When we get into a relationship, we’re usually unaware that it will get littered with arbitrary and unexpected turbulences. And because of this unawareness, we tend to part ways at the first signs of struggle.
Maybe we get into a string of fights and suddenly conclude that our relationship isn’t working. Maybe we figure that since we’re attracted to other people outside our relationship, ours just isn’t meant to be. Or maybe we think that just because our partner can’t meet all of our emotional needs all the fucking time, the relationship has run its course.
Now, sometimes relationships actually don’t work out, however, a lot of the time, it’s our thinking about the relationship that’s flawed, not necessarily the relationship itself.
I’m not the one to tell you a relationship should always last a lifetime. It doesn’t need to. And there are probably more people out there who should break up at this very moment than there are those who should stick it out. However, I still feel something must be said on the topic of breaking up prematurely.
For one, a lot of people do it. Why? Simple. Because they get face to face with the five inevitable relationship quirks, I’ll cover below. Most people see them as red flags, but in reality, they are an everyday part of any monogamous relationship. Hopefully, this article expands your awareness to the degree that when you yourself notice these quirks unfolding in your relationship, you’ll know it’s not the end.
1. Relationships are never 50/50
Things change no matter how aware and sure two people are of their roles and responsibilities in their relationship. Their entire relational dynamic can turn upside down in a blink of an eye. One day, it may be you who cleans the car, scrubs the toilet, and vacuums the house. The other day, it could be your partner who gets the short end of the stick.
These shifts are to be expected. No relationship is ever 50/50 — meaning that both partners put equal amounts of effort into it. So don’t keep score of who does what, who doesn’t.
Keeping score with your partner can quickly ensue into trivial competitions: one holds back because they feel they are not treated right; the other overcompensates and tries to mitigate or control the situation.
When you keep score, you’re always stuck in a perpetual cycle-jerk of pushing forward and holding back. And all this dynamic does is that it chips away at mutual trust and respect.
If you’re a longtime reader, you know what happens next: once trust and respect diminish, affection goes down the drain, conflicts and resentment rise, and eventually, all that’s left of your relationship is a disintegrating pile of shit. And no, love can’t help mend things. Love is never enough.
Instead of keeping score with your partner, focus on being a team and helping each other — even if you have to put more effort into the relationship some days. The whole point of a relationship is to unconditionally give to each other and help each other grow and become more. Take note of that.
2. Relationships are chaotic
I always chuckle when my readers email me their entire love-life stories and then ask me, “So what are my chances of saving my relationship.” Almost every time, I respond with, “I have no fucking clue.” Figuring out how a relationship will pan out or whether you can save and/or rebuild yours is impossible to predict accurately.
Generally speaking, relationships are dotted with confusion and chaos. Regardless of how great you think your partner is, there will be problems. There will be pointless arguments about leaving the toilet seat up. There will be clashing insecurities about one person wanting more space, the other less. The will be miscommunication — you know, the times when you think you know where your partner is coming from, only to realize 30 seconds later that you didn’t get half of what they were saying.
A good place to start mitigating these challenges is by accepting that they will eventually come your way. In fact, find a way to enjoy the chaos (being with the right person helps, obviously).
By withstanding the uncomfortable and unsettling, you’ll generate meaning and fulfillment and potentially even sculpt a relationship worthwhile keeping intact — one that may stand the test of time.
3. Relationships change Over Time
People change (Shocker). They find and prioritize new values and leave the old behind. They get fresh perspectives on various new subjects and change some about the old. They get new interests, all while letting a few older ones wither away into nothingness.
This change in people is what changes their relationship. To put it differently, relationships evolve because the people in them change.
Sometimes these changes are for the better and only strengthen the relationship and embolden the love between two people. Sometimes the changes are for the worse and endanger a relationship, maybe even bring it to its knees. Sometimes people work things out. Sometimes they break up.
The chips fall both ways.
I’ve heard stories about people breaking up for the dumbest shit, like one partner getting a new job in a town about an hour or two away. And I’ve heard stories about couples who kept their relationship intact and thriving in spite of everything — different religions and worldviews, contrasting philosophies around raising kids, long-distance, mental illnesses, etc.
Accept the fact that your relationship, while it may be all honeycombs and silly frogs now, may not stay the same way after 3,5 or 10 years. Maybe you’ll find yourself growing in the same direction as your partner. Maybe you won’t.
We could even argue that love changes. The joy and benefits of love in the fifth week of a relationships are far different than those after the fifth year or decade.
Relationships change, for better or worse. And both options are okay.
4. Relationships Cause Dependency
A lot of people have pretty skewed perspectives on attachment. They assume that they can and should control their emotional needs and not get attached to anyone. In fact, a lot of those people equate attachment with neediness.
This is just plain wrong.
Our brain will inevitably become wired to seek the support of our partner by ensuring the partner’s psychological and physical proximity. If they ever fail to reassure us, we are programmed to continue our attempts to achieve closeness until they do.
This quirk is absolutely no reason to feel alarmed. You’re not needy for wanting closeness with your partner. You’re simply human.
Attachment theory proves this. To paraphrase Amir Levine, the author of Attached:
People are only as needy as their unmet needs. When their emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, they usually turn their attention outward. This is sometimes referred to in attachment literature as the “dependency paradox”: The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.
So, if you want to take the road to independence and happiness in your relationship, find the right person to depend on and travel down it with that person.
5. Relationships bring perpetual mood swings
Some days, you’ll be frustrated and impatient with your partner. Other days you’ll radiate love, patience, and appreciation for them.
Some days you’re going to wish to try out new relationships. Other days you’ll be confident that your partner is the person you’ll be with forever.
Some days your head will be strewn with insecurities that lead to needy tendencies, which then sabotage your relationship. Other days, you’ll feel as if you have little to no insecurities. You just won’t give a fuck.
Some days you’ll want to fuck your partner’s intestines out. Other days, you’ll have no interest in seeing them naked.
These fluctuations in moods and attraction are bound to happen, especially after the Honeymoon period. In fact, after that period, emotional fluctuations become a recurring prospect. And that’s okay.
Think of yourself as a surfer, and think of these fluctuations as the waves — some are small and innocent; others are large and menacing. Your objective is to ride them well. Ride them well.
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