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.
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.
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.