All relationships take work. But not all “work” is good
One of the things keep a lot of us in bad relationships longer than we should stay is the unfortunate phrase:
“All relationships take work. “And it’s ugly cousin phrase: “All couples fight.”
It’s not that you will never date someone who seems too good to be true but you will discover that most of them are the makes of fantasy lands. We “never fought” and it was “easy”. This kind of love mostly existed in high school and it’s simply because you didn’t have a care in the world. Your entire universe consisted of little more than deciding where to eat lunch, which movie to watch, and who would finally hang up on the other — after endless “I love you’s”.
One day you will discover that you don’t want to live forever on puppy love alone. You will want a grown-up partner. Someone you could be serious with. Someone who shared your aspirations. Someone with whom you could share real struggles. Someone who wanted more than to settle down into a white picket fenced house made of gingerbread and tickle fights.
And many have thought being in an adult relationship meant taking the bad with the good, and that part of the bad meant ugly fighting and contempt. Contempt is a red flag. Resentment is a red flag. Name-calling and low blows and emotional warfare are all loud and proud red flags. Maybe this sounds obvious. Or maybe it sounds like fantasy. I can understand either way.
It’s not. It’s not good, to fight this way. To see each other this way. To hate, even for a moment. There is a better version out there, and if you decide you want it hard enough, you can have it, too.
All couples get upset. All people have disagreements, frustrations, human emotions that don’t perfectly coincide. The difference between “good” work and “bad” is how you channel this, and whether you see each other as partners or opponents against whom you want to win, overpower, or be “right.”
1: IT SHOULDN’T HURT
Not overall, anyway. Not when you stack everything up. When you measure everything at the end of the day, the good should decidedly immediately, irrevocably, undeniably outweigh the bad.
I’m not saying you should never feel hurt. Feeling sad or frustrated or mad or whatever is a normal part of being alive. Nobody is here to protect you from reality. But overall, your relationship should be more good than bad and you shouldn’t have to “convince” yourself of the good, or fight to overlook the bad.
When you look at your relationship overall, it should bring you way more happiness than pain. Like way more. Not all the time and not every moment and not every day or even every week or sometimes even for a whole month straight, in real bad times. Because especially if you’re in it for the long haul you all are going to hit some shit, and you have to be fair about that.
It’s not all cupcakes and rainbows, and it shouldn’t be. But when you look at the big picture, all at once, it should feel more good than bad.
2: IT SHOULD BE PROACTIVE AND “MAINTENANCE,” NOT REACTIVE AND “DAMAGE CONTROL”
The work should feel easy, composed and calm. It should be laying groundwork for the future and doing loving things in time of peace, not cleaning up after blowing up in each other’s faces after bottling for too long and then having to apologize.
And just to be clear: if you are extending 110% of the effort — “more effort than them,” which is a red flag mind-set all on its own — but are also the one blowing up sometimes, then you are part of the problem. Don’t co-dependent at this. Don’t “manipulate” at this. Don’t emotional warfare. Don’t be the one who thinks you’re a great partner because you actively and aggressively show up most of the time if you’re also the one tearing it down some of the time.
3: IT SHOULD BE A LABOUR OF LOVE
You should want to put in the work in the same way you want to work on your car, or work out, or go through the painstaking task of making a butter pie crust from scratch, or whatever else it is that you enjoy.
That’s what love feels like. And how “work” in love should feel. It should take effort, but the effort shouldn’t “feel” foremost like effort. It should feel foremost like love.
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