Two Basic Relationship Problems

Building relationships is essential for having a fulfilling life, but – as we all know – it’s not without its problems. Even close friendships could have problems every now and then. That’s why it’s important to learn about relationship problems and how to overcome them. While there are many relationship problems that could happen, I believe they boil down to just two. These are the basic problems that cause other problems in relationships. Here they are:

Relationships problems 1. Misunderstanding

Misunderstanding is perhaps the most common problem in relationships. Sometimes your friends misinterpret what you do or say. Or it’s you who misinterpret them. Depending on the maturity of the people involved, such misunderstanding could be solved quickly or it could open the way to more serious problems.

Misunderstanding is caused either by lack of quality or quantity in communication. You could spend a lot of time to communicate with your friends (for example, with your roommate), but if the quality of the communication is low then there is a good chance that misunderstanding will happen.

The problem could also happen because you and your friend don’t communicate often enough. If both parties are busy, they may not have the chance to communicate what they need or want which may eventually lead to misunderstanding.

2. Selfishness

Another common problem in relationships is selfishness. Perhaps both parties understand what the other party needs, but one or both of them are not willing to give it. They prefer to just keep it for themselves. In this case, the problem is lack of action instead of lack of understanding.

For example, it takes time to build relationships but we may be too busy to provide time for others. While we can’t generalize the case, being busy could be a form of selfishness. Just wanting to be understood without trying to understand is also a form of selfishness.

These two basic problems cause many other relationship problems. Being judgmental, for instance, is often caused by selfishness. We want others to meet our expectations and we blame them when they don’t.

Anger could be caused my misunderstanding. You may think that your friend does something bad to you while she actually doesn’t intent to. Perhaps she does you good but you misinterpret it. Misunderstanding causes us to misinterpret positive as negative.

These two relationship problems may seem simple, but solving them requires serious effort. It may take years or even lifetime to learn how to solve them. But being aware of them is a good first step because we can’t win a war if we don’t even know the enemy.

In a future article, I will discuss ways to solve these problems.

This article is part of August 2008 theme: Relationships

Photo by hypertypos


  1. So true! If misunderstanding and selfishness are boiled down even further to just one thing it would be fear. Fear of not being understood, appreciated, loved, and of not having enough. These most basic fears then manifest themselves in harmful behavior patterns — the most destructive are what has been called the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” for marriages and other close relationships, which are: (1) defensiveness; (2) stonewalling; (3) criticizing; and (4) showing contempt. I wrote about how to recognize these in your relationship and what to do about them in a post called “4 Signs that a Marriage Will End in Divorce” at

  2. […] Wenn es in Beziehungen kriselt, dann hat das meist zwei Ursachen: Missverständnisse und Egoismus. […]

  3. Shanel,
    Very interesting thoughts. I’m still not sure whether fear causes selfishness or selfishness causes fear.
    From what I see now, fear may stem from selfishness. If I’m selfless, what I lack or lose doesn’t really matter to me.
    I’ll think more about it.

  4. I feel that the individual does not think they are acting selfish, when they are not providing what the other needs, as they are only protecting themselves.
    Most individuals think about themselves, often on a deep level, even when they act totally selfless.

  5. Tony,

    Most individuals think about themselves, often on a deep level, even when they act totally selfless.

    I still don’t get it since it seems counterintuitive. This is something I should think about.

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  10. I came on here seeing if I can get help I have a fiancee of two years who I love but dont feel attached to and also one of my childhood sweeties is coming back into the picture I just want to make everyone happy and I know the events to follow if I break it off with my fiance and its our anniversary today what do I do

  11. Josh,
    I don’t know your situation in detail so my suggestion might not apply to you. Anyway, I think there are two important principles here:
    1. We can’t please everybody
    2. Relationship is a long-term commitment.
    So I’d say that you should follow your heart of hearts. What do you think is the right thing to do in the long term?

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  15. Donald – Selfishness is much underrated! Being mean at the expense of someone else, that’s despicable, I’d agree.

    But to be selfish – in its true meaning – is to love yourself first. How can you give to another if you are empty, resentful, exhausted emotionally and/or physically and frustrated?

    I’d say lack of selfishness is one of the biggest causes of marriage problems and relationship breakups!


  16. Trevor,
    Interesting thought. Selfishness in that sense is indeed necessary. You can’t do good to others if you don’t love yourself first.

  17. Totally agreed. Don’t let your relationships slip away – preserve your love and understand eachother.

  18. The man I am with.He move his ex and his son and her younger daughter and their dog. This is the second time.Made our daughter give up her room.That not fare to her

  19. I really really appreciate this article. May I use excerpt of this article in my private blog? (my private blog is strictly for myself and not opened to public. it’s more like a diary)

    This article should be read by everyone.


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