Relationships are for the most part challenging. From parents and children to siblings. From friends and colleagues to teammates and couples. In fact every interaction between people regardless of how fleeting, can be fraught with challenges. The question is why?
People have been labeled and categorized for a long time now, with introverts, extroverts, overly sensitive, insensitive to name just a few. These labels tell as so much about ourselves. They tell us that we are surrounded unique individuals. They tell us that no two people are exactly alike. This means that no two people will ever be 100% compatible. No two people will ever be perfectly suited to one another. There can be no perfect relationship.
The challenge arises when we seek that perfect relationship. In order to achieve that we try to change the person into that perfect being. We fail to accept that person as they are, with their strengths and flaws. We fail to see and acknowledge our own flaws, fail to see how those who choose to be with us accept those flaws without trying to get us to change into someone else.
We overthink those flaws, those disagreements arising from trying to “correct” those flaws that we end up damaging those relationships. We change our attitudes and feelings towards them. This, more often than not leads to self-indulgent, destructive behavior (like infidelity) or something more permanent like ending the relationship.
We expect the other person to treat us like we feel we deserve . We expect them to reciprocate everytime we do something for them. The expectations we place on them are often selfish and one-sided. We fail to consider that they might not need what we do or even want we give them. By placing physical, financial or emotional constraints as the means of determining the success or failure of our relationship, we limitations on the relationship, making it easier to end than to grow, develop and sustain.
We can sometimes only focus on certain aspects that attract us to another person (beauty, money etc). By focusing on these alone, we fail to see the other traits in that person (particularly the harmful ones) and it is often too late before we realise our mistakes.
Television, movies, mass media and social media all create unrealistic pressure with fairytales, matches made in heaven and yes even opposites attracting. None of these focus on the work that every relationship needs in order to succeed. There are no shortcuts.and neither is a happy ending guaranteed.
This does not mean that all relationships are salvageable. There are abusive, dominating, cruel people out there and their victims often fall for their charm and other qualities and find themselves trapped, with no way out. Listening to one’s instincts and the trusted opinions of others can prevent a loved one from falling into that trap in the first place.
Is there no hope then? Are all relationships doomed to fail? Not exactly, no. We must first understand that we enter relationships for various reasons. Tradition, family expectations, financial support, physical chemistry, not wanting to be alone in the world, are not the right ones. Entering into a relationship because you feel strongly enough about that person that you want to raise a family with them, enter into a partnership with them, maintaining a friendship with them are all better reasons.
Accepting that these people you are choosing to be a part of your life have strengths, weaknesses, opinions, and values that might be really different to your own and choosing to see these differences as positives that will strengthen your relationship and what you aim to collectively achieve in your relationship.
Being vulnerable enough to let them see your own weaknesses and flaws are another necessary step in building a strong bond. We do not have to be perfect or pretend to have strengths only.
Having no expectations is another helpful coping mechanism. Placing expectations on our partners only leads to disharmony and strain when those expectations are not met. Nobody else can make us happy. Happiness is an individual quest. Others can add to it but cannot be responsible for it. Leaving our happiness in the hands of someone else is one of the most harmful things we can do to ourselves.
Maintaining good relationships is hard work. You could put alot of effort into the relationship by there everytime they need you, checking in on them regularly and sending them positive thoughts and messages daily, and in response your receive nothing remotely close in return. If this relationship means that much to you, you would need to focus on why you do what you do and try to understand why they respond differently. Their personality, work load, outlook on life may make it difficult to reciprocate.
Understanding the difference in another, accepting that that is who they are but believing that they are worth it, is a positive step in sustain and developing a relationship.
In short, accepting people as they are, understanding that we are all different and that is a strength, allowing oneself to be vulnerable so that the other person can see one’s weaknesses and working hard together at the relationship can ensure a less difficult relationship. There is no guarantee that there won’t be conflict but these steps should help solve the conflict in most cases.
Finally, acknowledging that every relationship is temporary, might allow us to focus on the present and the gift this relationship brings now, without trying to chase our happily ever after.