Most relationships start so well. There are roses, smiles, fireworks and all those exciting feelings that make us feel alive, happy, lightheaded and wonderful.
Fast forward a few years and you will learn that no matter how loving and happy our relationships may seem today, this harmony can be shattered in a matter of seconds. Over a stupid fight, a simple misunderstanding or an off-hand comment or suggestion.
And suddenly the loving, understanding and caring partner of yours is no longer there. Instead you are stuck with a furious, disrespectful, read-faced creature who is shouting accusations and hurtful remarks at you, being 100% sure that “you started it”.
Well, this happens to everyone. It happens to me. In fact, I am often the one assuming the role of an unkind, foul-tempered, fire-spitting creature.
Sometimes it hurts me to think that my relationship may be falling short of what it is supposed to be. But then I am often reminded that even perfect-looking couples that appear to agree all the time, finish each other sentences and have a halo of bliss surrounding them, have their ups and downs too.
It is part of being a human – we make mistakes, lose patience and have our flaws. However, what makes a difference between happy relationships and dysfunctional ones is our willingness to work things out, to suck up our pride, put our bruised ego aside and say “I’m sorry”.
There is no doubt in my mind that in spite of the baggage of negative past experiences so many of us carry, it is possible to build and maintain happy relationships through years and years to come.
What can save us from many arguments is the knowledge of the common pitfalls and costly relationships mistakes that most couples are faced with and that cause 90% of relationship hiccups.
5 Obstacles to Happy Relationships that every couple should know about
When we first start dating, extreme cases aside, we mostly get the fun part of being in the relationships. Each of us has our freedom, our own space, our hobbies, our morning rituals. We do not have to make any sacrifices, unless it is what WE want to do.
But when we start living together, we are suddenly affronted with the fact that we have to take our partner’s desires, wants, habits and interests in consideration (even when they are not aligned with our own).
Gradually we also begin to notice that little things we found endearing about their partner in the beginning of our relationships, become more and more irritating. For example a woman, might find herself annoyed every time she sees a dirty t-shirt thrown on the couch. While a man may lose his patience because his wife or girlfriend spends too much time on the phone, in what he believes to be useless chatter.
Are there any little things that annoy you about your partner? If so, you should know that they are subtle signals that the Universe has given you the perfect opportunity to practice patience and acceptance. I am serious.
Your partner has so many wonderful qualities. And these qualities by far outshine the imperfections. Therefore, instead of trying to bend the person that you love into doing things your way, learn to deal with your own irritation. I know that it is not easy. Nagging, complaining or arguing is a much simpler road. But it accomplishes nothing (except for more arguments and hurt feelings). Understanding, appreciation and respect are far more effective.
2. Lack of attention
Do you remember how much effort you used to put in at the beginning of your relationships to win your partner’s heart? How much time you spent preparing for a date, choosing the right outfit, fixing your hair or carefully planning a romantic evening together…
Has anything changed since then? Do you now greet your spouse wearing sweatpants and old flip-flops? Do you dress up nicely just for them and not because both of you are going out? Do you still make an effort to compliment your beloved one and to be sincerely interested in whatever they have to say?
Because if you relax and stop investing time, effort and creativity into your relationships, ten years from now you might wake up next to a complete stranger.
My friends sometimes joke that they wish their husband or boyfriend was an orphan. As unfair as it may sound to some, our partners come with a bundle of numerous relatives, siblings, cousins, stepbrothers and sometimes even children from previous relationships. All these people affect our relationships and can either strengthen our bond or weaken it.
So no matter how hard it is for you to get along with your partner’s family, continue treating them with respect. If for nothing else, then for the bare fact that they are important to the person that you have come to love.
4. Man’s transformation into a spoiled child
This is usually something that many of us do – in the beginning of a new relationship we, women, often feel this unexplainable need to take care of the man, to surround him with comfort and love and to show him how great it is to be with us. What do we do? Everything!
The first few times when a man tries to offer his help, we tell him not to worry! We serve him home-cooked meals. We massage his tensed shoulder muscles when he comes home from work. We buy him little gifts and iron his shirts. We pamper a grown-up man as if he was our baby. All he has to do is sit back and enjoy.
Where is the problem most men would ask?
The problem starts a few months or years later, when a woman finds herself doing 90% of the work and receiving very little gratitude in return. And then she starts nagging her overly pampered “honey” for not throwing out the trash, not volunteering to do the dishes, and not putting much effort into making the bed. She starts treating the man as if he was the oldest and the least favorite of her children (the one she created, mind you).
Now let’s look at the situation from the man’s perspective: for months it was okay for him to live that way and now his sweet, understanding and gullible partner is either on the verge of crying or spitting fire.
Dear women, please do not blame your men for not expressing their eternal gratitude because YOU decided to take upon yourself 97% of the household duties. They didn’t ask you to do so and it is unrealistic to expect them to be happy and enthusiastic now about doing whatever chores you feel they should be doing. Change takes time and it starts with YOU.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, instead of nagging, complaining and fighting, set your ego aside and begin treating your man with respect. Let him be the one who makes decisions. Ask for help and patiently wait until he decides to comply. And when he finally does, give him a big kiss, admire his work and praise him to all of your friends. If he feels important and appreciated, he might volunteer to do more.
But whatever you do, do not shift HIS responsibilities back upon your fragile shoulders, no matter how tempting it might be. You will do yourself and your partner a huge favor.
5. Double standards
For thousands of years the man was the one responsible for the well-being of the family, while the woman would take care of the house and raise children. This collective knowledge is still deeply enrooted in our society, but the actual situation has changed drastically. Women now pursue their own career goals, while men have to deal with the fact that they might not always be the ones providing for the family.
With these changes in place, it is often expected of a woman to work an 8-hour work day, be super-productive, then come home and turn into a perfect wife, a perfect companion and a perfect mother. These expectations are simply overwhelming, but in the beginning many women try to live up to them only to develop burnout a few months after.
With such a crazy life pace, how can they be fun to be around? How can they have patience with their children? How can they not over-react? Or give attention and support to their beloved ones, when they are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted?
On the other hand, you have a man who is supposed to provide for his family, make serious decisions, and be the head of the family. Yet when it comes to real life he is constantly faced with the fact that he falls short of the image of the “perfect man” that society and his own family has of him.
How can he be protective and caring, when his own woman demonstrates with her words and actions that she can do just fine without him? How can he turn into a strong leader, when she shushes him and does everything her way? No wonder that instead of assuming the role of the head of the family, he takes what psychologists call ‘peripheral position’, staying away from any decision-making.
This is not an extreme scenario. I meet couples like that almost every day – a strong woman, who has willingly assumed a role of the “boss” in a family and a man that prefers to step aside instead of dealing with his wife’s tears and accusations. And the sad truth is that neither of the partners are happy in this relationship.
What is there to do?
First, realize that relationship is not a competition of who does more or is better. From psychological, physiological and neurological point of view men and women are completely different species. Women are more emotional, while men are usually more rational. Women analyze information faster, while men are often more correct in their conclusions. The list goes on…
This is actually why we complement each other so perfectly and this is why we can learn so much from one another.
If you are determined to be happy and turn your love story into a life-long honeymoon, start working on improving YOUR own character and you will have no time or energy left to focus on your partner’s shortcomings!
What are your thoughts?
Are you currently in a relationship?
What do you think stands on the way of happy relationships?