One of the most common types of problems encountered in a dating relationship is that of incompatible expectations. When you and your dating partner have conflicting desires regarding the nature, purpose and future of the relationship, then complications can easily arise. For example, you may be looking for a casual, short-term, open relationship, while your dating partner may be hoping for a serious, long-term, steady relationship. While you want to give the relationship time to unfold naturally, you also want to find sensitive, direct ways to communicate your expectations early on to help ensure that you and your dating partner are on the same page.
In addition to differing expectations for the overall relationship, problems can also arise in dating as a result of dissimilar backgrounds. Sometimes these differences are more obvious, such as if you and your partner come from different religious or ethnic backgrounds, and sometimes these differences can be subtle, such as differences in education, experience or economic status. Whether obvious or not, these dissimilarities can create unexpected problems. For example, based on your background, you may expect that your dating partner should pay for most dates, even before the relationship is a serious or exclusive one, while your dating partner may assume that the financial costs of a relationship should be shared equally by both parties. Unless you both openly discuss this issue, you will not know that you both are acting on the basis of very different ideas. However, having dissimilar backgrounds can often be part of what attracts you to your dating partner, i.e. "opposites attract." Navigating the inherent challenges that arise as a result, though, is vital for the continued growth of the relationship.
Problems can result from inadequate or nonexistent boundaries in dating relationships. Often, during the initial stages of a relationship, you or your dating partner may want to grow closer and learn about one another as much as possible. While this period in a relationship can be exciting and exhilarating, it can also be a time during which many boundary issues are introduced. For example, you or your partner may divulge too much of your personal history or background too early in the relationship, which can result in feelings of vulnerability, distrust and, if the relationship ends, abandonment. Either or both of you may also choose to make the relationship a priority at the expense of other areas of your life, giving up other activities or relationships and creating an unbalanced situation in which the relationship becomes a more central focus than what may be appropriate at the time. Or you may both choose to accelerate the intimacy of the relationship before establishing shared trust and expectations for the relationship's future. Learning what makes for healthy boundaries, then guarding those boundaries, can help to protect both you and your dating partner.
Unspoken commitments can also contribute to conflict in dating relationships. Sometimes your level or degree of commitment to your career, your beliefs, your family or your friends can cause unexpected problems. One example is when you or your dating partner's commitment to a career or another obligation results in a canceled date or a missed holiday. Your dating partner may believe that a work emergency should always take priority in one's schedule, but you may not have the same perspective, and you may feel like your dating partner does not care about you when she chooses to work on a special anniversary or holiday. Talking about the commitments in each other's lives early on can help you both determine if these obligations will be a roadblock.
Many dating problems can grow out of poor communication between you and your dating partner. In fact, the problems that develop in other areas, such as those resulting from different expectations and poor boundaries, can often be addressed through more proactive and effective communication. With communication, though, how you address a problem can be part of the problem. For example, you may have a question about your dating partner's background. Knowing when and how to raise the question can affect whether or not the other person feels as if the question is caring or intrusive. Similarly, if you have a misunderstanding with your dating partner, how you address the problem, including the words you use and the tone of your voice, can affect whether or not she feels cared for and understood or accused and alienated. Learning the necessary skills for effective interpersonal communication can help to safeguard against this common dating problem, as well as strengthen the relationship as a whole.