Time has a way of eroding relationships, doesn’t it?
What often starts full of promise, love and joy can easily turn to resentment, frustration and bitter words after a few years together.
Suddenly it is not enough just to be around them, as it once was. Little things they say or do start to drive you crazy.
The glow wears off and you begin to only see all that is broken and tarnished about your partner and you can’t stop focussing on all that you despise, instead of seeing all their great qualities.
Believe it or not, this is not always a sign that the love is gone and you should run.
A relationship is a life’s work, ebbing and flowing over time and the way you feel about your partner can come and go in waves. There are the good times and the bad times, the ups and the downs.
Emotions can change on an hourly basis. We cannot rely on emotions alone – they lie to us. Sometimes the emotions we feel aren’t even our own, but brought on by hormones, or the change of season (hello, approaching winter).
Often, if you’ve gotten to the point where your partner is just plain pissing you off all the time, you should look to yourself first to see what’s going on for you, rather than just blaming them.
And the key to maintaining a good relationship through all of these things seems simple in theory: friendship.
You and your partner should be not just romantically involved, but also the very best of friends.
Think about some of the meanest things you’ve said (or perhaps yelled) at your partner. Think about the little digs you perhaps just can’t help but make.
You would never remain friends with a person who talked to you that way, would you?
On the flipside, you would never be so careless with your friends, treating them the way you treat the one person you think you love most in the world.
Strive to be a good friend to your partner.
I wrote not-so-long-ago about how my husband had gone overseas for two months.
Before he left, I felt like we were well into no-longer-friends territory.
The stress of buying our first house, moving and renovating as well as running business in an economic slump was getting to us.
Sometimes I would hear words escape my mouth and not even know why I had been so mean-spirited. Other times, one of us would blow up in response to something benign the other had said.
But that’s what happens – you get caught in a pattern of action and reaction. Some of you may be reading this, thinking your own relationship will never get that way.
Like I said, it’s seasonal, and everyone I know goes through these same patterns.
While he was gone, I missed him terribly. But I’m adamant that an enforced break of a week or two every year is a fantastic idea for any couple.
I’m lucky; he came back, just as we had planned.
But after he left, I thought about all the people that have lost their partner permanently, and the ones who are enduring enforced leave, such as one military wife who emailed me as her husband was on his fifth round of a 4-9 month stint in a war zone.
It made me realise that for all the mundane bitching and moaning we managed to do about whose turn it was to clean the kitchen or whatever… well, none of it mattered if he wasn’t here at all.
Since he’s back, it’s like we’ve been given the gift of a reset button for the relationship. Suddenly, I just wanted to make him smile. Wanted to be around him. Wanted to be happy.
Our relationship is better than it has been in years, quite honestly. Not that it was ever terribly awful, but when both partners make a concentrated effort to be nice to each other, that’s where the magic happens.
Think about all the best parts of your closest friendships and try applying that to your relationship: Be kind, not mean. Disagree peacefully and constructively. Accept them the way they are.
And don’t sweat the small stuff.