The Secret to Relationships

“Why are relationships so hard?”  “Why do they take so much work?”  “Why aren’t your relationships working as well as you’d like them to?”

The quick answer is that relationships are hard because they are, take so much work because they do and don’t work as well as you’d like them to because they don’t.

Behind this glib response is the statement that we all carry with us a belief about relationships that is sometimes subconscious and often unexamined. It is the belief that life is supposed to be different from what it is. Then, when our fantasy clashes with our reality, we think there’s something wrong with us, with the other person and with the relationship.

Have you seen the movie, “Romancing the Stone” with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner? The movie opens with a scene out of the old west where a woman in peril is rescued from outlaws by a handsome cowboy who sweeps the woman into his arms, lifts her onto his horse and rides off with her into the sunset. It is a perfect depiction of a perfect dream relationship.

Unfortunately, it is a dream. After a short fade out, we see that the whole thing has come out of the imagination of Kathleen Turner who is a writer creating the scene in her mind for a book she’s working on. When the real cowboy, played by Michael Douglas, actually materializes, the reality of who he is clashes with the fantasy of what Kathleen would like him to be.

Within this one scene in a movie lies the story of all relationships. At some point in every relationship, the reality of who someone actually is will clash with our fantasy of who we would like him or her to be. This happens in every relationship, personally or professionally.

The person we thought was perfect, isn’t. The job we thought would be perfect, isn’t.

What we may fail to see is that there’s nothing actually wrong. This is exactly what is supposed to happen.

Starting a relationship is very much like a job interview. Both of you are on your best behavior. Small disagreements that might erupt into something larger are glossed over and laughed about. You both want to be “hired” by the other person.

Being in a relationship occurs after you have “hired” one another. You can’t maintain that sunny disposition and “everything is perfect demeanor” all the time. Disagreements will inevitably emerge. Some can be glossed over and laughed about. Others will require conversation and a willingness to give up the need to be right.

The future of the relationship will depend on the choice you make at that moment. And it is a choice. No person will be perfect. No job will be perfect. The grass isn’t actually greener on the other side. It is just green.

If you’re going to be in a long term relationship, you’re going to have to make the choice to do so because the relationship will at times, be hard, take a lot of work and won’t always work as well as you’d like it to.