But even when couples can’t arrive at a solution, by adopting a constructive mind-set, couples can learn how to talk about problems in ways that demonstrate concern and respect for each other, even when disagreements arise. Feeling valued and respected, especially when problems emerge, serves as the foundation for having a healthy and successful relationship. Everyone wants to feel understood, valued, and cared for. So how couples talk about problems makes all the difference in the world.

When couples don’t deal with problems using a constructive approach they’re likely to keep encountering them. Learning how to deal with problems constructively also makes it easier to see when partners aren’t truly motivated to resolve issues—like when a partner refuses to empathize with the pain and distress he or she caused. If you approach your partner using the communication skills we provide, and he or she doesn’t show concern, that can be very revealing.

We know it can be unsettling to view romantic relationships as a paradox. And we know that it’s difficult for some people to accept that their romantic relationship may never live up to an idealistic Hollywood version of true love. But we also know that coming to terms with the Paradox of Intimacy helps couples communicate in ways that create a more genuine relationship. When you feel confident approaching your partner constructively, you may find that you spend less time worrying about problems and more time enjoying your relationship.