In the beginning, relationships are awkward. There’s the first date which is always paired with ample self-consciousness. It’s followed by plenty of doubt, as you wonder if you should text or wait. If you play it right, you’ll eventually have to cope with your embarrassing humanness slipping out, like the first audible queef. If you decide you like each other enough, the first argument is inevitable. Like everything else, it will be weird because you won’t understand each other well yet, and won’t be sure if you even want the other person to know all of who you are. During this tricky preliminary stage, most of us wish the relationship would just hurry along and get to a more comfortable and established place. And although you might get to the point of pooping with the door open, long term relationships can be just as uncomfortable, but in different ways. They present challenges that force us to not only see other sides of another, but of ourselves. That’s what relationships do, expose people. It’s mostly beautiful, but sometimes hard.
Here are 8 ways long-term relationships are uncomfortable:
1.) You discover that everyone is annoying, even yourself. When you are with someone long enough you will find a benign little mannerism that bugs the shit out of you. It won’t even make sense, like the way their bag of chips crinkles or the way their ears move. But while you are busy getting annoyed by your partner, they’re getting annoyed by you, too. So even though it’s fair, it’s still kind of tough to digest. I never thought of myself as annoying before, but now I know the truth. (Don’t feel bad for me- you’re annoying, too.)
2.) You are forced to see parts of yourself that are hard to look at. If you and your partner have problems, you might think it’s a good idea to find somebody new. But, you will probably have a lot of the same fights, just with a different person. It’s human nature to want to blame others, but successful relationships require us to examine our own faults. I’ve learned so much about myself since I’ve been married. The knowledge has made me grow, but it’s hasn’t been easy to see myself under harsh lighting. It’s like seeing at a bad picture of yourself and thinking, “That’s not really what I look like.”
3.) You realize that you can’t rely on someone else for happiness. Everyone is struggling to meet their own needs, never mind yours. We are responsible for living balanced lives, and although relationships are an important part of that, they are merely a part. Relationships reveal our need to become emotionally self-reliant, while remaining vulnerable enough for intimacy. (It’s all a balancing act, people.)
4.) They require a special kind of multi-tasking. While you are working on yourself and figuring out how to make yourself happy, you also have to prioritize the happiness of your partner. You have to become both, self-reliant and dependable to your partner. You and your partner will often want and need different things, so compromise and problem-solving are necessary.
5.) Your preconceived notions will be challenged. Growing up, my dad wasn’t much of a family man. He was into his own world, which often didn’t go well with the wife and children he had at home. I grew up thinking that all men were this way. When I married my husband, I had to learn to trust him, and understand that he’s a different kind of person. He taught me that honest men and family-oriented guys do exist. Overcoming past hurts and rerouting destructive thoughts is necessary.
6.) You have to accept things that you might not like. This is difficult because in our dating years, we are told to not settle. In reality, even the most perfect person will have some not-so-hot aspects. My man doesn’t make the bed, his underwear are on the floor, and he’s unenthusiastic about giving back rubs. These aren’t worth fighting over, they just require non-bitter acceptance. Life requires acceptance.
7.) The tide is always changing. There will be many blissful, easy-peasy, in-love periods, followed by many tough, I-want-to-punch-you-in-the-face times. It’s easy to be present for the good times, but can you endure the trying ones? Relationships sometimes make you want to run away, and it takes a certain kind of strength to stay and weather the storms. Walking through rain in soggy socks is uncomfortable, but if you do it together, you will have someone to blow their hot breath on your cold feet when you make it back home.
8.) Relationships need to be nurtured, which is especially hard when all you seem to do is work. You get in your car, fight traffic, deal with demanding bosses and difficult coworkers, and come home beat-down to more people who want your attention. Once they are tucked into bed, you want to turn your attention onto yourself, and this is understandable. But your relationship cannot go unwatered. It cannot take the backseat in a busy life.
In long-term relationships, we don’t only see more aspects of others, we see them of ourselves. Sometimes what we see is hard to face and we want to run, and although we feel like we’re running from a relationship, we’re really running from ourselves. (It’s no wonder many people go through many relationships, but with all the same problems.) Relationships require us to not only love people when they aren’t really lovable, but to own up to our own difficulties, too. They force us to let go of everything we thought we knew in order to understand somebody as they actually are, and to trust in love. They require us to be the best version of ourselves we can be, and to keep stepping up everyday and embracing whatever it is our relationship is presenting us with. Often, it’s effortless love, connection, and fun. But sometimes they present us with obstacles that are learning opportunities is disguise that ultimately deepen intimacy.
We needn’t be afraid of the hard times. As Thich Nhat Nanh said, “Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”
A version of this piece originally appeared on BonBon Break.
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