You’ve fallen in love, and everything is singing birds and swelling violins. When you look at your honey’s face, it’s all soft-focused cameras and sparkling borders. This is real, true love, the feeling will last forever, and all those people who go through tough breakups, possibly including your past self, have just never had the good fortune of finding a love like this.
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If you believe that, your relationship isn’t going to last. And if it does, it won’t be pretty.
The truth is that relationships, even “true love” relationships, take hard work and sacrifice. There are certain truths that you need to embrace if your relationship is going to last past that first flush of giddy infatuation – and because they happen long after the upbeat pop songs and end credits of romance movies, we don’t usually learn them from TV and movies.
It’s a platitude, but it’s true. Your partner is going to screw up sometimes, and you’ll need to look past that mistake and remember why you fell in love with them in the first place. However, an even harder truth to swallow is that you aren’t perfect, either. Sometimes, you’ll be the one screwing up. When that happens, you have to admit it, apologize, and try to move on. Nobody wants to date someone who refuses to admit when they’re wrong.
You Can’t Change Other People
You can change yourself, but you can’t change others. If you enter into your relationship hoping that you can turn your fixer-upper into a real catch, think again. Constant attempts to change your partner will come across as nagging, deeply damaging their self-esteem and giving them the distinct sense that you’d rather be with some imaginary perfect partner than them. If your partner has one or two habits that are so personally upsetting and hurtful that they jeopardize the relationship – for instance, his “just kidding” comments are crueler than he thinks, or her constant smartphone-checking makes you feel ignored and unappreciated – you can have a conversation to let them know how much this seemingly harmless behavior bothers you. But trying to change every little thing about your partner is a recipe for hurt feelings, and hanging onto a bad relationship because you hope the other person will change will only make you miserable.
You Won’t Always Like Each Other
Maybe your partner has a bad habit that will continually grate on your nerves or an unpleasant personality trait that occasionally rises to the fore. Maybe the two of you will just get bored of each other’s company after a few months or years. Either way, sometimes you won’t feel any deep romantic feelings or pulse-pounding attraction to your partner, and sometimes you may even find them annoying. If you find your partner annoying or unattractive more often than not, it’s time to reconsider the relationship. If you’ve sunk into your first week-long funk, though, you’re going through the same sort of dry spell that every long-lived couple experiences. Try a few things to reconnect and rekindle the romance, like a date night or a really meaningful conversation, rather than throwing in the towel.
Sometimes You Give, Sometimes You Take
There’s give and take in every relationship, but sometimes it isn’t even. If your partner is going through a rough patch, you’re going to be putting more into taking care of them than they are putting into taking care of you because they’re using all their energy just to stay sane. When you go through a rough patch, it will be their turn to give and yours to take. A healthy relationship will have mostly even levels of give and take with the occasional time when one partner pulls double duty. If you feel like your partner is constantly sponging off you, or if you never go out of your way to help your partner, the relationship is seriously skewed. However, it’s also in trouble if you keep a constant mental scoreboard of how many times you’ve put more into the relationship than your partner. Don’t be a mooch or a martyr, but don’t resent the natural ebb and flow of relationships.
Communication Is Crucial
Your partner cannot read your mind. If something is bothering you, say so. The game of “guess why I’m upset” is a surefire relationship killer.
Moreover, you can’t read your partner’s mind, either. If your partner seems upset, ask why, and then be sure to listen to the answer with your full attention. Never assume that you know why your partner is unhappy. You may find yourself seething because they’re still mad at you over that joke you made this morning, only to find out that they’re actually grumpy because of the terrible day they had at work.
You Will Fight . . .
Couples that never fight have stopped caring enough to get worked up about their relationship, and apathy is death to a relationship. Your fights shouldn’t be filled with vicious insults and physical altercations, and they shouldn’t happen every week, but the occasional growled argument is part of loving someone.
. . . Over Really Stupid Things
The stereotype is that if you fight over nothing, your relationship is in deep trouble. The fact is that every couple fights over ridiculous things every now and then, and while it doesn’t mean your relationship is on its last legs, it can be a symbol of a deeper problem. After you get into a stupid fight, talk about it to make sure there isn’t something deeper going on. If you burn the pot roast, the two of you may have a screaming fight because you’re both tired, hungry, and in desperate need of someone to blame. On the other hand, it may be because you feel overworked and under-appreciated in the household chores, while your partner feels frustrated that you don’t ask for help when you need it. If the two of you square this away right after the argument, you’ll be laughing about the Great Pot Roast Fight for years. If not, you’ll just keep having kitchen-related blow-ups.
You’ll Wonder What You’re Missing
It’s human nature. Your partner will do something annoying and you’ll wonder what it would be like to be with someone who didn’t have that habit. You may be off pursuing an interest that your partner doesn’t share and wonder what it would be like to date someone who likes pottery as much as you do. Perhaps you’ll think fondly on that girl from college whom you almost asked to the dance instead of your now-fiancée and wonder what might have been – or any number of other things. Everyone wonders from time to time what would have happened if their lives had taken a different course, and relationships are no exception. Having these thoughts isn’t wrong, but using them as an excuse to mope over your terrible choice in partners is. If you really feel like you’re missing out, let your partner go. If not, remember what made you fall in love in the first place.