No matter how madly in love you are, every couple has problems to contend with. You're probably prepared for the usual glitches — fights about money, irritating habits, etc. But what might come as a surprise is that there are a handful of seemingly harmless scenarios that can put a serious dent in your bond, simply because they catch you off guard. Here, we tip you off so you don't get blindsided.
When you finally score that promotion or raise you've been working your tail off for, your guy may act really happy for you, and he probably is ... sort of. But unless he's careening up the career ladder as well, he could be churning with resentment and insecurity — even if it's not apparent immediately.
"Men struggle with their partners' success because they are hardwired to be providers," says Barton Goldsmith,PhD, author of Emotional Fitness for Couples. On one hand, your surpassing him could ultimately force him to confront his own lack of ambition or success."He might take a look at himself and think, What am I doing with my life?" says Goldsmith. "Your achievement could inspire and motivate him."
But it could also injure his manly pride, forcing him to pull away from you. "If they don't think their jobs measure up, many guys will wonder, Am I good enough for her? Does she still want me?" Surprisingly, you may start asking yourself the same thing, as Karin, 25*, did when she started out pacing her boyfriend on the career track. "I always thought it was kind of sexy to earn more than your man," she recalls. "But when I started making serious money and he just stagnated, I began to lose respect for him."
Karin's attitude isn't unusual. Despite the advances that women have made career wise, that old stereotype — that the man should bring in the bigger bucks — still exists. "It's important to be honest and ask yourself, 'Am I judging him because it feels weird to be more successful or because I think he'll never step up?'" suggests Goldsmith. You might have to readjust your mind-set. "You're part of a generation in which a woman can be the breadwinner. Be proud of yourself instead of assuming there's something wrong with him for not keeping up."
As for easing his bruised feelings, a little sensitivity can go a long way. For example, don't blab about your raise or promotion ad nauseam, at least in front of him. And while it's great to let him reap the benefits of your success by treating him to four-star meals or weekend getaways (especially because he'll see there's something in it for him too), don't inadvertently blurt out something like "I know you can't afford thisr estaurant, so dinner's on me."
Also, remind him of all the ways he was instrumental in your accomplishment — from being cool with your late meetings to helping you rehearse your "I want a raise" speech. "He'll feel less insecure and resentful because it becomes a 'we' thing," says Goldsmith."And don't forget to be supportive when he tries to get ahead."
You know that having a life outside couple hood is crucial to a well-balanced relationship. But sometimes pursuing new activities solo — whether you start taking salsa lessons or your guy goes back to grad school — can put a crimp in your connection.
"Between work, maintaining friendships,and dealing with your day-to-day responsibilities, finding time for each other is already difficult," says psychologist John Valentis, PhD, co-author of Romantic Intelligence. Throw a new, separate interest into the mix and you have even less time — and common ground — to share.
That doesn't mean you should ditch your extracurricular pursuits. There are ways to help close the gap so one of you doesn't feel dejected. For starters, try to bring each other in to the outside activity. Teach him your new salsa moves, and then take him out dancing.Or simply ask him about his new endeavor."The mistake many couples make is assuming that the other person isn't interested in what they're doing,so they don't talk about it with each other," says Valentis. "This ends up creating even more distance and resentment between them."
Though these mutual check-ins will keep you in touch with each other's separate lives, making regular one-on-onetime a top priority is still key. "My boyfriend and I hibernate at least one or two nights a week, order in some dinner, and watch movies," says Elizabeth, 27. "We don't answer the phone or invite anyone else over. It's our chance to be together and just enjoy each other's company."
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