Why Do Relationships Have To Be So Hard?

You meet your soulmate, fall in love, and live happily ever after.

Yeah, in your dreams.

Real relationships are never all cute smiles, warm hugs, and sweet thoughts.

Real relationships can sometimes be hard work; emotionally hard, mentally hard, even physically hard.

Why do they have to be this way? Why can’t we enjoy the ecstatic bliss of a Hollywood ending?

There are many reasons.

Relationships are hard because…

You Have To Make Decisions As A Unit

A single person backpacking their way around the world only has to think about themselves. They can choose their own route, stop off at whatever destinations and sights they like, and spend as long as they want in one place.

Add a partner into the mix and suddenly you have to agree on where to go, what to see, what to eat, how long to stay, and a whole host of other things.

Real life is just like that backpacking trip, only you have to form some sort of cohesive plan about what path you are going to take together in life.

Do you want to get married? Do you want kids? How many? Where should you live? What should you spend your weekends doing? How should you spend your money? How much should you save?

And on and on it goes.

You are no longer free to do as you wish all the time. Some decisions will have to be taken together.

And this can be difficult when you’re so used to doing as you please. It often leads to compromise, it can lead to arguments, and it may lead to resentment when you don’t get things exactly as you’d like.

It can feel as though your life is being constrained, especially if you are a free-spirited individual who has so far enjoyed total autonomy.

This is why some people find it so difficult to transition from singleton to couple.

Relationships are hard because…

You Have To Think About Someone Else

Your world doubles in size when you enter a relationship. You can no longer afford to only consider your life, your thoughts, your feelings, your wants and desires.

You have to think about your partner’s too. You have to be conscious of them, their feelings, their worries, their wishes, their opinions.

You have to remember things about them so that you can act in ways to bring you both peace and happiness.

Was their favorite ice cream flavor mint choc chip or chocolate fudge brownie? (If in doubt, buy both.)

Did they say they wanted to see the latest Ryan Reynolds movie? When and where is it showing? Can you buy tickets for the opening night?

Are there any sad anniversaries that are important to them such as the death of a loved one?

Relationships are one of the best memory training tools available because you have to listen carefully to what your partner says so that they feel heard and valued.

This puts pressure on you to remember all these details so that you don’t put your foot in it and say or do something that would hurt them in any way.

This can be a bigger challenge for some people than others and may lead to a feeling of overwhelm, especially in the early months when you’re getting to know each other.

You also have to act in a way that respects your partner and your relationship.

You can’t just go for drinks after work without at least consulting with them first.

You can’t make big purchases without getting their agreement/blessing (assuming you pool your money).

You can’t behave in an inappropriate way around their family and not expect it to affect how they feel.

Again, this comes back to the choices you make and the need to consider your partner when you make them.

Relationships are hard because…

They Don’t Always Meet Your Expectations

You may believe that the right relationship should be easy; that it will solve all your problems; that it will bring you the happiness you’ve been searching for.

Only, it isn’t easy, it won’t solve all your problems, and it won’t bring instant and everlasting happiness.

Relationships are often difficult by our own making because we enter them expecting miracles and not expecting to have to work at them.

All relationships need care and attention in order for them to grow into something healthy and long-lasting.

And while a partner can be a good source of support when you are struggling, they cannot be the one to carry your burdens.

This can be hard for you to accept because you’ve been blinded by fairy tale love stories and the picture perfect images of harmony on social media.

But fairy tales are exactly that and you are not privy to the work and struggles that go into every relationship you see around you.

If you have unrealistic expectations of your relationship, you make it harder for yourself to be happy in it.

Relationships are hard because…

People Come With Baggage

You have a past. Guess what? So does everyone else and so does your partner.

And certain things from our pasts still have an emotional impact on us today.

This can be a problem for you because these are events that took place before you were on the scene. You have no first hand experience of them.

And so it can be challenging for you to truly understand why they still hold such sway over your partner today.

At times, their behavior may seem quite irrational and go against their usual character. It can leave you feeling confused and unable to help.

You may say or do the wrong thing because you aren’t fully aware of the root cause of the change you are witnessing.

Even if you have discussed the issues that have triggered these feelings in your partner, your understanding may be limited to a rational, factual point of view.

You won’t be able to comprehend your partner’s thoughts and emotions because you haven’t lived through their experiences.

Whether your partner suffered childhood abuse, had an ex who was unfaithful, or was involved in some traumatic event like a car accident or terrorist attack, being told about it isn’t the same as living it.

And then there are the more practical forms of baggage such as children from a past relationship, financial problems such as debt, and health issues (though all of these things have an emotional impact too).

So when you join together with another human being to form a partnership, you have to accept that their past is coming with them, just as your past is coming with you.

You hold your partner’s hand with one hand and carry your baggage in the other.

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Relationships are hard because…

We All Need Alone Time

Humans are social creatures, but there comes a point when all of us need to head off into a solitary wilderness (metaphorically speaking) and be with ourselves. Alone.

Only, when a relationship reaches a certain stage, this alone time becomes more limited.

You may live with your partner and spend most of your free time with them. Withdrawing for a bit of peace and quiet is not so easy.

