With the coming and going of Valentine's Day, it is only natural that we stop and reflect on our relationships to discover the good, the bad, and the in-between. Relationships, no matter how long or short they may be, have their moments of joy, moments of grief, and moments of routine. In this post, I wanted to talk about relationships, the expectations we grow to have, and the ever-changing emotions we may be experiencing along the way.
So, you just started dating this awesome new guy, and things are going great! You have been going out on a couple of dates and have finally made the relationship official. Low and behold, you join a friend for coffee and talk about your fantastic new relationship when she drops the good old saying, "enjoy the honeymoon phase while it lasts!" Uh...what honeymoon phase?! With every new endeavour, comes the fascination and excitement of prospects and exploring new things every day. Similarly, in a new relationship, you enjoy getting to know one another, dress up for dinner's and movie nights, and put on your best face. However, when the newness of the relationship dies down, and the daily routine becomes the norm, it is no doubt this honeymoon phase will come to an end. We begin to let our guard down and let our partner see the real us, the face without the makeup, the bad days with the good, and the stresses of life along with the joys. Although every relationship is different, we experience moments of growth and some moments that shake the ground of which we stand. In my own experience, my partner and I grew up together in a sense. We both explored whom we wanted to be and the careers we wanted for ourselves, we supported one another through the beginnings of adulthood, and we learned how to help one another learn to love in a way we had never done before. The pureness of this bond holds within it a sense of innocence and bliss. Knowing we had grown together in such a way has helped us overcome obstacles that lie ahead. Although relationships have their downward spirals, it is crucial that we reflect on how far we have come, both as individuals and as a unit. As we age, we become more aware of what we need from our partners and learning how to communicate through those needs can determine if we make it or break it. However, most of all, love conquers all. We all have bad days, stressful days, and days we want to curl up in bed with Netflix on replay. However, a supportive partner will weather the storm and be there to perk you back up when the time is right.
When the relationship has passed the honeymoon phase and reality sets in, we quickly realize how hard relationships are. Now, I know relationships are never easy, but we are never prepared for the when things hit the fan! Disagreements, lack of communication, mitigating perspectives, or the clashing of opinions can all be factors that result in the bad of a relationship. However, how do we overcome this? Communication, communication, communication! No matter what the issue, if you cannot be open, honest, and upfront about it, then it will undoubtedly cause a problem. If your partner does not inform you about plans, if he does not give you the full story or his responses to a question are vague and blunt, you will surely feel the effects of frustration and confusion. Combine that with a little bit of attitude, and you have got a recipe for disaster. Every relationship will encounter these issues; it is inevitable. However, it is how you overcome these situations that determine whether you falter or prevail as a couple. If something is bothering you, talk about it. If you do not agree with your partner's decision, talk about it. If you are confused or feeling left out, talk about it. But what if my partner is not a talker? Well, some people are not keen on sitting down for hours on end and listening to someone's concerns be spilled out all at once.
1. Pick Your Battles: It is important to pick which issues matter most and which ones do not. Now, this takes time to figure out and isn't always easy. Although particular issues drive you crazy and cause annoyance, prioritizing what is a no-go and what can be addressed another day can save the pain and headache of argument after argument from happening. For example, if your partner continually doesn't clean up after himself and stays out late too often, decide which one is the deal breaker and address it first. Then, once that issue has been talked about and understood equally by both individuals, you choose to discuss the second issue at a different time. By doing this, your partner does not feel as though you are mentioning all the negatives they are doing, and none of the positives while still getting one of your concerns across.
2. Think Before You Speak: Words can hurt, sometimes worse than actions. So, if you want to get your point across to your partner, do it in a way that is constructive yet kind. If you want your partner to spend more time with you rather than out with his friends, perhaps say: "I know you enjoy spending time with friends and that means a lot to you, but I would really enjoy getting to spend some quality time with you too since I don't get to see you that often" instead of, "I really hate that you're always out with friends and never spend any time with me!" By using this way of approaching your concern, you are not directing negativity in their direction or pointing out any flaws that may come across as aggressive, but instead saying it in a suggestive and approachable way.
3. Make Time: Talking things through takes the utmost attention from both individuals. Distractions from work, children, or other responsibilities can sometimes alter the ability and extent a conversation can be had. Thus, set time every few weeks to talk to your partner and address any concerns either of you has. Whether it is planning a dinner where both of you can discuss your feelings or sitting down with a cup of tea after the children have gone to bed, can help both individuals talk things through in a constructive and concentrated setting.
4. Don't Set High Expectations: Although we all have a certain level of expectations we want our partners to uphold, we do not want to set the bar so high so that it is unattainable and failure-inducing. Thus, re-evaluate what you expect from your partner and communicate your expectations regularly. So, instead of expecting to see your boyfriend/girlfriend daily, perhaps set an expectation that you would like to see them every other day or picking certain days of the week that are convenient for both of you to spend quality time together. Also, be self-aware that work and other responsibilities can sometimes change the outcome of a week, so make sure you give your partner space and time they need to get their things done. In return, your partner should be able to make time for you and make you a priority as well.
Lastly, the in-between of every relationship is when the honeymoon phase has passed, and an issue has been resolved. In other words, every day, routine life. I find the in-between to be the best part of any relationship. You are able to have fun with best friends, enjoy each other's company, and go through life with each other. Although there may come a time where someone's feathers will get ruffled (that is inevitable), it is important to remember how far you have come. Make time for one another, plan special days together that can be looked forward to and enjoyed, and show appreciation for the things your partner does for you. Every relationship takes effort and sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can mean the most.
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