Don’t focus on problems too much

Every month, Sarah Abell invites you to try a 30-day experiment to improve your love life and this time we're all about solutions


Don't focus on problems too much

The project

What do you do when you and your partner have a problem? Do you focus on it, and keep communicating until you find a solution? If you do, you might be exacerbating the issue, says George Pransky, author of The Relationship Handbook (Pransky & Associates, £8.99). He believes focusing on problems lowers spirits and makes things look worse than they are. 

The aim

Don’t focus on problems, especially if you are in a low mood or feeling insecure. Wait until your minds are clear.

The theory

Pransky believes that focusing on problems is the number one relationship killer. That is because often our thinking around the problem and our reactions to it create issues that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Even the word ‘problem’ can bring up a whole lot of extra thinking and insecurity that can add to the issue.

If you leave your problems alone and don’t dwell on them – you are more likely to find a way forward. It is a little like when you have a wound healing on your arm – what you don’t want to do is pick the scab and keep re-opening it. You want to treat it gently and then create the best environment for the natural healing process to take place.

Pranksy explains that it is the same with so-called relationship issues: ‘The thoughts around these issues trigger emotional reactions. If we are not careful we will spend our time dealing with these emotional reactions instead of the issue. To treat an emotional sore spot we should create a secure environment where the problem area can heal.’

When we get caught up in our thinking it’s hard to see a solution – we often just get more stuck. Pransky suggests waiting until your mind is in a good place and you are not in a low mood. Then you are more likely to have fresh insights that lead to obvious solutions.

Try it out

  • Leave it alone. Next time you and your partner face a problem resist the temptation to talk it out especially if either of you is feeling insecure or emotionally charged.
  • Listen with understanding. If and when you do talk about it, try to listen to each other with understanding and compassion. If you find yourself reacting in a downward spiral stop the discussion.
  • Wait for issue to become ‘ripe’. Pransky suggests that there will be a time when your issue becomes easy to talk about or ‘ripe’. This is the moment to look at solutions.
  • See your ‘problem’ as an opportunity. When you look at the issue in a better light it will no longer seem like a problem. Instead it might look like more of an opportunity.

Sarah Abell is founder of and author of Inside Out – How To Build Authentic Relationships With Everyone In Your Life (Hodder, £8.99). To buy her LifeLabs Practical Wisdom online course How to Save Your Relationship, please click here. You can try a free 3-day taster trial first too.

Photograph: iStock

More inspiration:

Read How to spring clean your relationships by Sarah Abell on LifeLabs