So many of us grow up watching and reading tales that end in ‘Happily Ever After.’ It sets us up all wrong.
At the start, we have some pretty unrealistic expectations of relationships. They change considerably with experience; from flowers and grand gestures when you’re 10 to complete compatibility and a checklist when you’re 18.
If you’ve been in a long term relationship for over two years now, you know this is true:
The flowers, the checklist and all the fluff goes out the window. You get past idealism and cynicism and become realistic. It’s real, clear-seeing, honest love.
At some point after a few years, you will encounter confusion, anger, pain, and always, a slow disillusionment.
It’s not because you’re doing anything wrong – it’s part of the ‘having-a-partner’ process.
This is typically because the man/woman you fell in love with only happens to be a small part of the package you signed up for.
I wanted the humor and the knee-weakening good looks, but I didn’t want the uptight organizational skills and insecurities.
They’re way more complex than those qualities alone.
The fights that ensue following this realization become the most intimate exchange you will have with another human being, because you’re not dealing with the confident, favorable persona that first had you hooked.
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You’re often dealing with the gunky, grimy parts of their being – the parts they don’t disclose to anyone else. You have those parts too, by the way.
They might be baggage carried forward from relationships you witnessed as a child or your old relationships: your passive-aggression, flagrant anger, jealousy, fear of commitment, crippling insecurities, or tendency to get easily bored in a drama-less relationship.
You can’t customize your own partner [at least not yet], so you’ll have to deal with those parts or end the relationship.
Many find it hard to get past this disillusionment, reasoning that they deserve better. Maybe you do, but is that to say the next one will be perfectly packaged? That you’ll have nothing to work on next time around?
My mum says making relationships work is “all about communication,” and you have to talk stuff out. I’ve found you can talk yourselves into a devastating, all-consuming black hole [when you’re upset or angry] and not every tiff gets a squeaky clean resolution.
You’re dealing with an equally complex person, who can react the wrong way, who has deep-rooted fears and desires, and who can make mistakes – all that gunky stuff I mentioned earlier.
Ascribing the right reasoning makes all the difference. They’re not out to get/annoy you, they just aren’t you.
So, many of your arguments will end in calming down and letting it go.
This includes taking responsibility when you don’t want to, saying sorry even if you’re convinced you were absolutely right [because you weren’t], and making compromises – big or small.
Through what sounds like a tiresome process, something amazing happens.
You get an honest look at yourself – including the parts you’ve managed to avoid seeing all your life.
There’s someone close to hold you accountable. They’re holding up a mirror and you don’t have a choice but to look.
I know people who say ‘I will never change for a man/woman.’ But honey, you will and it will happen in ways you won’t even notice.
It’s part of the deal.
Will you change for better or for worse?
That’s up to you too, not your partner.
If they have a flaming temper, are you meeting them with calm? If they have commitment issues, are you holding it against them, whiny and bitter or are you holding their hand through it?
If you let them, your partner can become a vehicle of constant self-improvement. You can practice patience, love in the face of fear and so much more.
Speaking of love, then, after two or three years of being with someone becomes radically different than when you first started out. You know their flaws and failings, but you know them – their constantly changing parts – and you accept them.
Love becomes a question of understanding.
You don’t love all of them, as John Legend does, but you accept them as they are.
You resolve to love them. You resolve to be understanding and open. You resolve to stay past disillusionment, anger, and frustration to accept every annoying thing about them – learn to love the annoying things even.
And you become a better person in the process.
So, will you be patient while they slowly disentangle their knots and you disentangle yours?
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