You find a girl and develop a loving relationship with her. Eventually, both of you, in the words of Stephenie Meyer, “live blissfully into this small but perfect piece of forever.”
Keep dreaming. Neither relationships are easy nor picture perfect.
Relationships are hard work because there is an amount of closeness — emotional, physical, spiritual, and even mental — in any relationship.
I sincerely believe it is how television shows and movies have portrayed love and relationships. Many believe that if you are married, you will live happily ever after. Bullsh*t! In reality, there will be days when both of you do not like each other, and that is where people surrender.
Daniel Sloss presented his take on why most people in this era cannot enjoy the same love we usually find in numerous Hollywood films.
“My generation has romanticised the idea of romance, and it is cancerous. People are more in love with the idea of love than the person they are with …We’re so trying to be an adult, that some of us will take the wrong person, the wrong jigsaw piece, and just fucking jam them into our jigsaws anyway, denying that they clearly don’t fit.”
When I heard that, I found it to be very revealing, so I wanted to take the time to come up with my take on why relationships are difficult in general.
1. One unit, one decision
When you are conquering the world solo, you do not have to think about someone else. You just got to think about yourself and do what is right for you. You can choose which to go to next, when to head over there, and decide for how long you want to stay put.
Now, you got a partner in your life. Dang, all of a sudden, both of you have to come to an agreement on where to go, what to see, what to consume, how long to stay and much more.
Real life is no different than that solo trip around the globe. Only this time, both of you have to develop a mutually-agreed plan about which path you two are going to traverse on together in life.
Do you want to spend the rest of your life married to her? Do you and her wish to have kids at some point in the future? If so, how many? Where do you both want to settle down? How should both of you manage finances? How much should each person save? These are some of the many, MANY questions you both have to address as “one”.
I am sure you get the gist by now; you are no longer a freeman. Goodbye to the days of doing anything, however and whenever you want. Some decisions — big ones — will have to be taken as an established couple.
And I can understand why this is a challenge, particularly to those who have spent so much time in solitude. Compromise in a relationship is not something singles are accustomed to. Do it wrong, and it can lead to heated discussions and eventually resentment, especially when you are stripped of your freedom to get things done exactly as you would like.
It feels as though your dignity and the respect you once had for her have been tossed out of the window. You then feel as though your life is being constrained, particularly if you are an independent soul who has always appreciated the liberating sensation that comes with total autonomy.
Therefore, I get why many people struggle to move from singleton to couple.
2. You got someone else to consider
Your perception of the world multiplies by a factor of two as soon as you are in a relationship. The days of considering your life, your opinions, your emotions, your needs and your wants, are now history.
Why? Because you have to consider your partner’s as well. You have to be mindful of them, specifically, their preferences, their emotions, their thoughts, their wishes.
You have to remember every significant detail about them so that you can act in ways to bring both of you peace and serenity. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Happy wife, happy life?”
I know my fianćee loves jewellery a lot. So, on special occasions such as her birthday, our anniversary and Christmas, I would grab something shiny for her, be it a necklace or a pair of earrings.
She is a big DC fan. So back in 2017, when the American superhero film Justice League was released, I bought tickets so that we could watch it on opening day.
I had a lazy memory (and I still have). However, ever since we have gotten together, our relationship has been a memory training tool for us because we both have to listen carefully to what the other communicates because we value being heard and being, well… valued. Well-established couples, you will understand that.
This is a classic example of how small things matter hugely and can swing a relationship from one state to another. This responsibility of remembering all the small but significant details adds pressure on you (and me) so that you do not say or do something that would hurt them in any way.
This challenge can be more difficult to overcome for some than others and might lead to an overwhelming feeling, more so in the early stage when you are spending time understanding each other.
You also have to behave respectfully. Not just for your significant other but also for your relationship.
You cannot simply attend dinner with friends after work without informing them beforehand. My fianćee is always looking out for me, not because I am disabled but because I know the only person she wants to spend the rest of her life with is me. So, wherever I am in the world, she will be the first to know.
You cannot splurge on expensive goodies and things that depreciate significantly over time without obtaining their consent first. Unless, of course, you are buying them with your own money.
You must present your best self when you are in close proximity to their family. For example, my wife-to-be values her family deeply. Her family members mean the world to her. Hence, I know that I cannot act in an inappropriate way that may change their current view of me, especially when I am going to take their daughter/sibling away.
Once more, this comes back to the choices you went with and the obligation to think about your partner when you choose them.
3. Having expectations kill
You might think that the perfect relationship should be easy all the way because it does not obey Murphy’s law. You do not have to deal with any problems, and thus the relationship will offer you the endless hugs of joy you have been seeking for.
Hate to break it to you: that is just wishful thinking. Relationships are never like the movies, no matter how much we want them to be. Being with your other half will not remedy your problems of today. If you are looking for a quick dose of happily ever after, good luck because you will never find it anywhere, including a relationship.
