relationship, marriage, relationships, married

What Destroys Contentment in Relationships?

Relationships all begin with fantasy & illusions. We have absolutely no idea who somebody else really is but we make it up because we are in love. Fantasy is a flimsy beginning & contentment can be hard to achieve.

Share the Love & Spread the Word

PLEASE Tweet or SHARE on Facebook (sooooo helpful)
Subscribe on iTunes: HERE

or Sticher: (HERE for androids)   & please leave a review. THANKS!!!!!

What Destroys Contentment in Relationships? Episode #28

My son in law from New Zealand requested this episode. His text said: “Do a podcast on being content with your current place in life. It’s too easy for us to think it will be better once we have a new job, new car, new partner or lose 20 lbs. etc, etc.These things will always bring new challenges & we will always want more or find new ways to be discouraged.” I agreed this is a great topic so here we are……

All relationships begin in fantasy & illusions. We often have absolutely no idea who somebody else is but we make it up because we are in love. Our imagination is going full tilt boogie with excitement that has little basis in reality. So imagination is usually the beginning of all relationships. Fantasy is a flimsy beginning but it’s what we have to work with.

The work of relationships & contentment is to accept more of the infrastructure of reality. Accepting reality means living with the other person’s dark side. Of course there will be things that are hard to live with or annoying or completely frustrating. When it’s important you have to speak up about what’s hard and/or different that really wears on you. The gay male chief of staff on t.v’s Scandal, Cyrus Bean is in my mind one of the most despicable characters on television to be married to. He would not be someone worth communicating with because he is constantly manipulating.

Communicating about what’s hard is 1/2 of the messy equation of success & contentment in relationships. The other half of the equation is reducing expectations. People in Scandinavian countries over the decades score highest in happiness research Why? …..because they have less expectations. Expectations can pave the path of misery. Do you accept the reality that nobody gets all the pieces of the pie?

Weddings are saturated in romantic expectations, social media is saturated in the perfect pictures of couples showing off. Movies are about the beginnings or the ends of relationships, not the work of the messy middles. I want to do a research study on the divorce rate for couples that either get married in Disneyland or honeymoon there. I only have a sample of one but sure enough they’re divorced. I would bet it is 70% or 75% instead of the cultural 50% because Disneyland is all about fantasy. High expectations are about pretending you can have it all.

Contentment requires lower expectations. Let me repeat that….Contentment requires lower expectations.

Contentment requires not taking the easy way out. Understanding that relationships require work. Relationships require sacrifice & doing things you don’t want to do for the other person. Contentment requires knowing there is real work to do to build an infrastructure that accounts for the differences in both people.

Contentment means figuring out how to talk about hard things, the things you deflect & avoid because you don’t want “to hurt the other person”. You have to give the people you love a reality check. I had a client who was laid off & didn’t have skills that would easily translate in the job market & I cautioned her it might take a year which it did. I wanted her to be more prepared for a more difficult reality than she expected because I cared.

Reality matters. We need to be happy & live within our means. It is sometimes harder to bring up the word budget to a couple than to ask them about their sex life.

Stuff isn’t really the answer. I found an entire box of jewelry that got misplaced when we moved. I picked out two pieces & really enjoyed passing the rest on to my daughter, my best friend since 10th grade & my daughter in law. It was more fun to be free of it & make someone else happy before waiting to be dead.

Contentment requires that you solve the puzzle of how to have zest in your own life as an individual, not just as a couple or a family. How do you solve what makes you tick? The more of an individual you are, the more likely it will be that your partnership works. You do have to solve individual contentment, not hide out in taking care of everybody else. Find out how your life is worth living separate from your partner or your kids & I guarantee you will have a more interesting relationship.

Contentment requires acceptance. Do you really need a new car to be happy? The income for happiness is 70,000. They researched the wealthy & across the board the wealthy always felt they needed more to be happy.

I think contentment can require being creative….My friend Linda Wallen has built mosaic walls all over our neighborhood & it’s so delightful to stumble into them……her efforts have made many of us happy in our working class part of Pittsburgh. Everybody is a fingerprint & has to solve what equation of efforts brings you satisfaction but it can’t be all about accumulation.

Contentment can often be a gift of aging well but it’s not exclusive. Aging offers the gift of accepting the pieces you didn’t get & gratitude for the pieces you do get. The research says gratitude experienced every day can lead to greater contentment. Think about those you may be grateful to & consider reaching out & saying something. I’ve always been lucky in experiencing a lot of gratitude.

Many years ago I saw an old professor eating dinner at a middle eastern restaurant. Even though he had been a jerk too, I really appreciated one of his messages in the classroom. You can’t be a therapist unless you’ve been a client & he allowed me to do therapy as a client for a class project, this made it ok for stoic me to ask for help & it changed my life. I went up to him & told him this, I was confused by his effusiveness but understood when I got home & saw that day’s newspaper. There on the front page he had been indicted for 80,000 worth of fraud to insurance companies. I love that I carry a lot of gratitude inside of me….

Contentment requires knowing more about who you are & what works for you uniquely. I’ve listened to many people in my office who get promoted into jobs they grow to hate. Sometimes contentment might mean staying where you are, making less money & saying no to the promotion.

Knowing what means a lot to you is crucial to contentment. I don’t make any money with my podcasts, videos or websites & what’s important is trying in my own way to make the world better, that is more satisfying.

Knowing no one escapes the messiness of life & accepting that suffering is a part of it…. leads to greater contentment.

My Challenge for you today: #1. Ask yourself do you accept your own humanity & dark side??? If you do this will help you accept your partner’s dark side. #2. A homework to develop more gratitude within might be to write down once a week what you are grateful for, & it’s something you can do with your partner. #3. Sit down with your partner & have an honest look at your finances. Do you both live within your means? Do your financial priorities mesh? #4. When was the last time you sacrificed or did something you didn’t want to do for your relationship health? #5. Do either of you volunteer? Do you do more than write checks? Helping others can lead to greater contentment. I’m going to give a shout out to 412 Food Rescue here in Pittsburgh, which gets extra food from restaurants & farms to people in need. There is even an app for your phone that you can respond to….

0 0 votes
Article Rating


About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



Download your FREE checklist


Would love your thoughts, please comment.x