Relationships can be great… plain and simple. I truly believe this!
Our culture tends to have two extreme and opposing messages about romantic relationships. First, that they should be REALLY EASY. The Disney ideal! If I have to work to keep my relationship alive, then there must be something wrong, because if this is “true love,” or “the one,” it should be fairly effortless!
The second and opposing message is that relationships are HARD WORK! Get ready for it! If you are going to be in a lasting relationship with someone, it is going to be a grueling drudgery!
…But what if there is a third way to look at partnership?
Yes, relationships require work. We all know that!
What if the work is fruitful and even fun… meaning it is challenging and rewarding and gives us a sense that we can make good things happen?
(I find myself wondering if anything in life is ever truly easy. Even when we have everything we need, we humans seem to have the capacity to find the difficulty in things. It’s our curse, I think, and our destiny. Suffering and discomfort lead to growth… like it or not!)
Likewise, what if there are some alternative truths about relationships? What if we are transformed by our relationships? Maybe, when we are rubbing up against our partners, challenging them and pissing them off, the relationship is doing exactly what it was meant to do… to transform us and shape us into our truest, biggest, and sharpest selves? Leading sociological and relationship researcher, John Gottman, notes that there are, on average, 10 areas of “incompatibility” in couple relationships. These “incompatibilities” are not the problem! As it turns out, relationship satisfaction rests on HOW these areas are dealt with and engaged in.
This is good news!
It is not the relationship challenges themselves that are problematic, but how we go about dealing with these challenges that really matters. And, if we have good information and use it… good outcomes tend to follow!
Tip: Turn toward each other in your differences. Show intense interest in these areas of uniqueness. Is there something for you to learn? Can your partner influence you in some way in this area? Maybe this is part of your growth and transformation as an individual.
Look for a continuing series on relationships over the next year. You might be surprised by what you read and might find yourself hopeful, once again, for the relationship you have chosen. You did choose it, you know! Keep choosing it, if it is safe, and tune in for the next installment…
--Clinton J. Nunnally