Relationships are frequently complicated not because we like to make simple things complicated. Instead, they are often difficult to handle because we dive into them anticipating wonders to fall from the sky and not expecting to lift a finger.
In any relationship, there is this pressure to look after it and give the attention it needs. Otherwise, it will not evolve into a healthy, sustainable relationship.
While your other half can be your pillar of support when you are having a hard time staying afloat, it is unrealistic to believe that they should be the ones to drag you out of the stormy sea.
That is a difficult pill of reality to swallow — particularly for those who have been living and depending on someone for their survival — because you have been brainwashed by seemingly infinite tales of perfect love on the Internet.
However, picture-perfect relationships are precisely that, and you are oblivious to the blood, sweat and tears that go into every relationship you observe around you.
Forget about having unrealistic expectations. If you have any expectations of your relationship, the only person to blame when you cannot find happiness in it is yourself.
4. We all carry emotional baggage
You have a history. Your partner has a history too. Oh wait, so does everyone else!
Surely, each of us has at least one unresolved emotional turmoil caused by some form of negative experience from the past that still impacts us today. So, it is not a matter of whether people have emotional baggage — all of us do. The problem is that we let our emotional baggage dictate our lives.
This can pose problems for you because these are incidents that unfolded before you got there. You were not directly involved in them, and thus, you have no first-hand experience of them.
Therefore, the road to understanding why those negative, unprocessed emotions from past experiences still influence your partner’s life today can be steep.
Occasionally, their behaviour might seem illogical. Your partner’s unresolved issues of an emotional nature may force them to ditch their usual character as they leap into survival mode. Undoubtedly, you are left confused and helpless.
You might verbalise insensitive remarks or act up because you are not completely aware of the source of the change you are observing.
Even if you have disclosed the problems that sparked these feelings in your partner, your comprehension may be half-baked and constrained to a single rational, factual viewpoint.
You would be unable to understand fully what your partner is going through because you are not the one who lived through those disturbing experiences. What is more, two individuals can experience the same event but have different emotional interpretations of it.
Whether your partner went through an abusive childhood, had an ex who used her for his personal interest, or was involved in some traumatic incident like an air accident, being told about and living it are two completely different things.
Emotional baggage can come in many forms. That being said, keep in mind the more practical ones such as children from a past relationship, financial troubles such as debt and health complications (though all of these things can have an emotional impact as well).
So, when you are in a relationship with your significant other, you are also in a relationship with their past, much like you are having a relationship with your past. You hold your partner’s hand with a firm grip with one hand and bear your emotional baggage using the other.
So, to all who are struggling to dump their emotional baggage, find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.
5. The struggles to make “me” time within a “we”
We are a social species. Human beings are wired to connect and we have the most complex and interesting social behaviour out of all living organisms. However, there comes a point when all of us must retreat to our solitude zone and enjoy our own company. Just ourselves. Alone. No one with us.
Exclusively, when a relationship blooms to a particular phase, this alone time becomes more scarce.
You might live with the diamond of your life and spend most of your quality time with them. Taking a step back for peace and serenity, however, is not so smooth sailing.
On top of the difficulty of physically separating from one another, your partner’s alone time may not be as lengthy as yours, or vice versa.
If all they care about is to be with you but you would rather be by yourself, you have a difficult choice to make: throw away your alone time or carry the risk that you will upset your other half should you decide to withdraw to your safe space for a while.
Neither choice is exactly enchanting. That is another reason why relationships can be hard to manage and maintain sometimes.
The more time you spend with your partner, the greater the likelihood of you becoming weary of the companionship your significant other provides. Eventually, the greater the chance you will find them annoying and unbearable to live with.
To an extreme degree, you might even start to resent them for being time thieves.
No other types of people would struggle to cope with this more than introverts. That is because they need their personal time and space to themselves to assemble their thoughts, seek their bearing, and recalibrate their emotional temperaments.
Without this sacred time to themselves, they become mentally and emotionally worn out, which puts additional strain on the partnership.
6. Emotional vulnerability holds us back
All of us have spent much of our lives keeping our insecurities, anxieties and fears a secret from others.
Your colleagues, your friends, and, heck, even your immediate family members might not be aware of what is churning inside that skull of yours (subject to the sort of relationships you possess with these individuals).
However, for a healthy relationship to thrive, you have to water it with more openness and vulnerability than you are accustomed to.
As you spend more time with your other half, you will slowly reach the point where your partner is the person you share everything that is going in your life the most with.
You will reveal your feelings. You will make your thoughts known. You will disclose your dreams. You will express your insecurities and worries.
Who said being this transparent with another person is a walk in the park? “Vulnerability” implies that you are sharing parts of yourself that could potentially destroy your sense of self.
