How many times have you wondered to yourself (or to your friend or to your mom or to your brother…) why your relationship with your partner is so hard? Do you ever wonder when oh when it will begin to be easy? Do you ever spend time comparing your relationship with Sally next door? Do you ever wonder why Sally and her partner are “so happy” and are always getting along and you and your partner are “so miserable” and seem to be fighting all of the time?
Well, there are two sides to this coin. The first side is that, to be honest, Sally and her partner really aren’t happy. Not at all. They just put up a good front at the neighborhood barbecues and on social media. They only allow the outside world to see their highlight reel. But what’s really going on in their house isn’t happy at all. They go days without speaking. And then when the do start talking, they end up bickering and fighting. Again. They have no emotional intimacy. They have no physical intimacy. And Sally and her partner’s life on the inside looks just like yours.
Now, the second side of this coin is much happier and much more promising. This side is that, to be honest, Sally and her partner really ARE happy. Totally happy. They are not just putting up a good front at the neighborhood barbecue and on social media. And while the outside world sees more of their highlight reel, there simply seems to be a bigger reel to pick from. Their house, while not always happy, is pretty happy, and WAY happier than many of the other houses on the street. They never go days without speaking. They can have good conversation that does not always end in bickering. They feel connected emotionally. They feel connected physically. And their life is, well, overall pretty happy.
So what’s the difference between these two scenarios? Why is Sally #1 miserable and Sally #2 happy? What is Sally #2 doing differently? Or is she just lucky? Did she just find “the perfect partner”? Is she just that blessed?
The short answer is…no. Nope. Not at all. She isn’t any luckier than you. Her partner isn’t any better than yours (most likely – there are, of course, extenuating circumstances such as domestic abuse, but that’s a blog for a different day). Sally isn’t any more blessed than you either. So then why or why is her life so much better?
It’s really quite simple. She and her partner WORK AT THE RELATIONSHIP! And not just after a fight. But they work at it ALL. THE. TIME. Like it’s their job. And an important job at that! And the reason they do this is because relationships are a LOT OF WORK. ALL. THE. TIME.
The work begins with each partner(s) understanding their own wants and needs. And saying “I want to feel loved” doesn’t count. Because, how on EARTH can that be measured? And if something can’t be measured, how on earth will the partner know if they are doing a good job?
What would count would be saying something like, “I need to hear ‘I love you’ every night before bed.” Now, that’s a SMART goal. And if you know anything about me by now, it’s that all goals and targets must be in the SMART goal context. SMART, as a quick refresher, is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
So to start the journey toward a healthy and sustainable relationship, you first must figure out what you want. Hopefully your partner is on board with this journey and can figure out what they want too. Then, you guys figure out the common ground, where every feels like their needs are being met at a cost to the other partner that is appropriate. And there you have it. A healthy relationship! And you, yes YOU, deserve to get what you need and be in loving relationship that encourages you to be the best you you can be. And then celebrates that!