Five Innate Truths About Relationships

After much thought and debate I have concluded five innate truths about relationships; nothing is as simple as it seems and you will work harder than you ever imagined.

Truth number one: Instinctually we as humans suffer that gnarling and plaguing question, “Is the grass greener somewhere else?”

Over the years one comes to realize that we as individuals evolve as the situations in our lives change. Work, stress, bills, job relocations, children and even the merging of families can pull a couple in opposite directions. How you as a couple and as individuals choose to deal with these stressors will often determine the overall outcome of your relationship.

Within my own experience we stopped talking to each other and both of us began looking outside of our relationship to find the things we felt were lacking from each other. I would not say that I found the old adage to be true that the grass was in fact greener, but more so if we had both communicated our needs more effectively the outcome would have been much different.

Truth number two: Getting your way is usually not as important as finding a way to work together.

As a person who loves to debate and push for "truths" I very well may have pushed him over the edge one too many times. My deepest flaw is I can't leave things be. Does this equate to trying to get my way all the time? I want to know the truth no matter how badly it may sting. I want someone to just be open and free with what is really going through their mind.

Perhaps my flaw is that I do not want to stop until I feel like everything is said. As for him he preferred to give me my way and walk away to avoid the conflict which only infuriated me to new heights.

I did not want to be placated or “get my way”. I wanted to have a discussion that resulted in a conclusion that worked for both of us. He always made me feel like I bullied him into caving when sometimes I just wanted him to tell me NO!

Truth number three: A great marriage or partnership does not mean there will be NO conflict; it simply means a couple keeps trying to get it right.

When people say, "Marriage takes work," you assume "work" means being patient when he forgets to put down the toilet seat. In your naivete, you think that you will struggle to accommodate some annoying habit, when the reality is there is so much more you will have to work at than just accepting a bad habit.

I believe he often thought that a good relationship, a great marriage meant not fighting with me at all. Maybe the fight that seemed to erupt over the overflowing garbage can is really about feelings of under appreciation. When you fight, you don't just raise your voices; you raise real, sometimes buried, issues that challenge you to come to more clear understandings.

Truth number four: You will sometimes go to bed mad (and maybe even wake up madder).

A break in the action will help you figure out whether you are angry, hurt, or both. Giving yourself a little breather gives you time to pinpoint the exact source of your anger or hurt. For me it was the lack of appreciation that started to push me over the edge.

The "needs" you have at the beginning of your relationship will change the longer you are together and progress as a couple. What I "need(ed)" as a newlywed, young and naive will be different then what I need ten years into it with two kids, a mortgage, and a plate full of responsibilities.

Bringing me flowers when I was twenty-one may have fulfilled a need I had then, but putting the dishes away ten years into it may equate to the same kind of euphoria that bringing me flowers did. To me putting the dishes away (without my asking) may give me the extra ten minutes I need to finish something else, which shows you understand how pressed I feel for time. It shows in such a small way that you still "get me", you can read my needs before I even voice them, or perhaps care what my needs may be enough to take action without being asked.

Truth number five: You will realize that you can only change yourself.

Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness to change anything can sometimes feel overwhelming. When do we say enough is enough? When do we decide that there is no going back? That it is no longer enough to sustain us.

When we exist in just co-existence we mirror the actions of being a couple, but it isn't the same as being in a connected relationship where each person is giving and taking equally. You are roommates within the same space. You are sharing your space and time but you are not really there connecting, interfacing on an intimate level. It isn't enough to want the best for your partner. It is being invested in the outcome, to desire them and be joined. You want your partner to be able to relate to you, and you to them.

If you aren't getting or giving all you have to make the relationship balanced then what else is left to give? Neither person is happy. Both people are struggling with feeling stuck. Caught in a time warp between what they have, what they want, what they need, and eventually something has to give. No one person can make the whole relationship work. The most basic truth is that a relationship that works means both people must be equally committed.

Is there any surefire recipe for a successful relationship? Nope; hard work, persistence, love, and a whole lot of other stuff. Sometimes even when you do everything right, it can still be all wrong.


cjn said...