You may not welcome the responses thrown at you. You may spill the beans, and your significant other watches you silently for fear of making you look foolish if they say anything inappropriate.
It is hard to find emotionally intelligent people who understand what you need from them in trying circumstances. They are not to blame, but you will feel a whole range of negative emotions, from sorrow to full-blown anger.
And then, there is the less important side of it. You hope that your partner would open up and expose her emotions to you. However, they may be reluctant to do it due to lack of self-confidence, fear of rejection or both.
Such disparity can be daunting sometimes. It can be lead to miscommunications or lack of communication, and it can lead to an array of issues down the road.
You might (correctly or incorrectly) be confident that they are hiding something from you. Trust issues can surface on both sides. Without openness and transparency, two people breathing as one is undoubtedly impossible.
7. The new and exciting will die out eventually
In the early stages of a relationship, it is common to find plenty of excitement, butterflies and for you to think that you have at last found your soulmate and that your life as a jigsaw puzzle is complete.
You breathe an entirely different kind of air, and it is one that keeps you in bliss. You observe things through a different set of lenses. And you both give and receive a different energy.
Only, just like good things, it will fade away.
Everything that was once new becomes familiar to you. All those new routines both of you do together become norms and repetitive. That is not unusual. That is just the natural evolution of any serious partnership between two people.
Sooner or later, you will come to the realisation that saying “I love you” is one thing, “I love you, always” is another. The latter implies the need to maintain that bond of affection to keep the relationship moving by putting in consistent effort and energy. Therefore, you and your partner have to work equally for the preservation of the relationship.
All of the previous points — from constantly thinking about your other half to dealing with emotional baggage — demands an unfaltering effort to thrive both as individuals and as a partnership.
There are couples who have no trouble dealing with this, and other couples may find this an intimidating challenge to conquer. Regardless, for a relationship to have any chance of survival, care and attention are needed.
With time, disputes, disappointment and disagreement will arise. You may doubt your decision to have them in your life. Then again,
8. Putting them first
Is love a feeling or a choice?
There is no unified answer to that question because everyone has their take on what love actually is. Personally, love is both a feeling and a choice. Let me explain why.
When you are in a relationship with someone, you are selecting them to be your life partner (or, at the bare minimum, that is the plan you are going with).
However, behind any decision you make, there are elements of doubt.
Is this person suitable for you? Can you see a future with them? Do you want to spend the rest of your life with them? Do you want to settle down before you hit thirty? Should you wait in hopes that someone “better” will be yours for the taking?
You will never have all the answers to these questions, and this frightens the living daylights out of you.
The unknowns and uncertainties in relationships are almost universal at some point in time. For all you know, it happens during those first few days, weeks or months of dating. Alternatively, it may come to you once the honeymoon period is a thing of the past and you start to settle down into a routine. Heck, it can take years of living as one to find out whether you made the right call.
When you encounter potholes along the journey, you are confronted with another dilemma: do you want to call it quits and go your separate ways, or do you want to strengthen your commitment and give everything you got to the relationship?
Meeting these kinds of bumps in the road head-on is not as easy as it sounds. Knowing that your life can change in more ways than one according to the choices you make is a terrifying prospect. It can be burdening and mentally fatiguing to go over things in your head repeatedly without end.
It is not like your family where you cannot choose them. It is not like your colleagues or friends where you can have lots of. You have to think this through and through before dedicating yourself to this other person and mean it.
There Are Two Kinds of “Hard”
Whichever way you came across this story, it is possible that you had hoped that it would convince you that the right relationship would be as easy as saying all 26 letters in the English alphabet.
Sorry to shatter your illusions.
However, it is not all sad and tragic. While even the very best relationships can be daunting sometimes, they are also filled with laughter and good times.
And this is the unique differentiator that separates a hard relationship in the sense that it can be a struggle from a hard relationship where it is always a struggle.
If you find that your relationship with someone brings more pain than bliss, it is reasonable to evaluate the relationship and see whether it is worth coping with the stress further.
You should never wave the white flag too quickly on a relationship you have poured your heart and soul into. However, neither should you tolerate one that turned you into a human being who breaks down more easily than before the relationship started.
Simply put, if there is the slightest of hope that things could return to a point where peace and serenity reign in your relationship, fight for it.
It is fine to pull the plug if you see that there is no chance or if you are convinced that you and your partner are not meant to be together.
There is hard, and there is “hard.” If you find your relationship with someone belonging in the latter, you are not unreasonable to question the relationship you are in.
A sustainable, healthy relationship should, by right, offer you a net gain; it should provide more to you than it takes from you. In other words, the number of good times you had with your partner should significantly outweigh the number of bad times.
The next time you rant about how your relationship is all about hard work, that is worth keeping in mind.
Previously Published on medium
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