Relationships can be tough to navigate. It doesn’t help that movies, TV shows, and romance novels fog our minds about the reality of love and relationships. Women are especially taught from a young age to find a perfect “Prince Charming,” which is not only unrealistic, but damaging to her chances of ever being happy or satisfied in love and life. Worse, magazines that are supposed to be for women perpetuate these falsehoods even further. Anyone who has been in a successful relationship and has any grasp on reality will tell you that it’s a combination of traits -often adverse ones we don’t address- that equates to health and happiness in love. Here are a few of them.
You’re Not Perfect and Neither Is Your Partner
You’re both going to be annoying and make mistakes. It’s called being human. If someone’s every quirk gets under your skin and you are constantly nit-picking at your partner, take a look in the mirror. You are probably annoying in your own ways too. The difference between a successful and unsuccessful couple is the ability to love someone despite their faults -and to recognize your own!
Lighten Up + Pick Your Battles
Relax. The fact of the matter is that we’re all just clusters of cells running around on this planet trying to figure out our purpose. As humans we have a tendency to over-dramatize just about everything. If you really think about, is that pair of socks that he leaves lying on the floor really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things? The answer is no, it’s not. Seriously, who cares? It’s one thing to get upset because he missed the birth of your first born, it’s an entirely other issue if you get pissed every time he leaves the cap off the toothpaste. Pick your battles. Know when something is worth getting upset about.
Relationships Should Be Fun
If you’re not regularly enjoying each other, what’s the point? While it’s not always going to be laughter and romance, you should genuinely enjoy each others company. A couple that does not have fun together does not stay together. If you find your relationship primarily consists of arguing over bills and differences rather than enjoying each other, it’s time to rethink your partnership and make some positive changes. If you love each other, you must work on focusing on everything that is right in your relationship rather than what is wrong. Always find the time to have fun together. Even if that means scheduling a date night every week.
Your Partner Is Not Responsible for Your Happiness
You know those movies that sell you the idea that your partner is supposed to complete you? Yea, they LIED. Those plots are created to sell movie tickets -not reality. The fact of the matter is that the healthiest relationships come from individuals who are partners, no dependents. Maintaining your own sense of self, independence, and self-fulfillment is crucial to successful relationships. Depending on someone to make you happy instead of finding happiness within yourself will only lead to misery. Maintain your own life, friends, and hobbies. Attaching your happiness and everything in your life to your partner is unhealthy and will only lead your partner to feeling smothered and overwhelmed.
It’s Not All Romance & Fireworks
For anyone who has ever been in a long term relationship, you know it’s not all fireworks and romance. In fact, a lot of the time it’s gas after heavy meals, Netflix marathons, and I’m “too tired to muster up the energy for sex.” After the honeymoon period ends (usually 6 months to 1 year) you settle in with your partner and all your quirks (and bodily functions) are out on the table. If you can’t handle the idea that yes, your partner poos and has bad breath in the morning -like every other human being on the planet- you’re living in fantasy land. Reality is not airbrushed and does not always maintain six pack abs. Your partner will be stressed, sick, and gross at times, but if you love someone you’ll hold their hair back and change their bed pan until they die. That’s what love really is. Not rose petals on the bed and diamond jewelry all the time!
You Both Have to Compromise
Here’s thing thing: you’re not always going to get your way. And neither is your partner. You’ll both have to compromise, because that’s how life and relationships work. Searching for someone who meets every single check on your ideal partner laundry list is a mistake because NO ONE on this planet is ever going to agree with everything you do and say (unless they are a robot and/or doormat). So, if you want a real, lasting relationship, you better go into it knowing you’re going to have to make adjustments in your life -and hopefully not be resentful about it. Ideally, you’ll both find a middle ground that makes you happy. And here comes the real zinger: sometimes there isn’t a solution! Which brings us to…
Some Problems Will Never Be Solved
A huge mistake that couples make is thinking that all their problems have to be resolved. The truth is many -if not all- relationships have sore spots and issues. Working around and within those issues in the happiest way possible is the best way to handle relationship adversity. Constantly fighting over the same unresolvable issues will only tear your relationship apart. For example, if one of you loves to go out often and the other does not, those are personality differences that neither one of you can change without becoming resentful. The best way to handle these types of issues is to prioritize happiness over being “right” and not give the problems power. If your partner is more happy going out and you’re more happy staying in, by all means you should both be able to do your own thing separately and be happy without getting upset at the other person for not having your preferences. Assuming you truly love someone, you want them to be happy, right? So why would you stop them from doing the things that make them happy? You don’t. You have to make a decision to not let unresolvable issues destroy your relationship. The world is not perfect and we can’t solve every issue -the same applies to your relationship. (Sidenote: However, I want to say this does NOT apply to abusive situations -verbal, physical, and financial abuse is NEVER acceptable and you should never tolerate it.)
Sex Comes and Goes
Every time I read an article about frequency of sex in relationships, I cringe. The reality is that all couples have different sexual preferences and frequencies. It’s not a “one size fits all” situation, so relying on an article that says you should be having x amount of sex x times per week is ridiculous. In most relationships, sex is cyclical. Sometimes there’s more, sometimes there’s less. It all depends on the relationship. Health issues, stress, lack of time, and children can all cause sexual frequency to fluctuate -this doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t love you or isn’t attracted to you. Sex is only one component of a happy relationship. On the other hand, if you’re totally sexually incompatible you may have a real uphill battle to face. True intimacy is being able to discuss sexual issues openly and freely with your partner. Talk to them. Don’t rely on other people’s opinions to tell you how much sex you should be having.
Love is a Conscious Effort
Being in a relationship is a choice. At the end of the day, we choose to continue to give our relationships love and effort. Expecting that love maintains itself is silly. Relationships take work. It’s easy to give up when problems arise, but real love is taking the sour with the sweet. You can jump from partner to partner looking for perfection that doesn’t exist or you can accept that we’re all flawed and to love someone is to love them fully -flaws and all.
Jealousy Destroys Love
If you can’t trust your partner around others, why are you with them in the first place? Relationships are built on trust. You should be able to trust your partner with your heart. If you freak out every time someone gets near your partner, you need to handle your jealousy issues instead of taking them out on your significant other. If someone is going to cheat, they’re going to cheat. No amount of email hacking or jealous sideeye is going to stop them from doing that. That is a personality flaw and lack of integrity that no amount of snooping and self-torture can fix. Why drive yourself crazy? Trust that your partner loves you and will be faithful until proven otherwise.
You Can’t Change Your Partner
You can talk to your partner, express your concerns, and let your needs be known, but understand you can not force someone to be someone they are not. In fact, the more you force them, the more likely they’re going to do the opposite and resent you. Let your partner be themselves. If who they are is unbearable to you, there’s only one thing to do and that is to leave. Nagging and trying to mold someone into your “ideal” idea of who they should be is a recipe for disaster. Either accept them or move on.