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Relationships are a Dance in the Messiness of Life

What can help with the annoyances over differences when love & idealization wear off? You have to learn to respect the differences which is work, instead of pretending things aren’t that bad. Read more at: therapy

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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What makes relationships so much work?? Small things like you impulsively cross the street & he is careful & waits for the crosswalk permission. Or BIG things like you are pro-choice & he is against abortion. Navigating the differences and maintaining respect is the problem. It’s the same problems countries have: the protestants & catholics in 1980’s Belfast, Ireland or the Shia & Sunni differences in present day Iraq.

Relationships are a dance between two people in the messiness of life. We all adore the beginnings of relationships when there is the certainty of both people being in love. Certainty erases our fears, we can leap into the unknown a whole lot easier with a giant YES!
Yes, we feel the same. Yes we both agree this journey of love is worth it. Yes we are drunk with just how easy it all is. We idealize each other & are not yet annoyed by the differences on a regular basis

When You Are Annoyed with Your Partner:

What can help with the annoyances when they do arrive? You have to learn to respect you are inherently different people when that first stage of love & idealization wears off. Ultimately the goal is to learn to accept the differences,to let the differences sit quietly next to each other.

Apparently that’s what James Carville the democratic consultant for Clinton’s 1992 election campaign & Mary Matalin who ran George W. Bush’s 1992 campaign are able to do because they are still married to each other.

Lets take another common example: He felt lonely & had an emotional affair, She still finds it hard to move on after 3 months of genuine remorse on his part. He can’t drag her into forgiveness & She can’t leap into forgiveness, and remain authentic. So the messiness of recognizing the truth that you are both in different places and allowing that pain to be bearable is the hard work.

So many couples hold hands & leap into pretending it’s all ok & over when clearly that is false. Couples avoid talking about hard truths at their peril because then it is a house of cards waiting to collapse. You have an opportunity to use crisis to build a more solid infrastructure. Premature forgiveness amounts to pretending it will all go away.

Acceptance of the Differences:

Accepting the truth of how you are different also leads to having a more interesting life. It’s why having two kids is so much fun, because of how different they are.

Acceptance of the differences means you can negotiate with each other, be more honest & this will lead to respect. The 3 building blocks of the healthy triangle for couples I mentioned in the last episode about O.J & Drama. The more time you spend in the healthy triangle the more likely you are to be the best person you can be, which in my mind is the whole point of marriage & partnership.

Consistently swallowing the differences so you can go along, to get along is a very different direction, this is what feeds the collapse of relationships. I’m amazed how many husbands tell me they are afraid of their wives, so they don’t tell the truth. They prize avoiding conflict because of people pleasing & wanting to be liked. You can’t grow up unless you are willing to be uncomfortable.

Relationships are messy, like riding bumper cars at an amusement park. We all bump into each other & sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s hurtful & sometimes it’s a jolt that shakes our world. Unhappy marriages, relationship difficulties are all about respectful, honest communication in marriage about the differences.

The 2015 French movie 45 Years is only one example of the messiness. They appear happy & are celebrating, then a secret blows up their world. It’s a subtle, careful movie that reveals great depth. It’s also very sad how little they really shared with each other about really important things.Relationships require work & messiness; instead of secrets that create divides as big as the Grand Canyon.

Think of a dance where you don’t always know the steps but if you practice accepting the differences with respect & honesty you will negotiate a real future based on substance.

You have a choice to face things & grow or stagnate. The more practice you give truth the more likely your relationship will survive all the differences.

My Challenge:

So my challenge to you today is to think about the differences that bug you. Make an honest list: they are fill in the blank & You are fill in the blank. Go back & forth between the two of you taking into account the differences. How might you be more respectful? Think more seriously about how to negotiate with more respect.

My next episode will be about How to go about being more of a team. Hey, do me a favor & take time to write a review or send a link to your friends or post it on Facebook. I would really appreciate you spreading the word.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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