As a counselor, I can show people where the water is, but I cannot make them drink. I desperately want everyone to have their happily ever after, but sometimes I have to be honest with myself.
As long as humans are human, it won’t happen for everyone.
Not all of us are willing to put in the work to make it happen. Because if there’s one thing I know: happy relationships require
Grit, grind and labor.
I don’t know any other way to spell it.
It’s not always the romantic, sexy, breath taking adventure that fairy tales sold us when we were little girls.
Relationships rarely succeed when they are on automatic. You have to intentionally put in the energy to improve yourself and to improve your bond, every day!
And since I’m being honest with myself, I may as well be honest with you too.
If you don’t accept this reality before you start or continue your relationship, you will not succeed. Here are 4 areas you can work on to get started.
1. Immaturity and selfishness. One of the trademarks of being a toddler is not wanting to share and not caring what your mom is doing when your hunger pain strikes. You want food and you want it now. You want attention and you want it now. You don’t care if mom is sick, working, or otherwise busy.
If you’re 1 or 2-years-old, you get a free-pass on all of that.
But being a mature responsible adult requires that you put your partner’s needs before your own. You want them to be happy more than you want you to be happy. If both partners have this attitude, then everyone will be happy. The problem comes when you enter a relationship thinking that it’s about your happiness.
It’s totally not.
Marriage is about giving more than taking. The person who is ready to experience real love is the person who is ready to give of themselves. Mind, body and spirit.
You can fix this by engaging in volunteer work that consists of serving others. Whether it’s working at a soup kitchen, an afterschool program with children or helping out at a nursing home—you need to take the focus off yourself.
You need to understand that it’s better to give than to receive. But don’t just go through the motions. Concentrate on showing love to others just because they deserve it.
And if you can do this for strangers, it will come natural for you to do this in a relationship with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.
2. Stubbornness. “I’m always right.” “My way or the highway.” “I’ve always been this way and I don’t have to change for anyone.”
When I’m sitting face to face with a couple and I tell them what it will take for their relationship to move forward, often times, one of them will make a decision that it easier to NOT change and risk losing their relationship, than it is to change.
Stubbornness can be good if you’re starting a business and you know you’re doing the right thing. But when it consistently shows up in a relationship where there should be negotiation and compromise, it can lead to one partner becoming resentful of the stubborn partner.
Stubbornness can be fixed by letting go: Because stubbornness is all about control, stubborn people need to practice the art of letting go. For at least 48 hours, let go of the need to be right. Let go of the need to look a certain way, let go of the need to always get what you want. Simply relax and let go.
At the end of the experiment, examine how you feel. You will discover that the world is still turning and you didn’t lose anything. You may actually gain a lot of peace in the process.
As humans, we were meant to evolve over time and if you’re not evolving, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing, you’re not ready for a serious relationship.
3. Not understanding Men. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to women, why their husband or fiancé can’t not take a hint or read in between the lines. If we’re from Mars, they really are from Venus.
They communicate differently. They don’t want to read your mind, nor do they want to be manipulated. They want you to be direct and tell them what’s wrong. The typical “nothing” response will lead to you not getting your needs met in the relationship.
They also think and behave differently. For the most part, men focus on one thing at a time, while women tend to multi-task.
To fix a lack of understanding of the secret life of men, it’s best to read, ask questions and learn as much as you can. Did I mention that I have a new book coming out that will help you understand men? Shameless plug.
Anyway, after you’ve established trust, most men will open up to you and tell you what they are thinking. But when they do, be prepared to accept them at face value.
Don’t judge. Don’t make assumptions and don’t try to change them.
4. Fairytale expectations. My client “Mary” grew up not knowing her father. But she always dreamed of marrying someone who would make her feel like a princess. She wanted someone to tell her how beautiful she is on a daily basis. And she wanted someone to shower her with undivided attention the moment she walked in the door.
Our view of the perfect relationship can come from wanting what our parents had, or wanting the complete opposite of their tragic story. And usually these are uncommunicated expectations that neither party knows the other wants, but both expects the other to fulfill.
It’s almost like we assume our significant other grew up the same way we did and knows what our version of the perfect relationship looks like, without us ever saying a word.
Of course, Mary’s husband “Tom,” thought that if he married her and took care of her financially, she would feel loved. After all, that’s what his dad did.
Needless to say, when Tom didn’t deliver, Mary was unsatisfied and Tom never knew why.
The easy fix here is to develop realistic expectations, based on real life– not Cinderella, and to learn effective communication 101. It sounds easy to an adult who knows how to talk, but it isn’t. The natural thing to do when we are feeling unfulfilled in relationships is to blame, criticize and shutdown. Instead of taking that approach, learn to say exactly what you want, need and expect in a constructive manner.