The Relationship Problem Solver

by Dr. Kelly Johnson

What does it take to make a relationship work with a difficult partner? First, strength of character and second, an abundance of patience especially if the following applies:

1. You feel it’s important for your partner feel good about themselves each day.
2. You acknowledge the positives in the relationship and enter a process of expressing gratitude often.
3. You expend energy every day to do one thing that enhances the relationship.
4. You can deal with the inevitable conflicts and negatives that arise in a calm and self empowered manner.

If the first step takes priority and this is a relationship must for you, then every other step will naturally follow. If it’s your top priority is to make your partner feel good, then the potential for relationship conflicts will be greatly minimized. This can be difficult, since everybody gets caught up in the stresses of daily living but, when dealing with a difficult partner, remember that their behavior violates the two rules that define a great relationship. Instead, focus on the following:

1. Your partner's number one-goal should be to treat you with respect and dignity at all times.
2. There must be a spirit of teamwork; you should always work through problems in a cooperative way and settling differences should be acted upon without fear of future retribution.

It’s important to define those behaviors that your partner engages in on a continual basis that may irreversibly harm your relationship and self-esteem. After all, relationships thrive in an atmosphere of mutual contentment and positive feedback. If you're with a partner who constantly criticizes (or never recognizes) your strong points, serious trouble could lie ahead. At that point, action must be taken in an attempt to communicate feelings and take the necessary steps toward one's relationship goals.

Step 1: Try to figure out why it's so difficult for your partner to be a giving person. Even though it's natural for people to be kind and generous to one another, some of us have issues that prevent us from acting this way especially with the ones closest to us. If this applies to your partner, keep in mind that the second you call them on their behavior, their first reaction may be one of defensiveness and denial. This could then lead into a "he said, she said" argument where you go back and forth as to how many times you acknowledge each other.

Step 2: Call attention to the positive by praising your partner whenever they do something that helps you or the relationship. I predict that over time, your partner will come around and join in; it will be a mutual lovefest of sorts. If they don't, it's time for the next step.

Step 3: Decide when enough is enough. How long will you stay with someone who's surly, mean-spirited and condescending? This is your call; no one else can decide for you. But keep in mind that if you decide to leave this relationship, you'll then be free to find someone who will value you and will tell you so. You just need to make a supreme effort to overcome the little voice inside that says "You're not good enough for anyone to love."

Serious relationship problems require a concerted attempt by both of you to find a solution or middle ground and you may need professional help to do so. Yet some people won't acknowledge the severity of their relationship problems, which is incredibly arrogant and naive. Some conflicts, unless tackled with the help of a counselor or therapist, will lead to the destruction of your relationship. You shouldn't be talked into believing that your problems will either (a) magically go away, or (b) be easily solved by the two of you if there's a chronic failure to do so.

You need to be with someone who will at least try to seriously analyze your problems. If you're with a partner who's just too lazy, proud, or stubborn to admit that things aren't right, then you'll be fighting your battles alone. Take this into consideration: why would you want to stay with someone who has no interest in saving your relationship? If, however, your partner agrees to get some help, then you've both taken a step in the right direction, and there's hope for you as a couple.

No matter what your partner decides, I encourage you to educate yourself about relationship dynamics and this includes reading self-help materials, attending seminars and going to a therapist by yourself. You may still find that you'll be able to sort out your feelings so you can make an informed and rational decision about the viability of your relationship. In the process, you just might acquire better coping skills and enhanced self-esteem. This, in and of itself, is a great gift to give yourself.

Dr. Kelly Johnson's new book The Relationship Problem Solver for Love, Marriage and Dating is published by Hay House, Inc., and available at all bookstores, by phone 800-654-5126, or via the Internet at