Why 20% of your relationship issues cause 80% of the problems

As a relationships expert, Joanne Wilson is an industry leader. You might think she’s ‘seen in all’, but many of her clients come to her with similar strains on their relationship. Here, she shares how to overcome what she calls the ‘Corrosive Cs’.

Of all the apps on your phone how many do you use the most? How many of your customers account for most of the profit? They say 80 percent of results will come from 20 percent of the action, and this 80/20 rule reigns even in the couples’ counselling room.

As a relationship specialist, I have the honour of journeying with individuals and couples at their most major and toughest junctures in their life. Interestingly, it’s the same few difficulties that have them ill-equipped to enjoy the dynamic and flourishing relationship they deserve.

Many clients consistently report their relationship is 80 percent amazing except for the hefty weight of 20 percent of the bad times that have them often defeatedly slumped in my office.

What is the root cause of the 20 percent?

Some of us can blame our parents or grandparents for ill-equipping us.

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While we can’t directly ‘sock it to them’, our ancestors were less likely to require wisdom on how to collaborate with their spouse in areas such as finances and how to raise the children. They didn’t need to check in with each other as their relationships featured more clearly defined, traditional roles that didn’t overlap so much.

This is in comparison to today’s common tag-team situation—symptomatic of both parents working outside the home where we collide on work, home duties and parenting decisions.

We can also unconsciously repeat the same approach to relationships as our parents or caregivers. We become stuck in patterns of disconnection over the same bad habits such as passive silence or angry aggression that can grow in momentum.

We forget that we can default to being selfish, inward focussed with fallible memory recall, and easily compare ourselves and our partner to others.

The 3 Corrosive Cs

#1 Crushed confidence

It’s amazing how much damage we do to our intimate connections because we are too busy slamming ourselves on the head with a metaphorical hammer.

Poor self-worth is a silent killer of relationships. An uncontrolled thought life can have us succumb to fear of what “I can’t” and “I’m not”. We ruminate on key moments in life that have us caught in toxic self-deprecating. I see countless incredulous and gifted clients who initially cannot see how beautiful and talented they are.

#2 Communication

I like to think that as a therapist, an author and frequent media commentator, I’m quite the communicator. Pop me in a situation where I’m emotionally invested and the harsh reality is, I am not as clever as I think I am. I easily compare myself to others, can be stubborn and threatened when things don’t go my way.

I have learned to turn the finger back on myself and consciously realise when I’m emotionally triggered. This includes realising fatigue can make me a lot less rational.

We are also not the best versions of ourselves when unfit, fallen into poor eating and drinking habits, stressed and assume we are easily understood.

#3 Conflict

Have you ever considered that we are frequently misunderstanding each other a lot of the time? Our memories are incredibly unreliable particularly when our raw emotions are triggered, and reality is skewed.

How also can we naturally navigate our way through our differences when the person you’re disagreeing with was initially likely incredibly attractive because they were different and complemented you with features and approaches you don’t have?

Overcoming the C’s

Have hope that the 3 Corrosive C’s can be overcome and do not need to dominate a large percentage of your relationship.

I encourage you to take a step back and look at your thoughts about yourself to yourself, how you communicate with your partner, and if you approach your differences in a healthy manner.

Joanne Wilson is a professional counsellor, neuropsychotherapist, author, speaker and renowned pioneer in her field. She is the founder of the Relationship Rejuvenator online courses, TheConfidante counselling practice and a specialist in relationships and pre-marriage therapy. Her book, Renovate Your Relationship – All the DIY Tools for Your Most Important Project ($29.99) is out now.