Marriage, or at least a long term committed relationship, is something most people to aspire to.
Having that ‘special someone’ to share our lives with is an inexplicable human desire. But it can also be a trap for the unwary if not expectations are not realistic.
There are lots of things that contribute to a healthy relationship. However there are lots of threats too. There are the obvious ones such as financial stress, infidelity and mental or physical illness.
However, there are some more subversive threats too:
1. Expecting your partner to be responsible for your happiness.
Happiness is a strange intangible thing. It is also something that only we can be responsible for. Obviously if being with your partner makes you unhappy, that is a problem that needs to be addressed as there will be underlying issues. However, we should never expect another person to keep us happy. Having your own interests, friends and goals is a great way of being responsible for your own happiness.
2. Expecting your partner to always be the same.
People change and grow. It is unreasonable to expect someone to be the exact same person after many years. Our life experiences shape and change us. The secret is to grow together in a relationship and continue to work on loving each other as you evolve.
3. Expecting your partner to change.
While people do change and grow, we can never predict how. Expecting someone to change in a way that suits us is unreasonable and unfair. Don’t commit to be with someone knowing they have a habit or trait you can’t stand but hope they will change. If your partner is a slob and you are a neat freak, you need to decide whether you can live with that. Don’t live in the hope they will see the light and change their ways. Chances are you will be disappointed and it will be an ongoing source of conflict.
4. Unequal power balance.
If your relationship had a “top dog”, chances are there will always be underlying resentment. A healthy relationship has an equal power balance, with mutual respect for each other’s opinions and contributions to the union. Relationships thrive on open communication and problem solving. If you spend your relationship keeping score or feeling like you are an unequal partner, there will always be conflict.
5. Life is hard and so is sharing your life with someone.
Expecting a life of eternal loved up bliss is unrealistic. Life throws us so many challenges. It will throw our partner challenges, too. There will be times you face these challenges together and work well as a team. There will be times when these challenges test your relationship and make you question who you are and who you want to be (see point 2 above). It is also perfectly normal to not like your partner at times! Living day in and day out with the same person is not easy. There will times when you wake up and think “Oh not you again!”. After all, everyone needs their space. The strength of your relationship will determine how well you can overcome these periods.
Long-term relationships can be hard and complicated and messy. But so can life. Nurturing the connection you have, communicating well and keeping expectations realistic are all part of maintaining a good relationship.