Most relationship obstacles come disguised in different forms. Some could appear dangerously complex while others seem as simple as ABC, but even the smallest hurdle can shake your relationship if you have no clue how to go over it.
Here are some relationship obstacles that seem simple but which you need to watch out for.
1 Kicking a bad habit
As human beings, we are always trying to better ourselves. But when one of you kicks a shared bad habit then this can turn into a big problem as it did in Grace Tulele’s* case.
“When I met Elvis*, we both smoked. Two years into the relationship and after he had proposed to me, he stopped smoking but I was not ready to stop yet,” the 31-year-old marketing executive says.
“The combination of me feeling abandoned and him being cranky from lack of nicotine put a severe strain on our relationship. He would get mad at me for smoking, saying that I was punishing him and trying to tempt him. I felt rejected and hated him for giving up what we had had in common.
“But one day as I sat there smoking after he had driven off because I lit up, it finally hit me: was I willing to give up my relationship with the man I loved for some stupid cigarette? No. Was there anything I was gaining from smoking? No. That was my last cigarette.”
That was two years ago, and the struggle to not smoke made the couple stronger.
“We got married and are expecting our first baby,” Grace says.
2 Change in religious beliefs
When one person in a relationship changes religion or becomes more spiritual than the other, it is bound to cause conflict.
Take Mercy Maingi*, a 29-year-old businesslady. She had dated Jack* for three years when she got saved.
“I met Jack for lunch and gave him the good news but he was not thrilled,” Mercy confesses. “He was very concerned about what would happen to our sex life, since the Bible advocates abstinence before marriage. To cut to the chase, my salvation put a real strain in our relationship and in less than a year we had to separate.”
3 Revisiting a hobby
Trying to keep yourself busy by picking up an activity that you do alone can cause some strain in even a perfect relationship. Lucy and Kim were in a perfect marriage, until Kim discovered a hockey club that plays on Sundays.
“What used to be family time became Kim’s hockey afternoon,” Lucy says. “He would take us to church, and then quickly for lunch, which would be no fun because he would rush us, reminding us that he had hockey training at 3!”
At first, Lucy was not too bothered. At least he wasn’t out drinking or with some woman somewhere, she told herself. But when it became an every Sunday, and some Saturdays, affair then it became a concern.
“It hurt that he was having a blast while I took care of our two children on a day when the help was off-duty. We tried going with him to cheer him on but with that hockey ball on the loose it was just too scary.”
Finally, after some advice from her sister, Lucy sat Kim down for a heart-to-heart talk. They agreed that he play hockey twice a month and on the other Sunday afternoons they play tennis as a family.
“I have never looked forward to Sunday afternoons as I do now,” she admits.
4 Going back to school
Going back to school is an easy decision when you are single but when in a relationship, it should be handled with a lot of care. Aggie Cherop’s* husband came home with some brochures one day.
“I am finally going back to do my Master’s,” he said, beaming.
Aggie was not as excited though.
“My head started spinning, and thoughts like where did that come from, have we discussed this… etc were in my mind. When he was finally calm, I told him that I had no problem with him going back to school, but asked if this was the right time. I was five months pregnant, meaning that by the time he was settling into school there would be a baby crying in his house.”
He said he could handle it all and went on to register. By the time the baby was born, he was rarely at home; he was at work during the day and in class in the evening.
Aggie was so fed up that she gave him an ultimatum: his family or his Master’s. He chose family and deferred his studies for a year. He finishes his course this year and their daughter is three years old so Aggie is looking forward to making another baby.
Hopefully he isn’t going to start his PhD.
5 Your best couple-friends separate
When your best couple-friends split, depending on what kind of relationship they had, it could come as a shocker or relief. But where does this leave you?
If you used to double date or hang out together it can cause you to over-analyse every little thing your man does.
Sonia’s Ngue’s* best friend split with her husband after two years.
“I hadn’t thought of the implications of Joy’s split with Eric on my own relationship. Eric was my husband’s friend and every time my husband said he was going for drinks with Eric I would get paranoid: Who else is coming? Where will you guys be? The reason for my paranoia was that I knew the details of his broken marriage and Eric had been a habitual cheat. He had been cheating on my friend, so I thought my husband would do the same,” Sonia says.
She expressed her concerns to her husband, who thankfully put her fears to rest. In fact, he invited her to join him anytime he went out to meet the boys.
“I don’t go all the time but it just feels great to know that my husband wants me there with him as he has nothing to hide,” beams Sonia.
6 Your single friends seem to be enjoying life more than you do
Missing one of the girls’ nights out, then another and another… and getting to hear all the great things they did and the places they went can begin to eat at your subconscious.
Minny used to love the out-of-town trips to Naivasha or Nakuru, but when she started going steady with Mark, those trips were canceled because he wanted to spend his weekends indoors, watching soccer. The outings they did go for were movies or dinner, nothing outrageous.
“On the other hand, my friends would go off and have loads of fun and the next week they would be talking all about it. I started feeling bad, like I was missing something major,” Minny says.
“I started growing restless at the weekends and Mark noticed this. One weekend he told me to go off with my friends and have fun. I begged him to join me and he agreed.
“We had a great time in Naivasha, though Mark told me he still preferred his soccer and beer in the house. We agreed that we would be joining our friends for outdoor activities once every two months. Just being free and open with my partner about how I felt helped us find a common ground and we are both happy with the arrangement.”
7 Moving up the career ladder
He may be all smiles when you move up the career ladder, but if he has been fruitlessly working towards a promotion or business deal, then this can quietly put a strain on your relationship.
Women tend to support and be happy for their men when they advance, but only a very strong man can be genuinely happy for his partner when she moves on up while he is stuck in a rut.
Kamau, a 37-year-old film producer puts it simply. “I was in a relationship with this beautiful hardworking lady who got promoted. My only problem was that every other minute she was talking about her new office, meetings and new deals she had landed. Never did she ask me how my business was faring, what deal I had landed or not; she became obsessed with her new job.
“I know she had worked hard for that job, but who isn’t working hard in this country? We used to live together so in the evenings as she was busy working hard, I started hanging out more and more with my friends in the bar. We grew apart. She would whine about my drinking but what did she want me to do? Get home before her? We separated in less than six months.
“So, ladies, go for that promotion but don’t rub it in your man’s face.”