If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know various persistent relationship myths are holding many people back in their relationships. While any false belief can hinder your relationship’s chances of success, there’s one, in particular, doing so much damage to relationships it warranted its own article.
You’ve heard a version of this myth multiple times throughout your life – “Happy relationships should just work” or “If we’re meant for each other, it should just happen naturally.”
Unfortunately, like anything else of value, healthy, solid, and happy relationships require care and maintenance. There has yet to be one that didn’t require regular work, dedication, and commitment.
We can feel some of you retracting already. Don’t worry. We’re simply trying to dispel a common misconception holding many relationships back. When we say care and maintenance, we’re not looking to pile more chores on top of your already stressed workload. We have some fun tips that many couples actually look forward to and enjoy using later on in this post.
Why is this belief so persistent?
When you think about it, it makes sense that this belief is so persistent. For one, on the surface, it kind of sounds right. If people are compatible, they should just work together, right? We’re told in various ways that each partner is a half, perfectly complimenting the other. So, why would there be friction between two perfect halves?
This belief also plays into the idea that we’ll magically ride off into a lifetime of happiness once we find our soulmate. This is, after all, what we’re shown in the movies. The struggle, in movies, is in finding or getting together. But once you’re together, problems are solved, and everything’s golden, right?
Also, most of us constantly work to present our best selves to the world. We’ll share a thousand avocado toast breakfasts before showing a single picture of us fighting. Many of us could have been fighting for days, but the second friends or family are around, we throw on a brave face and present ourselves as the “perfect couple.” When no one else is talking about struggles, we think something must be wrong with us.
Why is it so wrong to expect things to be easy?
Again, we’re not trying to be overly negative or suggest that there won’t be any ease in your relationships. Please, don’t think we’re saying abusive, hard, or harmful relationships are the norm or should be endured. Well-matched couples should absolutely mostly run smoothly.
However, when we believe too strongly that relationships should “just happen,” things break apart when adversity strikes. Because if we think relationships don’t have hardships, we’ll doubt the validity of the one we’re in when we experience struggles.
This typically causes one of three things to happen:
A person will flee or abandon the relationship.
Often, this will happen earlier on as a relationship is forming. You’ll coast through the smooth waters of early dating, only to suddenly hit your first choppy waters. Folks who believe this shouldn’t happen will turn around and leave the relationship before it can truly develop.
Someone will overlook or avoid dealing with issues.
Denial is a strong coping mechanism. And people who believe relationships should be natural and easy will often try to smooth over any rough patches quickly to avoid confrontations. They “forgive” quickly and easily without ever dealing with root issues. Unfortunately, this allows more significant problems to fester inside the relationship and grow into major issues down the road.
One partner will believe the “grass is greener” elsewhere.
When we think that struggles are a sign a relationship isn’t meant to be, we’ll look fondly at new opportunities. This co-worker doesn’t argue with me when I share my stories, so they must be a better fit than my current partner, right? But all new things will naturally be easier because we show much more grace and forgiveness to those we don’t have a history with. Every new opportunity will seem more straightforward compared to years of knowing another person.
What can we do to change things?
Using the word “maintaining” in a relationship sounds like a chore to many.
Thankfully, the things you can do to work on your relationship are often super fun. There are many ways you can start maintaining and nurturing your relationship on your own that resemble things you probably used to do naturally in the early stages of getting to know your partner. You probably just got distracted and overburdened from all the other things life threw at you and took some of these things for granted.
Set aside time for quality communication
Make a habit of having a set amount of time to talk without distractions. You can start small, like 15 minutes a day. In the beginning, use the time to talk and get to know each other again. Find out what’s happening with your partner and let them know you hear them. As you progress, you can make the time more intentional. Use the time to talk about more serious things, like a particular behavior your partner is doing that’s bothering you. This can help you avoid little resentment from building up over time.
Schedule a regular date night
Putting something on a calendar might not seem romantic. But as we get older, life has a way of making days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Things we think we’ll get around to end up happening long after we intend. So, it’s best to set things down formally, making it hard to skip or deviate from. Even though you’re having a regular date night, being active with your partner helps keep things fresh and engaging. Sure it’s nice to go to your favorite restaurant together a few times. But, hopefully, you use the evenings to try out new things and forge new memories together.
Appreciate each other every day
This sounds counterintuitive, but it can help. As we grow comfortable around each other, we stop doing the little things that communicate love and appreciation to our partners. This is especially true when we feel worn down from work or dealing with issues with the kids. A great habit to get into is pushing yourself to go say something nice, give a gift, or find some other way to show love when you’re not really feeling it. Your partner will notice the effort, probably even more so than when you’re in a good mood.
Get help maintaining your relationship with a couples counselor
Yes, we provide couples counseling and marriage therapy services. But we’re not saying you have to use us.
When unpacking systemic and long-held beliefs, it’s vital to get assistance from an experienced and outside party, preferably one trained in couples therapy methodologies. The tips we shared today, while helpful, are broad and general. They don’t factor in your relationship history or other issues you’re dealing with.
A trained couples counselor has the specific toolkit necessary to help free you from misconceptions holding you back in your relationship. They can also give you personalized tips and techniques tailored to your particular relationship needs.
Reach out if you’d like help to move your relationship forward. We wish you the best relationship possible. Yes, we say that every relationship will hit choppy waters at some point. But we also believe that happily ever after is possible. It just takes more care and maintenance than you see in the movies.