It’s common to have unrealistic and romantic ideas about love, relationships, and marriage. We grow up with a solid diet of fairytales and love stories. Nobody tells you how much work it is to love someone full-time, 24-7, seven days a week—really love someone.
After the honeymoon wears off, it hits you—sometimes gradually, other times suddenly like a ton of bricks. You’re living day-to-day with the quirks of your partner and juggling all the pressures of life and work. Then, one day, you have this pit in our stomach and dare to wonder if you married the wrong person. Relationship shouldn’t be this hard, right? We shouldn’t have to give up so much to please them! Or you catch yourself wondering if they’re ever going to grow up.
It’s true. Creating a healthy, mature, fun, and loving relationship requires WAY MORE than what we ever imagined. We tie the knot and then what?
What Were You Taught About Love?
Did mom teach you how to resolve conflicts respectfully? Were you told that it’s worth being very uncomfortable long enough to achieve the sweetness of understanding and closeness?
Did dad talk about the depth of trust and richness born of deep sharing, instead of shutting down, settling, arguing, or swallowing your opinions to appease your partner?
Or did either of your parents happen to mention how important it was to allow each other the fresh air of autonomy, but not so much separateness that the relationship collapses into selfishness?
What about Aunt Betsy or Uncle Bob? Did they share how much love and patience are required to accept your partner with all of their human flaws while also holding them accountable to be better?
And lastly, but even more importantly, many couples enter marriage without understanding how their past experiences, pain, and unresolved emotions can come gushing out like a geyser clobbering their partner unexpectedly—or getting clobbered themselves.
Most couples I work with admit to never having learned these things until they were hurting or on the verge of divorce. Why not!? Why do we enter a love relationship or marriage with half a deck of cards? Our culture expects success without giving men and women even basic skills to be effective.
Of course, parents do their best to raise their children, but you can’t teach what you don’t know. Too many couples struggle to make things work with an empty toolbox. Thus, the travesty of high divorce rates, disillusioned couples, and heaps of blended families and children without models of love and respect. Not because of a lack of love, but because love requires skill. And love is inconvenient and sometimes downright hard.
Related reading: Masters of Love
When the Honeymoon Is Over
After a while of being together, appreciation can recede. The feel-good emotions can be crowded out by exasperation, stress, and criticism. The very same person with the very same traits that we adored is now impossible and what we see is an imperfect human.
Our partner keeps us awake with their snoring, farts at inappropriate times crushing romantic moments, forgets important dates, and sleeps through a crying baby without offering even the slightest bit of support or comfort. The person you once admired for being relaxed and laid back is now a daily annoyance because they don’t get things done and rarely finish projects. You are in disbelief at the utter lack of motivation they can muster (or their unwavering drive and the inability to relax).
Let’s take another example. The one quality you loved most about your partner was how he or she was present, easy-going, and kind. Hard to believe that these remarkable traits can sour love. However, this person can also be chronically late, and frustration growls at their regular tardiness. Why are they so late, so often? Because they’re “being present” by conversing with a friend they ran into at the grocery store or being kind to a co-worker who needed to unload as they left work. Of course, they couldn’t say no—it wouldn’t be kind.
Perhaps, it was the serious, analytical, and practical nature that attracted you. You always felt like you were a little too whimsical and you liked how they helped ground you. Now, they're negative, continually pointing out what’s wrong, analyze everything to death, and take forever to make decisions—and you’re over it!
Or you loved how he or she was the life of the party, but now you just want someone to show up and be responsible.
With all their partner’s faults magnified, couples begin to screen out the good. The spotlight is on the crumbs on the kitchen counter, the dishes in the sink, the dirty clothes scattered in the bedroom, the undone projects, or the whiskers embellishing a freshly cleaned bathroom sink. Everywhere you look, something is glaring at you and telling you that you just might have made a big mistake. It’s not Cinderella or Prince Charming standing in front of you anymore. What do you do?
Reload your sense of humor and prepare for acting from a fresh, new perspective!
Take a big, deep breath. Your partner is still the person you married. You’ve just been looking at them through emotions that distort what you see. Once the foundation of trust strengthens in a relationship, it’s time to reconcile the unresolved pain or incomplete stories living within us. Parts of us need to grow up. Your partner is your mirror.
Now an invitation is glaring at you: the request to love even when it’s inconvenient. Care when you don’t feel like it. Resolve a disagreement when you want to go to bed or stubbornly be right. Be patient when your partner is running late or working through dinner. Flex gratitude when you need to change diapers and you'd rather be skiing on fresh snow at the slopes. Listen even when uninterested. Let go of perfection and acknowledge that every person, including your partner, is human.
Roll up your sleeves and become the person you want your partner to be. If you want kindness, be kind. If you want acceptance, accept them unconditionally. If you want a good listener, listen attentively. If you want more adventure, plan for it! You create the quality of your relationship.
And sometimes love is inconvenient!
Looking for premarital coaching? Or having a challenge in your marriage? If you'd like support for your relationship, call us at Heartmanity 406-577-2100 or reach out for a free Discovery Session to learn valuable keys for a successful marriage.