Are great relationships a fantasy?
“When you love someone, all your saved-up wishes start coming out.” Elizabeth Bowden although speaking a number of years ago has perhaps unwittingly uncovered a problem of many relationships. We almost seem to have a fantasy view of relationships, perhaps fuelled by the media. In it; the love of our life appears in our life and POW we fall in love and everything moves forward into a relationship where we care about each other and agree and look after each other.
Well perhaps we are not quite that naïve but there is some sense of: A good relationship does not have conflict does not have upsets, yet in fact how a relationship handles conflict is perhaps central to the longevity of it.
In reality when the economic environment is difficult relationships can be difficult. There are money pressures, perhaps brought on by unemployment. Perhaps you have cut back on holidays or other times when you would relax together. You may individually or together be more stressed leading to more disagreement.
While conflict is a very real part of relationships, it is important to know how to deal with that part. Never blame or accuse your partner and don’t issue ultimatums. Blaming is very destructive, usually puts the other person on the defensive and before you know it you are not talking about the real issue. Ultimatums are all about control, trying to force someone to change and while that can make you feel better in the short term it usually poisons the relationship as the ‘controlled’ partner resents you. There is a saying which I think describes this well, it is only when the anger escapes and is gone that the tenderness can well up. Perhaps by moving the anger away we can be tender again with our partner.
The key is communication, listening first and then saying where you stand. Often this is best done when you can control your emotions. If done in the heat of the moment, you may relapse into blaming and ultimatums and make the problem worse. Making your relationship work is going to be a balance between both of your long term needs and wants. Indeed research shows that couples who can work through conflict are happier in the long term.
There is a lot that you can do for your own relationship, by accepting that conflict will happen in any relationship and handling it, in a way that allows you to discuss the issue rather than find fault. Yet with some relationships, it has become the norm to blame and hurl ultimatums and if you want to change then you may need to consider a counsellor to help.
Perhaps good, real relationships are more grounded in reality than fantasy. Yes, chemistry gets us together, but as the first flush of love wears off and we see our partner in the cold light of day it’s how we relate to them, our communication on a physical and emotional level that ultimately determines our happiness.