needed if you find you’re rehashing the same old arguments. “If you find yourself constantly being defensive, you’re eventually going to feel your needs aren’t being met. You go through the following emotional process when this happens: from your expectations (what you want in the relationship), to mourning (what hasn’t been delivered or resolved), to death (disappointment and acceptance).” By the time you reach this stage, you want out. Plus, recent research in Personal Relationships showed that constant bickering could actually affect your health. Ask yourself if your relationship gives you more grief than happiness.

Is it worth saving?
Maybe. While you could work it out, constant bickering can be a sign of incompatibility.

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