I love love…meaning I really like talking about love, relationships, passion, and of course the conflicts, disagreements, boredom and all the other things that transpire when you share your life with someone. However, I am one of those hopeless romantics that believe in love forever. When I was younger I used to think that we all have soul mates and that once you met him/her that was it, we lived happily ever after.
But do we really?
For many, love is a magic feeling, a way of living a very well described story most commonly known as “fairy tales”. The thing is that most of the fairy tale stories we know end when the couple falls in love. We don’t get to see what happens beyond the wedding. We don’t know if Cinderella really lived happily ever after or if she had an argument with the prince because he was too busy working and did not have time for her or maybe they fought because he always left his pants on the floor. What about Belle and the Beast, did he learn to behave like a human? Ooohhhh did he become open and welcoming instead of avoidant and distant?
The list would go on and on but you get my point. Falling in love is the easy part; staying in love is hard and it requires work and patience. If it is your belief that when the relationship requires work it means that it is not meant to be; or if the words “it shouldn’t be this hard” have crossed your mind I sincerely ask you to think again and look at the evidence: relationships are hard.
There are always three (or more) components to every relationship: you, your partner and the relationship itself. If you believe that any of those three (or all three) have permanent qualities, it might mean that you have a fixed mindset about love and relationships. In other words it might be your belief that you are the way you are, your partner is the way he/she is, and as a result the relationship is meant to be, or not; in other words there is nothing that you can do to make it better (or worse). Research shows, however, that ALL of these qualities/traits, etc. can be developed. We ALL have the capacity for growth and change.
Couples that stay together have fights, they have difference of opinion, they have gridlock conflicts. They stay together because they are able to work through those, they are able to communicate their perspectives and listen to their partners (by the way, that is listen to understand not to respond) and they are able to navigate and negotiate through those conflicts. They understand that some conflicts cannot be solved they can only be managed.
Sparks might fly when you first meet but when the honeymoon phase is over, the two of you might have to start working on your relationship and the reason is simple: Each partner comes to the relationship with baggage—which means they have been hurt, rejected, lied to (and in some cases so much more)—so it makes sense that certain situations will elicit responses that are unexpected, hard to work through or accept.
If you run into trouble, and before you give up (unless there is any kind of abuse) I would like to encourage all of you lovebirds out there to ask yourselves:
- Do I have ‘fairy tale’ expectations about my relationship?
- Do I have any unresolved issue that is interfering with the way I relate to my partner?
- Is my mindset about love and romance a fixed one? (i.e. “there is nothing I can do to change this dynamic”; “I am the way I am and I cannot change”; “Love/relationships should not be this hard”; etc.)
- Do I/we see our relationship for what it is rather than for what I/we think it should be?
- Is there contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling or criticism in my relationship? (More about this soon)
- Do we hear (I mean really hear) each other?
My hope is that you will continue to sigh (just like I do) when you see fairy tale romance in the movies but when the show is over, please get back to reality. Engage in your relationship with patience, empathy and most of all love. Remember that it is not about choosing the right/perfect person; it is about working/living through it all with the person you chose.
Instead of thinking: “…and they lived happily ever after” think: “…and they worked together in their relationship happily ever after”.
Find more information on Carol Dweck- Mindset here