Couples that have been together for a while understand that the relationship will go through periods of time where the partnership feels like a pain in the ass. We need to normalise this. These times act as a testing ground for you to learn how to work together and figure out how to move forward as a team.
Understand that nobody is perfect
We need to normalize these cycles of “rough patches” without slipping into the mistaken notion that there’s another, better relationship out there. There may be another relationship better suited for you, but there is no relationship out there that won’t regularly experience real problems and obstacles. As human beings, we instinctively function as individuals with our own needs, priorities, and goals for each day, week, or year, and these won’t always line up with those of our partner.
In a relationship we have to learn to compromise and accept input from someone else, which isn’t always going to be easy. Our partners need to be able to trust that they can confide in us to support them with their own personal difficulties and challenges.
There will be days where you don’t feel like bearing their stresses. But that’s not the deal. Being in an intimate relationship signifies that you have each other’s backs. This is not codependence, but rather interdependence. You’re committed to being in the care of each other.
Being explicit matters
A real issue affecting many couples is that they have varying notions of what the relationship actually is. Common issues in a relationship, such as a lack of intimacy or romance, are often just subjective perceptions; one party may feel good about the amount of intimacy while the other feels disappointed and wants more. More often than not, neither party realizes the other’s perspective, because they have not actually spelled out what their guiding principles are to overcoming obstacles and moving forward together.
We have to recognize that many of us are still suffering from a Disney-like delusion that relationships are peaceful, graceful, and functional all the time. This leads us to believe that maybe we’re doing something wrong, but the reality is that relationships sometimes take a lot of work. Experiencing issues due to a lack of communication or sub-par communication doesn’t mean a relationship is failing.
Learn to work as a team, not against each other
These recurring cycles of struggle are completely normal. Some of us may be guilty of jumping from one relationship to another in hopes of finding a pain-free partner, but in reality, we need to get real with our partner and create a unified vision that accounts for the inevitable discord.
By not having these honest conversations, we are more inclined to simply do whatever we want without taking the other person into consideration. This will inevitably breed resentment and will usher in the demise of the relationship.
You aren’t being needy
Some people have an underlying fear of being too “needy”. This fear is based on a lack of self-confidence or healthy entitlement. For this person, it is hard to believe that they deserve someone showing up for them in a relationship, or to be put first from time to time. The fear of being needy is ultimately a fear that, by asking more of one’s partner, it will end up creating a distance between each other – or worse yet, it will lead to outright rejection.
There is also an unconscious, pervasive element within each person’s conditioning that relates to how they grew up. More often than not, people don’t have a very good model of a healthy relationship in their childhood home. It is rare for a child to see two parents openly talking, negotiating, and collaborating towards win-win solutions where neither partner feels walked over and where both partners displayed strong yet humble self activation. In one’s childhood, there may have been moments when, rather than talking in a collaborative, caring way, the parents entered into fights. Issues may not have been not settled, culminating in a chronic dance of distancing from each other and then coming back together.
In our own relationships, we inevitably replay the same experiences without realizing that it’s our conditioning making us do so. It’s all we know.
Know your strategy
To overcome these periods of difficulty, you need to become clear about what your agreements are. Take the time to learn how you can work together and form a unified approach to tackling challenges. You might even try couples counselling, relationship coaching or reading a book. Make it something that you both commit to from your wise mind – not from a place of fear, but from a place that is true to you. Form a strategy so that when you deviate from the agreements and the principles, you can be held accountable by your partner and by yourself. This will ultimately lead to a much more open and healthy relationship.