Relationships are hard work.
It's not the sexy thing to say. It doesn't play into the rom-com version of relationships where you have one issue that's resolved with a pretty bow in ninety minutes. It also goes against a very popular notion that good relationships are easy.
I've heard both arguments:
1) Good relationships are easy. They won't feel like work.
2) Good relationships require work to remain good.
So which one is right? I'm not going to pretend to have some sort of expertise on the matter. My personal inclination is that both are true to a degree. All I can really speak to are my own experiences. They can be summed up as follows, with a work rating of 1-10, 1 being no work, 10 being work all the time:
- Ex-H: We started dating when I was 19, and he was the first person I ever dated, kissed, and so forth. We were full of good intentions, and I was in love with him. Ultimately, I think we married too young without getting enough experience under our respective belts. I realized after the fact that we were probably better off as really good friends for the last half of our relationship at least. Ah, the joys of hindsight. WORK RATING: 5 for me. I put in a good amount of effort, but I didn't know any better than what I had in front of me, so I didn't fight it too hard until the very end. 2 for him. He was so damn passive.
- M: He was a rebound in many ways, the exact opposite of Ex-H, and a casualty of timing. We started dating just a few months after Ex-H moved out, and it was an emotionally volatile time for both of us. That relationship relied heavily on a need for someone to save us from ourselves, and it suffered because of it. WORK RATING: 8 for me. It was either giddy good or sobbing mess bad, and more often than not, the bad outweighed the good. 5 for him because he tried, but he could step away more easily than I could.
- Angry Ex: I ignored all the red flags in the beginning, and they ended up being the same things that caused us to break up two years later. I loved him, but it was a very unhealthy relationship. I'd never felt so bad about myself as I did when I was with him, and the relationship was codependent and weird. WORK RATING: 10. It was work. From the first month to the last. I put all of my energy into making him happy, then making us okay, and nothing was left for taking care of me. 3 for him. He talked a good game on rare occasions, but never actually put the work in. The burden always fell on me to fix everything.
Now I've got a new relationship to add to the list, and we're heading towards matching and exceeding the length of the shortest of the bunch above. I'm years older and hopefully somewhat wiser, but here's my summary of this relationship: It's good, but it can be hard. It's not effortless. It's not without it's struggles. It doesn't feel awesome every second of every day of every week. But damn, I wouldn't trade it for any of those other relationships for the world. The difference is reciprocity. I would honestly say that the WORK RATING for both of us is probably a 4*, but with an asterisk to indicate that it feels like such a HEALTHY 4 comparatively. We have disagreements, mostly misunderstandings. But EVERY SINGLE TIME, we have sat down and talked through them, and come out on the other end better for it. I may have cried, we may have felt a bit lost, but we always, always come together to sort it out.
I've never had that before. The difficulties seem so much more manageable when you're not the only one working to resolve them. The misunderstandings clear up so much more quickly when you're both taking a second look.
BF and I are not perfect. We have our moments where he drives me up a wall and vice versa. But I spent ten days straight with this man on a vacation, eight of them with no one else around, and I DID NOT GET TIRED OF HIM. I was happy to see him every morning, and happy to fall asleep next to him every night.
He listens to me. I see the proof of that in our interactions after a misunderstanding, and I'd like to think he sees the same from me. We are both trying, even though we are at times woefully out of practice with relationships, and have been operating as independent creatures for a long time. It's hard to shift out of that solo position after being in it for so long! There are growing pains that crop up periodically, but we're still here. I still feel in love with him, and I still see the possibility of a future with him, but we aren't rushing anything. He makes me laugh, we have some interests in common, but not all, we like to be together, but don't need each other to survive.
In summary, this relationship is good, even when it's hard, even when it feels like I'm stretching my relationship muscles in new and unfamiliar ways. At the end of the day, I think it's a healthy relationship, and I'm grateful for that.
Maybe good relationships never feel like work. Maybe good relationships require work. I don't really know if there's a universal truth. I hear people sometimes declaring that "My significant other and I never fight". Well, I can't say that about my relationship. But I also know that for me, that means that I'm not sitting on hurt feelings or powering through lingering past offenses. Things upset me, things upset him, and we address them within a fairly timely fashion. That's us. That's what I know for my life and my relationship.
More power to the people who really do never fight. Maybe they just get along that well, who knows! For me, it's not that easy, and that's okay. I actually don't mind the work I'm putting into this relationship. For one, like I said, reciprocity. Huge difference. I'm not alone! And for two, I see the work as a sign of the growth I've experienced since my last relationships. I see it as a sign of me fighting my history, my old bad habits and patterns, and choosing to be better. To be different. BF feels the same per some of our post fight/misunderstanding/rumble situations. I have to say, I'll take it. I like knowing that people in general are capable of change with thoughtful, mindful consideration, and I like knowing that I'm one of them. I've earned all these relationship stripes, both good and bad.
Eight months, nineteen days. :-)