Not only is it physically more difficult because of sheer proximity to one another, but your partner may not need as much alone time as you, or vice versa.

If they want to be with you, but you’d prefer to be by yourself, you’re faced with a dilemma: surrender your alone time or risk upsetting your loved one.

Neither option is very appealing, which is why this is yet another reason relationships can be difficult at times.

The longer you go without extended solitary periods, the greater the chance that you’ll become weary of the company your partner provides and the more likely you are to find them irritating.

You may even begin to resent them for taking your free time away.

Introverts find this a particular struggle because they need time and space to themselves in order to gather their thoughts, find their center, and recharge their batteries.

Without it, they become mentally and emotionally depleted, which puts further stress and strain on the relationship.

Relationships are hard because…

You Have To Reveal Your Vulnerability

For much of your life, you’ll hide your concerns, your anxieties, and fears from other people.

Your colleagues, your friends, and even your family may not know what is going on inside that head of yours (depending on what sort of relationships you have with these people).

But a healthy relationship requires more openness, more vulnerability than you’re used to.

Given enough time for the relationship to fully develop, your partner will likely become the person you share the most with.

You’ll share your feelings, you’ll share your thoughts, you’ll share your dreams and your fears and your worries and your insecurities.

And being this open with another person is not always easy. The very word ‘vulnerability’ indicates that you are exposing yourself to potential hurt and pain.

You might not receive the response you’d like. You may spill your guts out and your partner may stare blankly at you, not knowing what to say or do.

Many people lack the emotional intelligence to understand what you need from them in these situations. It’s not their fault, but you will feel let down, upset, and even angry.

And then there’s the flip side. You may want your partner to be more open and vulnerable, to share their inner workings with you, but they may not be so willing.

An imbalance of this kind can be challenging at the best of times. It can be a barrier to communication and it can lead to any number of problems.

You may (rightly or wrongly) believe they are concealing something from you. Trust issues can arise on both sides. A lack of openness can drive a wedge between two people.

So, whether you show your vulnerabilities or you hide them, the result won’t be a walk in the park.

Relationships are hard because…

They’re Not New And Exciting Forever

The first sparks of a new relationship bring excitement, butterflies, and the anticipation that you’ve finally found your one true love and that life will be better from now on.

You breathe in new air, you see things through different eyes, and you both absorb and radiate a different energy.

Only, this doesn’t last.

Things become familiar, the norm, even repetitive. That’s just the natural evolution of any serious relationship.

You soon realize that maintaining that bond of affection requires effort and energy. You have to work at a relationship.

All of the previous points – from thinking of the other person to dealing with baggage – require a sustained effort to grow both as individuals and as a partnership.

Some couples find it easier than others, but all need that care and attention in order to thrive.

Sooner or later disagreement, dissent, and disappointment will emerge. You may not want them or even expect them, but no relationship is without its ups and downs.

The key is to address and deal with the downs, support each other when life throws a spanner into the works, and relish and maximize the ups.

Relationships are hard because…

You Choose Them

Love is both a feeling and a choice. When you enter into a relationship with somebody, you are choosing them as your partner in life (or, at least, that’s the plan).

But as with any choice, elements of doubt can creep in.

Is this person right for you? Do you see yourself together for the rest of your life? Do you even want to settle down right now? Is there someone “better” out there for you?

You won’t have all the answers to these questions and this scares you.

Uncertainty in relationships is almost universal at some point in time. Perhaps it happens during those first few weeks and months of dating, or after the honeymoon period ends and you begin to settle down into a routine, or even after years of being together.

When you do hit bumps in the road, you’re faced with another choice: do you end the relationship and go your separate ways, or do you double down and put your all into getting through this rough patch?

Facing these sorts of forks in the road is difficult. Knowing that your life can change one way or another based upon your decision is a daunting prospect. It can be stressful and mentally draining to go over things in your head again and again.

It’s not like your family where you can’t choose them, and it’s not like your friends where you can have many, you have to be ready to commit to this other person and mean it.

Relationships are hard, but…

There’s Hard, And There’s “Hard”

However you discovered this article, perhaps you had hoped that it would say the right relationship won’t be hard. That when you find the right person, things will be easy.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. While even the very best relationships can be challenging at times, they are also packed full of laughter and joy and good times.

And this is the difference between a hard relationship in the sense that it can be a struggle and a hard relationship where it is always a struggle.

If you find that most days bring more difficulty and friction than they do love and unity, it is not unreasonable to question the relationship you’re in.

You should never give up easily on a relationship that you have poured your heart and soul into, but neither should you persevere in one that has consistently brought you heartache and stress over a long period of time.

In other words, if there is the chance that things could get back to a point where joy and peace rule in your relationship, fight for it.

If you no longer see that as a possibility or a hope, or if you believe you are incompatible with your partner, it’s okay to end it.

There’s hard and there’s “hard” and if your relationship falls into the latter, you’re right to be concerned.

A good, healthy relationship should give you a net gain; it should give more to you than it takes from you; the good times should vastly outweigh the bad.

That’s worth remembering the next time you complain that your relationship is hard work.

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