WOW!! What an insightful and deeply thought out piece of writing!! You have once again amazed me with the insight you have into relationships and your willingness to put your own experience into the equation for example.

I love the way you have written this and feel like you made many strong, valid points. Some of your ideas should be published in a pre-martial counseling manual. I believe so many people go into marriage with a false sense of reality, expecting love and bliss for the rest of their lives, when in reality marriage is messy, difficult and tiring. All of that being said, through all of the effort, it can be the most worthwhile experience two people will ever share.

I know my first marriage was completely different than my current marriage. My expectations on my second husband are not so unrealistic, my realization that he is a person just like me who has flaws and his realizing that I am a full-time working mother and need him to step up, without me making it a big deal of it.

Marriage has so much that needs to be put into it, but so much more can come out of it, if it is right and if both people are on the same page.

I really loved this piece and appreciated the way it allowed me to reflect on my own relationship and put myself in the shoes of your ideas… You are amazing!!

Anonymous said...

This was a great read! You have a good deal of insight and maturity. Many things you wrote resonated with me on various levels.

On wondering whether the grass is greener somewhere else, it's easy to pose ourselves this question and I would argue that it's not a bad thing. After all, what we feel we deserve is tied to comparing what we're getting with what others are getting. It is healthy to check whether you're getting everything you can get. It's kind of sad but it is a human trait to try to do as little as you can get away with. I think it's true whether we're talking chores or emotions. In an ideal world everybody would always give their all and be 100% supportive and loving, but the reality is we're not always that way. And that's OK, nobody is perfect. I don't expect perfection but I expect honesty and integrity. If the toilet seat up pisses you off, say this won't fly for you. Too often couples argue by bickering at each other instead of putting their cards down.

On the importance of finding a way to work together, I think this is a fine line. On some issues not getting our way might be a deal breaker, and it's primordial that we say so. But recognizing that something is a deal breaker instead of a mere annoyance is the hard part. It takes honesty with ourselves and knowledge of ourselves. I think what you say also speaks to the importance of knowing where our partner stands. This is very important to me. I need to know where She stands and I need Her to know where I stand. Knowing this, we can work together. If we don't know what we're all about then we're just guessing.

On conflicts being a part of relationships, I totally agree. Expecting to live with someone for the rest of your life without ever disagreeing is silly. It's normal to have ups and downs. Sometimes we're happy, sometimes we're sad, sometimes we're any one of the shades in between. The same goes for a relationship. There is nothing wrong with arguing, as long as we don't put each other down and that we're honest with ourselves on how we feel about the issue at hand.

On going to bed mad, that's a tough one for me. Instinctively I just really dislike being in bed upset, but what you say makes sense and I like this new perspective on it. You do mention the flowers versus dishes thing, and on that I cannot comprehend in 2010 that a man lets his wife do all the cooking and cleaning. Shouldn't this be normal and expected? As a fully functioning adult, I should be expected to be able to do my laundry and clean my dishes, just like I brush my teeth and read to the kids. Bringing flowers is special. Whatever replaces that ten years into the relationship should be along the lines of preparing and cleaning the whole meal instead of doing half. It shouldn't be doing half or all instead of doing nothing.

On having the power to change yourself, it's dangerous to live in symbiose with one another. Completing each other is romantic, but in the long run this can create a dependence that creates friction. As paradoxical as it sounds, acting like a fully functionining and independent adult is the best thing we can do for our relationship. The less weight our partner is carrying for us, the more freedom they have to move, change and evolve, and the more opportunities we have to fall in love with them all over again.

Calliope said...

Fruit Taster,

I am honnered at such a long thought out reply. I have enjoyed your blog as well as your wife's. Looking forward to more of your thoughts. I also won't be so stingy with my thoughts on yours. I got a wild hair the other night when I replied to yours since I have been reading it for awhile ;)

Big Geek said...

wow reading your words, I feel like a five year old attending a Harvard Lecture about relationships.