When you’re single, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything will be perfect when you find the right guy. I’ll admit that I was once guilty of this line of thinking. It can seem like a relationship is that one missing piece and once you have it, you will finally have it all. Then maybe you meet a guy, you click, you start dating, and all seems to be running smoothly until certain unpleasant realities of being in a relationship start to creep in, either slowly and by degrees or quickly and all at once.
Relationships take work; there is no way around that. You can be totally perfect for one another, you can love each other like crazy, you can be wildly attracted to one another, you can even be soul mates, and you will still have to work at it. When you’re in a relationship, it isn’t just about you anymore. Your choices, your actions, your behavior, your tone of voice, your mood, and so forth all affect someone else (and vice versa). A relationship is a partnership, and having a partner is amazing in many ways, but it also means there is someone else in the picture who matters. And like you, he also comes with a fair amount of baggage, issues, unresolved pain from the past, etc.
When a relationship starts to get real, it can be confusing and overwhelming. You may wonder if you’ve made a mistake, if maybe this isn’t the right relationship. You may feel wronged because this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. All relationships will hit points where you struggle, and actually, the struggles are a good thing. When handled right, they can make you even stronger as a couple. But when dealt with improperly, they can cause irreparable harm (to both you and the relationship).
Here are five not-so-fun facts you must face about being in a relationship:
1. You will fight.
Fighting with the person you love is profoundly painful, but it’s inevitable and sometimes it’s necessary. It can also be a brutal reality check. In the beginning of a relationship I think almost everyone has moments where they think: “Wow, this person is amazing. They get me and I love them so much, what could we ever fight about? Maybe other couples fight, but that will never be us.” And you might really believe it; you might wonder what you could ever possibly fight about. But in time, this idealism gets shattered and you are forced to face this unpleasant reality of being in a relationship.
It’s important to realize that even the most compatible couple will sometimes disagree, and these disagreements can escalate into arguments and full-fledged fights.
Your goal shouldn’t be to never fight; it should be to fight better. Learn to fight in a way that brings about resolution rather than dissolution. A fight doesn’t have to include yelling and screaming and slamming doors and hurling insults and trying to make the other person feel as bad as he made you feel. It is very difficult to come to a place of resolution when emotions are running hot, so one of the best tips to fight better is to stop discussing an issue until both of you have had the chance to reset your systems back to neutral. Whenever a conflict emerges, it is also helpful to remind yourself, and each other, that you are both on the same team and that you should try to work with each other instead of against each other.
2. Being sorry is better than being right.
This point picks up where I left off in the first reality check. You and he are on the same team and you’re fighting for the same cause, the cause being to have a healthy, happy, loving, mutually-fulfilling relationship. When you make yourself the victim and him the victimizer, you aren’t on the same team, you are opponents locked in a battle to prove you’re right and the other person is wrong. This puts the other person on the defensive, and he may launch a counterattack that only confirms for you that he is completely at fault, and from there it spirals into an ugly place.
Maybe you are right and maybe you do want to “win” the argument, but if you end up tearing each other down to do it, then you both lose.
Sometimes, you just need to suck it up and say, “I’m sorry we fought” or “I’m sorry you were hurt.” Maybe you think he is being irrational and you don’t think he’s justified in feeling the way he’s feeling, and maybe you’re right, but it doesn’t matter who’s right. What should matter more is the fact that the person you love is hurt, and you can be sorry for hurting him even if you don’t fully understand where he is coming from.
If he did something that hurt you, try to express that to him in a way that doesn’t make him feel attacked. This is totally achievable when you’re coming from a place of genuinely wanting the relationship to work and wanting to connect and share your perspective with him so the relationship will improve, and not from a place of trying to be the victor.
Sometimes he’ll do something that hurts you, and you’ll think he was completely in the wrong, while he’ll think you’re in the wrong for being upset. I’m not referring to clear-cut wrongdoing like cheating, but something along the lines of you had a bad day and wanted to spend time alone with him, but he already had plans and didn’t want to cancel. You may feel he should prioritize you and cancel those plans, but he doesn’t like to be the kind of person who flakes when he says he’s going to do something. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong, and in reality, both people are usually a little of both. Trying to prove your case will get you nowhere.
3. Resentment will crop up.
Resentment is by far the number-one relationship killer. Resentment is what causes couples to fall out of love, to stop desiring one another, to fight constantly over everything. As a relationship progresses, the amount of minor hurts will accumulate. That time he blew off date night to hang out with his friends … that time he forgot about important plans … that time he said something hurtful … that time you had a fight and he didn’t say sorry…
Whether your relationship survives and blossoms or deteriorates and implodes comes down to what you do with all those hurts. In a relationship, you will get hurt sometimes, even if you’re with the sweetest, most loving man in the world. He usually won’t mean it; he may not even realize something he said or did was insensitive or hurtful. Maybe you say something about it, maybe you don’t. Sometimes you can get over something on your own (especially if it was something innocent that you overreacted about because of your own insecurity), sometimes an apology is necessary, and sometimes a serious “relationship talk” is needed.
