We’ve all heard the cliché phrase, “Relationships are hard work,” or some variant. I think this should be explained further, in a way most people don’t seem to fully grasp. The full scope of why relationships always require hard work in order to last seems to be realized by only a few. I myself didn’t understand it like this until just a couple months ago.
We want, and even need, our partners to be everything.
By ‘everything’ I mean: We expect our partners to be good looking, and have a great personality, and have impressive skills/talents, and have a lot in common with us, and agree with us on most things, and be good in bed, and only make good decisions, and get along well with the people we’re close to, and never forget things, and be a good parent (if you have kids at all), and understand our thoughts and feelings, and be so interesting that we don’t get bored with them decades down the road.
Any one of those things – literally any single one of those things – is either impossible in the first place, or won’t be around forever. Take the first thing: being good looking. Beauty fades over time. Or how about agreeing on most things. That also can fade over time, as new experiences give us new insights. Take any one of the things listed in the previous paragraph and it’d be easy to explain how that thing is either impossible or likely won’t last forever if it is there. And yet we want all these things from our partners? Even if we don’t expect them, we still want them.
In any relationship, sometime down the road, you will inevitably realize that your partner isn’t as perfect as you thought when you were still in your honeymoon phase, as they call it. Their imperfections will stand out to you immensely. You will realize they are either deficient or completely lacking at least one of those things I listed. And even if they have any or all of those things, the odds of those traits lasting for decades is slim. For example, an impressive skill, like surfing or playing guitar, could be completely ruined by a car accident, a disease, or time itself.
Relationships take a lot of work to last because we have so many boxes to check, and it’s outright impossible to check all of them. Not to mention, in addition to the things I listed, we expect partners to be, well, partners, in everything. A parenting partner, a business partner (sometimes), a partner in caretaking for your home and property, a partner in whatever mutual hobbies you both have. We expect our partners to be a thousand different things all at the same time. That’s asking a lot, even if it were possible.
Relationships require a tremendous amount of compromise. If you’re not willing to overlook a multitude of flaws (and everyone has a multitude of flaws), then you shouldn’t be in relationships at all. You will, guaranteed, have to find more things to compromise on than things you will already have in common. Also, never go into a relationship expecting any red flags or extreme flaws to go away. Never expect your partner to change something drastic that you absolutely need them to change, ever. For better or worse, people never change. If something is a deal-breaker, then break the deal, don’t wait.
The longest relationships don’t last simply because, “Oh lucky them. They both found their ‘one.’” Yeah, it doesn’t work that way. Being in a relationship is essentially being in a job, at least for the first decade or so. You are a collection of pieces, your partner is a collection of pieces, and it takes years and years just for you both to find a way to assemble those pieces, together, correctly. Yes, I am saying the first era of all relationships is assembling the relationship itself.
Nobody falls in love, they build it. The chemical rush of ‘new and exciting’ will fade, and that’s when the hard work begins.
This is why, when I was married, whenever someone in my wife’s family said we got married too soon, I just wanted to rip my hair out. It’s never too early to commit. There is always work to be done. You don’t have years and years together first and then choose to commit. That doesn’t even make sense. If you love someone, it shouldn’t be a game. This is why I hate the mere idea of dating longer than a month. Seriously. I used to believe in dating long-term first, and hell, I even still believed it was a good idea even after I got married without dating a long time.
My first girlfriend and I were together on and off from age 13 to 19. The primary reason we didn’t get married is because for most of that time, we physically couldn’t. But clearly she was more interested in dating than committing, and so was my second long-term girlfriend, and so was my wife. Dating is an awful idea. You should date with the intention of getting married. If you have the same values, have similar (or compatible) goals, and you love each other, it’s actually a stupid idea to drag it out and drag it out. You’re wasting time. The more time you waste, the more appealing it sounds to replace your boyfriend/girlfriend with a better model.
This is why most relationships fail now. This is why people who never marry also never stay together forever. It’s always going to be hard work no matter how long you ‘wait to commit.’ Look, either commit or don’t. Plain and simple. Whether you wait six months or 20 years, it’s going to be hard work. Besides, if you last 20 years before deciding to get married (which doesn’t even happen), then why the hell didn’t you get married already??
No relationship just simply ‘works’ on its own. It is always a choice. Always. You choose to make it work, or you choose not to. To make it work, you HAVE to compromise, properly communicate, and adapt. In other words, have some humility. Give yourself, or live for yourself.
Think about what it means to give yourself to another. Really, really think about what that means.
Here and now, I’m going to prove it can always work if you choose to make it work:
I believe some things are never permitted in any kind of relationship. Violence and infidelity are, as I describe, One strike and you’re out. Men AND women can be violent and cheat, and it’s never okay for either. Yet still, even with those things going on, I know of one case where the couple still decided to make it work, and it eventually did.
My second long-term relationship was with someone whose family technically was always together, but it was still as broken as can be. She came from parents who had the worst kind of relationship. Her father frequently, and I mean frequently, cheated on her mother. He also beat her mother, and all his kids. He was a heavy drinker, a heavy smoker, and he kicked out her two older siblings when they were 16 years old. The guy was a piece of shit by anyone’s definition. Her mother never left him, though. Why? I have no idea. Her mother should have left him early on, with the kids. (A situation where ‘taking the kids’ would be perfectly justified and recommended.) But, she didn’t leave, ever.
Sometime after their kids grew up, her father changed. She couldn’t explain how. Maybe even the guy himself didn’t know. Still, he changed. He started getting along great with his wife, and with his kids. He stopped smoking, and if I remember correctly, he also stopped drinking. I had a couple of conversations with her father when I was in that relationship, and the guy didn’t seem all that bad. I was actually surprised to hear stories of him being an abusive, cheating drunk. He was very easy to warm up to. I don’t think he and his wife lived together anymore (I’m not sure), but they were still married, for sure, and I still saw them together frequently. Her mother seemed to have healed in every way from what I saw.
In the end, even that relationship worked. One that should have ended so, so long ago. So, when I say any relationship can work if both parties choose to, I really fucking mean it. Even relationships that morally and logically should have ended, with someone getting arrested and never seeing their kids again… Even then.
Also, I’ve heard of many marriages lasting for a lifetime from couples who only knew each other for half a year before the big day. I was once a caregiver to a wonderful woman we called Mow, and she and her husband were married 55 years, and they got married just three months after they first met. Not three months of dating, it was three months after they first met! Ben Shapiro, a man I respect, has been married for 11 years, and he and his wife got married after having first met only a few months before. Dragging out the dating era doesn’t guarantee anything, it’s CHOICE. It’s COMMITMENT. That’s it.
It’s hard work. It’s always hard work. Couples have countless obstacles to overcome just with each other, no matter what kind of personality they each have. And those are just obstacles from each other, not to mention obstacles from day-to-day life. Humility and commitment combined can make any relationship work.