Relationships are hard work.
I’ve written these very words many times.
You’ve probably even heard this phrase before.
It is often stated as a Truism in our society, and while I understand the sentiment … I’ve reached a point where I no longer buy it.
I do believe that relationships involve work, but hard work? I’m not so sure.
I understand that intimacy in marriage challenges us in unique and specific ways, this is what makes marriage the people-growing machine it is.
But when I hear talk about the “hard work” required for a long-term relationship, I wonder if what they’re actually referring to is the difficulty of living with someone who’s immature or doesn’t live with integrity and authenticity.
Why would it be hard work to live with a mature, authentic grown up?
- Wouldn’t you think people would treat the ones they love better over time, not worse?
- Isn’t it logical to believe we’d be nicer to loved ones than we are to strangers?
- Isn’t the idea of marriage to lighten our load, not add to our burden? And if it were the latter, why in the world would anyone sign up for something like this?
I fully get that we as humans all have flaws, and that our flaws and imperfections play out most in marriage.
Marriage is the playing field of the “worst in us.”
The things like unrealistic expectations, avoidance, manipulation, pleasing, fear of intimacy, projection, and emotional reactivity.
But it is also these “worst in us” things that help create the people-growing machine of marriage.
At the same time however, I’ve seen some of the damage that can occur when people tolerate immature, angry, emotionally reactive, or unfaithful behaviors.
So how about this?
If your spouse is treating you badly, you play a role in it if it continually happens.
If you’ve been tolerating unavailability, or inconsiderate, hurtful, or even abusive behavior from your spouse, you’re partly to blame.
You’re either not leading, not setting boundaries, or you haven’t been willing to get to rejection. These are three essentials for a respectful, reciprocal, nurturing, and grown up relationship.
If you accept bad behavior from your spouse (and friends and family), you are likely to get bad behavior from them.
If you want a great relationship, you must stop “tolerating” anything less than loving, respectful behavior. Raise the bar, act accordingly yourself (i.e. be what you want to attract), and invite your spouse to follow you there.
If you want your marriage to keep getting better over time and lighten your load rather than add to your burden, you must take responsibility for both how you behave and for what behaviors you accept from your spouse.
At the end of the day, live according to this statement:
You teach people how to treat you.
This idea is explored more fully in Blow Up My Marriage - which begins again January 20, 2014.