What No One Tells You About Being In A Long Term Relationship

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Like most Americans, I was raised in a world where true love was considered a magical event. The idea of soulmates who would fall in love, brought together by undeniable fate, only to live a blissful life of constant love and adoration until they died holding hands… side by side in their hospice beds.

While that is a beautiful sentiment, that is the only version of the love story we were fed. I’m not a cynic, and trust me, I do believe that love is magical — and it can feel like a warm blanket on a rainy day — but it can also feel like the opposite. It can feel like when you’re on the phone speaking with an automated machine that can’t understand what you’re saying, so you just push a bunch of random buttons and end up throwing your expensive phone across the room.

The Truth About Real Relationship Issues

A not-so-long-time-ago, issues in relationships were very ‘taboo’ and were rarely spoken about out loud. And if they were, it was usually in the form of hushed gossip between friends.

“They’re not doing too well… rumor has it, they’re thinking about the “D” word.”

Divorce was portrayed as quite possibly the worst thing that could happen to you, and considered to be synonymous with traumatic screaming matches fueled by hatred and resentment.  Basically, it looked like…

Divorce, no matter the situation = bad.

Marriage forever, no matter the situation = good.

Things have changed in recent years, but that antiquated thought process of hiding your relationship issues and pretending like everything is okay is still ingrained in our psyche.

I think that’s why when a lot of us get into relationships, we are always expecting one or the other. No in between. Fireworks or just.. fire. This unrealistic expectation about how everything either goes perfectly, or horribly awry, does not set us up for a very balanced or healthy relationship.

Getting More Honest About Relationships

Perhaps if more people began to get honest about relationships, these extreme expectations would stop fueling such heartache, fear, and disappointment.

So I guess I’ll start!

These are some things that no one ever tells you about being in a long term relationship.

1. Relationship Truth: Sometimes It Gets Boring

When you first start falling in love with someone, it’s exciting. There are butterflies (or nauseating anxiety as I like to call it). Your mind is always racing, thinking about them, and hoping that you might soon receive another call or text. Your dates feel like adventures, and every time you hang out, no matter what you’re doing, it seems like it’s the most fun you’ve ever had.

Anyone who has experienced this giddy stage of a relationship is familiar with the strong whirlwinds of emotions.

Your brain is literally pumping feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin into your body. At the same time, you might also begin to feel the insecurity and anxiousness that new relationships often carry.

As seemingly-magical and life-changing as this stage is, it is not sustainable. For most people, this might seem like a bummer. But let me assure you, it’s a good thing! After some time into the relationship, things start to ‘come back down’ and balance out.

First of all, our brain starts functioning normally again. We can start making decisions based in reason rather than that overwhelming feeling of attachment that tells us: “this person is my only priority in life and I will die if they’re not next to my side at all times.”

Secondly, no one wants to be an anxious mess all of the time.

With that being said, nights where you stay at home and watch television on the couch turn from cute, to boring. The constant influx of social media stories from single friends who seem like they’re out living their life like a Hollywood socialite (by the way, they’re not) may make you feel a little envious.

Your single friends seem to be constantly telling you about new dating drama every week, and you listen with equal parts intrigue and relief.

There is definitely a lack of drama in healthy long term relationships, which again, is a good thing! However, the harmonious way of life can also leave you with a feeling of boredom.

When we first get into a relationship with someone, they tend to take up most of our time. Time spent that is important in the bonding process, but can also cause us to neglect the things that once made our lives meaningful and enjoyable. So before you go and blame your partner for your dull and monotonous combined life, examine your own independent life.

Chances are your not bored with your relationship; you’re bored with you. Ask yourself if you feel challenged and fulfilled in your career. Are you able to participate in hobbies that excite you? Do you make time to go out with friends?

If you can answer yes to all of those, then you can look at the dynamics of your relationship. This is a great opportunity for you and your significant other to get creative, pick up a new hobby together, explore a new city, start a side business venture, volunteer, start new traditions, and change it up. You two are growing together through this difficult thing called life; you have to make time for fun.

