One of the most important aspects of making a relationship work through the years is to take a note from MTV’s The Real World and stop thinking of it as perfect and start thinking about it as real. This means acknowledging that you are building and living a life with a human being who has quirks, faults, and eccentricities – just like you. Good times will be plentiful, but the opposite is also inevitable: fights, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings are all going to happen. So, rather than try to dodge them, it’s best to understand the truths that might cause fights. So we asked a few relationship counselors and therapists to offer up some relationship truths they feel are essential to helping long-term relationships
1. Sometimes, Sex Will Feel Like Work
By work we mean it will require effort to nurture the passion. Hectic schedules means spontaneity goes out the window; as a result, sex becomes predictable, scheduled, and less romantic. “Couples have to work on keeping things interesting, staying faithful, addressing medical problems that interfere with desire or ability, and scheduling in time to do it,” says Erin Parisi, a Florida-based mental health counselor and marriage therapist. One person might not be in the mood. Body insecurities are inevitable. And different things will work for different people. The point, according to Parisi, “It’s worth communicating openly and prioritizing your sex life to keep things healthy.”
2. At Points, You Will Come Close to Hating Your Partner
An intoxicated family member once had this to say about marriage: “You have to fucking love each other, but you also have to really fucking hate each other.” Looking through the lens of her experience helping couples, Parisi’s takeaway for this drunken lesson is this: only the people that love you the most can get so far under your skin that you also hate them sometimes. “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference,” she says. “Have you ever heard a couple brag that they never fight? To me, that means that one or both parties aren’t voicing their concerns.” In other words: Conflict is natural. It’s going to happen. How you handle the conflict will determine if your relationship grows or suffers.
3. You Will Encounter Your Fair Share of Unsolvable Problems
Not all arguments end neatly. Marriage makes you acutely aware of this because you and your partner will simply have a lot of arguments, big and small. So it’s important to recognize that not every problem is solvable. “If you catch yourself having the same problem over and over again with no resolution, that may be one of those unsolvable problems,” says Sarah E. Clark, LMFT, LMHC, CVRT, a licensed therapist and relationship expert. “It’s important to learn the difference between solvable and unsolvable, because the unsolvable problems will need to be managed in a different way.” For instance, if one of you is really social while the other isn’t, that’s not going to change. If one of you is forgetful, then getting mad about the things they forget isn’t going to help. “The good news,” says Clark, “is that when you stop trying to solve the unsolvable and start working towards ways of managing those things, they will stop seeming like problems.”
4. You Can’t Focus On Every Friendship
A lot of couples feel, especially at the start of marriage, that nothing will change with their social circles. This just isn’t possible. “Realize that it is important for you and your spouse to have alone time where you can build your relationship, and while it is thoughtful to include others, it’s not always healthy for your marriage,” says Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC, and Certified Imago Therapist for The Marriage Restoration Project. “Many newlyweds can become insecure about their spouse if they spend time with other couples. You may feel the need to compare which will generate negative feelings about your spouse.” Slatkin says it’s about striking a balance: “Don’t become a hermit, but do put your marriage first and make spending quality time alone with your spouse a priority, even if it means not always including others.”
5. Your Spouse Is Not You
‘Duh’ you may think. But this is an important realization that many partners need to realize, especially after the golden hue of early marriage fades. “As much as you may have been blinded during the romantic stage (“We’re so alike! I feel like we’ve known each other forever”), at some point you have woken up to the harsh reality that you married an ‘other.’,” says Slatkin. “This ‘other,’ as lovable as he/she is, has different thoughts, feelings, and opinions than you do.” He/she may see the world completely differently and that’s okay. The ability to honor the world of the other is a key ingredient to successful relationships. As challenging as it may be that our spouse is not an extension of ourselves, it serves us well by compelling us to grow into becoming more accepting and other-focused. Learn to love and cherish those differences as that’s what makes your spouse unique.