Relationships are hard work, but I believe the short answer is: Because both people have to be willing to do the work it takes to heal themselves through loving the other the way they need to be loved.
What does that mean exactly?
“It wasn’t like this in the beginning!” Sound familiar? There is a reason things generally do not stay the same as they were in the beginning. We are not afraid to be open, and so we are. No judgment. No comparisons. No expectations. There is a new and exciting sense of freedom to live in the now. Never before have we been so willing to talk about ourselves and to learn about another person. This is really a good example of putting your best foot forward! We empathize and develop intimacy around the illusion of what this relationship could be.
That sounds great. So what goes wrong?
Each person has a different idea of that future relationship. That love relationship plays out different as we fantasize and romanticize about what we believe we want and need from our partner. Unbeknownst to us, we all want our old wounds to be healed. Each person comes into the relationship with different needs and varying ability to express those needs. New lovers exaggerate their level of emotional and physical health. Also, what we perceive to be the real person in front of us is generally a projection of what we believe we want, not the actual person.
And then there is the struggle for power…
At some point, you make a commitment to each other. This is so great! Now I have someone who will do ….. Yep – expectations begin to kick in. Suddenly the need for fulfillment from your new boo that was mysteriously missing before shows up. Of course! What is wrong with having expectations and needs?
So let’s say you moved in together, well there are certain things that should change as a result of the change in your relationship – right? Problem is, those things are expected as opposed to communicated and negotiated between the two partners.
For example: she may expect him to come home by a certain time. He expects to maintain his same schedule, which sometimes gets him home at midnight. So he walks in the door [hungry, of course] and she is mad! Since she was mad she certainly did not bother to cook dinner for someone so inconsiderate and apparently untrustworthy. He can’t understand why she is mad, oh and by the way I am really hungry. She used to make dinner, why the change? He certainly doesn’t want a fight so it is best to ignore it and go to bed.
The makings of a disaster. Too many nights like this and trust and intimacy are lost. Extrapolate that out to all of the day to day requirements of life (groceries, cleaning the house, sex, number of date nights, family and friends) and there is huge potential for arguments at every turn.
So What Is Missing?
I believe there are two things missing in this and many other scenarios. Trust and communication. When I say trust, I am not talking about “will my partner cheat on me.” I am talking about trusting that your partner has your best interest at heart, especially when they do things that tick you off. Trust that if you express your needs to the person you are with, they will be willing to hear you. And what if they don’t? Trust that if they do not you are capable of doing what it takes to protect yourself.
With that trust in hand, communicate! Take the time to know what it is you really need, then tell our partner – with respect. You know what they say, “attack the issue, not the person.” Believe it or not, there is a reason why we need what we need. This is where the opportunity for healing comes into play. To practice and receive true love without condition. All of our expectations are based on something which should never be considered common knowledge. Our needs are specific to us, based on our experiences and no one, not even our partners, can or should be expected to intuit our every need at every turn on every day.
Nothing is Obvious!
There are insecurities, fears, hurts, and desires that live in all of us for our own reasons. Our role in a romantic relationship is to LEARN, not guess, the needs of the other. That is how that partner experiences love. You may think you are showing your lady love with that oil change, but what would really make her happy is a single flower and a surprise dinner you cooked for her. But how would he know that if she doesn’t tell him? Easy for the ladies, not so much for the fellas.
Guys, is it too much work to simply say I would love it if you could make me a sandwich and let me watch sports all day/work on the car/hang out with the guys so I can decompress? Give the other person a chance to give you what you need instead of assuming they didn’t because there is something wrong or inadequate about them.
Oh and when you receive what you need… showing some gratitude will go a long way!
When things get really hard…
If both people are not willing to be aware and responsible for the relationship, things fall apart. A common misconception is that “a good relationship should not take that much work.” Name one relationship you have at work that does not require conscious effort on your part to maintain civility. How about with your parents? Friends? Why then do we assume that our romantic relationships do not require tact?
When one person is not willing to do the work, the other will suffer greatly. If you really believe that if the other person was just different then everything would be fine, you could be in the process of sabotaging a relationship that could be really fulfilling for you.
Ultimately, the relationship could end.
I leave you with this:
“In order to have a satisfying love relationship, both partners need to draw their energy back into the relationship. It is very difficult to identify what is wrong with a relationship if the participants keep themselves distant and distracted. Even more important, two intimate partners cannot reconnect with each other until they are physically and emotionally available.” – Harvelle Hendrix, Getting The Love You Want