2. Relationship Truth: You Get Way Too Comfortable With Each Other

I hate to break it to any of you in a new relationship,  but there will come a time when your significant other will see you at your absolute worst. I’m not just talking about no make up and bed head, I’m talking through sickness, hangovers, emotional breakdowns, the whole shebang.

Which also means that you will see them at their lowest point, and sometimes it’s not the sexiest thing in the world. However, you will take comfort in the fact that you can be completely yourselves while being loved and accepted.

Which is pretty great and maybe worth all of the gross farts.

3. Relationship Truth: Chances Are You’ll Grow A ‘Crush’ On Others

GASP!

I know this one makes people cringe, but I swore myself to honesty here. We can’t go through life blind folded; we are going to be attracted to other people at times. A stranger who flirts with us, a coworker, an ex fling. But here’s the thing, a crush is just as elementary as the word sounds.

Fleeting moments of attention are just that, fleeting.

Most likely it will fade as quickly as it came, so don’t freak out and immediately break up with your partner. This is another time to reflect on your life. Ask yourself, what do you attain by having this attraction?  Do you feel neglected by your partner? How have you been feeling about yourself lately?

Once you figure out what the root of this crush is, you can tend to those areas more closely. Are you missing the feeling of new romance? Try and make up a special date night with your significant other. Are you working through self esteem issues? Change up your gym routine or learn something new; there are plenty of healthy ways to raise self esteem without becoming dependent on the opposite sex’s attention.

Crushes will fade and if you are in a healthy, loving, and decidedly-monogamous relationship, you will come to the conclusion that no fleeting attraction would be worth the risk of losing someone you love. After all, it’s your actions and choices that prove your love, not your thoughts.

With every reflection of why you choose your partner over the next new shiny thing, you’ll start to really appreciate the bond only the two of you share.

4. Relationship Truth: Your Fights Will Get More Stupid

In the beginning, it seems like your first fights are traumatic and important. You’re just figuring out how to sync your lives together, which brings up issues like: scheduling, date nights, and whose family to visit for Christmas.

Ah, the early fights! Which hopefully ended well, because you both want the relationship to work . Then, when you first move in together, your fights become about a little less important topics. New fights arise over things like laundry, and restocking the toilet paper rolls. Once again, I’m sorry to tell you, but the fights only get sillier from there.

Anyone in a long-term relationship will tell you — they know how to push each others’ buttons, and they know exactly what to say to get the maximum response. So congratulations, you’re out of the “afraid-of-conflict” stage, but sometimes it just gets silly (and potentially vicious).

(I once had a full blown, sleep-on-the-couch argument about what kind of eggs we should buy. Cage free obviously, I don’t care if you think it’s a lie.)

The good news is, the longer you’re in a healthy relationship, the better you can figure out HOW to fight, and the best way to makeup and apologize. Do you give each-other space? Do you write down your feelings?

At this level of intimacy and closeness, fights are inevitable. But if you use them as constructive tools to help the two of you reach a better understanding, they can be healthy disagreements!

In these times, you can learn the valuable lesson of loving someone even when they don’t share your same viewpoint. (Even though cage free chicken eggs don’t get bleached either so they’re better for you either way, okay?!)

5. Relationship Truth: It Gets Better

At times, I reminisce of the earlier days of courtship. I think of how wonderful and magical my future-partner seemed before we really knew each other. But the truth is, I would never go back. Being in love isn’t as glamorous as we all originally thought it would be, but being in a long-term relationship with a good person is amazing. And worth it. And it only gets better.

It’s having a sleepover with your best friend, all the time. It’s having a teammate in life; having a person who undoubtedly has your back, and is always there for you – no matter what kind of mood you were in earlier.

It is living life with your favorite person, and getting to do everything with them. It’s knowing that you two have been through so much and still survived.  I know that too often I take my partner for granted, because it’s impossible to constantly reflect on every aspect of the relationship and how much goes into it.

It takes effort daily, and it’s so worth it.

Further Reading:

Love and the Brain – Harvard University

Wired Magazine

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