If you don’t deal with your hurts properly, they will build up within you and morph into resentment. Once the seeds of resentment have been planted, every minor thing he does will feed them and cause them to grow, even the things that you know objectively aren’t that big of a deal. The more resentment grows, the more it will poison the relationship.
You may silently punish him as retribution, which will cause him to feel resentful towards you, which will cause you to feel more resentment towards him. This is how the vicious ugly cycle begins, and things get very complicated very fast.
Sometimes you will be extremely hurt. Even if he apologized in the most sincere, loving way, you won’t be able to fully forgive and definitely won’t forget. You may appreciate the apology, you may accept it, but in your mind you may be thinking, “I still can’t believe he would say something like that! How could he?!” So it’s still there, it’s still with you, and the next time an issue comes up, you’ll use it as ammo against him.
When you’ve been hurt you are faced with a choice: hold onto it and stay hurt, or just let it go. Maybe a part of you believes he doesn’t deserve your full forgiveness, maybe you don’t think he deserves to get your full love and affection, maybe you’re still hurt. That will happen sometimes, but you need to realize that holding onto these bad feelings doesn’t help you or your relationship. They keep you stuck in a negative place instead of moving forward, and if you can’t move past a conflict then you will forever be in it, and who wants that? Even if he doesn’t “deserve” to be fully forgiven, make the choice to just let it go and realize that working on improving things in the future is much better that staying angry over what happened in the past.
Again, I should mention that certain things are unforgivable and I’m not talking about those things. I’m not talking about cheating or violence or something purposefully done out of malice. I’m talking about the small little hurts that rack up over time. They are the shades of grey, not the black and whites.
4. It will be challenging at times.
Relationships take work, there is no way around it. A relationship is like a plant; it needs proper, consistent care or it will wither and die. And sometimes it will be really tough. There will be times when you can’t seem to communicate, times when you feel disconnected and angry, times when you start to question everything. These times will become few and far between if you put in the right amount of work. This includes releasing resentments from arguments past, letting go of the need to always be right, and realizing that certain issues won’t ever be resolved and you’re beating a dead horse by trying.
A relationship is a partnership; it’s two people coming together to share a life together. However, these two people once had very separate, individual lives. They have different likes and preferences. They have different ways of dealing with things. They have different needs, different perspectives, and different values. Sometimes two people will be very compatible and will have the same views on where to live, what to spend money on, etc. For other couples, it will take a little more effort to bridge the gap. The challenging aspects of a relationship subside when both people learn the importance of compromising and learning to see the world through their partner’s eyes. You won’t ever be able to inhabit his perspective, but you can try to understand it and validate it, and this is what builds a cohesive unit, when both people face challenges together instead of from opposite sides of the ring.
5. Sometimes, you’re the problem.
This just might be the hardest reality check of all. Nobody wants to be the problem. It’s much easier to blame someone else than admit you have issues to deal with, because dealing with issues is unpleasant and requires hard work. It is too easy to blame someone for making you feel a certain way but the reality is that oftentimes, you already felt that way. If you blame your boyfriend for “making you” feel insecure, you probably already feel insecure and then interpreted something innocent he said or did as being critical.
We all have a certain degree of baggage, and most of our issues will rise to the surface in a relationship because love touches the deepest, most rarely accessed parts of our beings. Sometimes this can be beautiful and euphoric and other times it can be very painful because it brings up feelings and issues that we would rather not deal with. And then rather than dealing with them, we blame our guy for making us feel that way.
I’m not saying he’s never at fault; sometimes he might be insensitive or hurtful (hopefully unintentionally). The point I’m making is that it’s important to try to identify where the issue is really coming from. Is it him or is it you? Is he really not making you feel secure in the relationship or do you have some deep-seated intimacy issues to deal with? Does he really not make you feel loved, or do you not love yourself, and as a result are unable to let any love in from the outside?
The first step in having a healthy relationship is always to work on being your best self. This means being honest with yourself, looking at who you are and who you want to be, and dealing with anything that is getting in the way of that. Your partner can help you get there, but he can’t do it for you. Only you control your emotional well-being.
Relationships can be tough at times, but when you’re with the right partner, that work is so worth it. A healthy, loving relationship can enhance your life enormously and help you become your absolute best self. The path there isn’t always smooth, but it is unquestionably worth it.
Do you have any relationship reality checks to share? Tell us in comments!