7 Ways You're Probably Not Trying Enough In Your Relationship & How To Fix It
I'm not trying to judge you, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say there are ways you're probably not trying hard enough in your relationship. I say this because I believe that all relationships require tremendous amounts of work, and that we all have room for improvement. And, well, if you don't think relationships are a lot of work, you're probably not doing them right.
If you asked me what the hardest, most labor-intensive things in my life were, I'd have to say carrying eight bags of groceries up three flights of stairs, and also being in a relationship. I know that sounds harsh, but those fairytale scenarios where two best friends slip into an effortless ever after, filled with rainbows and helpful woodland creatures, are imaginary. Or full of denial. They show you Prince Charming putting the glass slipper on his Cinderella, but they don't show him pooping with the door open while his bride plucks out her stray mustache hairs (or leaves them in, because I think that's rad and brave!).
When I worked with couples as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I preached hard work like it was a commandment handed down from god herself. Because really, it is. And if it's not, it should be. If you're getting lazy, or if you just want to do better in your relationship, let these scenarios wash over you and see if they make your fairytale a better balance of glitter and grit.
1. You're Snappy
Being snappy, short, and rude to your partner should be something that happens on a rare occasion when you're not you're best self and when tensions are high. It shouldn't be something that happens every day. If it does, you need to do a couple things. First, you need to dig deeper to find out what the real issue is, or why you're so angry and irritated all the time. Second, you need to learn skills to handle your anger, react in a calmer, more productive way, and express yourself so you feel heard and understood. Sometimes just keeping your mouth shut feels like you're holding back the ocean, and a lot of people need professional help to master these skills, but that's the kind of work you need to do to have a healthy relationship with your partner and yourself.
2. You're Distant
I can't tell you how many times I've had an overwhelming day where I'm dead tired, and all I want to do is zone out on my phone at look at glitter nails on Instagram, but in that exact moment, my partner wants to tell me about her whole life. It's a lot of work sometimes to put my phone down, listen patiently, and to really be supportive and present when I'd rather just nod my head and be like "only talk to me about food you plan to feed me." Such hard work, and I think we could all do better at this.
3. You're Not Sweet
I'm married, and sometimes romance for us means her taking the dogs out for me, or making me epic pancakes. It's a far cry from the flowers and date adventures of our courtship, but that's not what matters. What matters is you're still making an effort to make your partner feel loved and special. Being together forever doesn't mean your partner should know how you feel. You should continually try, until the day you die or separate, to tell them and how them how you feel. Do the work it takes to be sweet to each other, whatever that means to you.
4. You're Self-Centered
You got your own thing, and that's awesome. It's healthy to maintain your own strong individual identity in a relationship. But sometimes it can't be about you, and if you're not used to that, then it's totally hard work. You have to be a cheerleader, listening ear, crying shoulder, friend, advice giver and decision helper for your partner. Sometimes you even have to sacrifice some of your own happiness for the greater good. If it's always all about you, time to dig deep and make space or your partner. Be prepared, there might be a well of resentment there that you didn't even realize you were creating.
5. You're Lazy
If you're lazy, you gotta shape up. Maybe you never clean, or you're always asking your partner to get up and get you stuff, or maybe you can't be bothered to help with decision making. Maybe you don't brush your teeth enough, or maybe you just leave empty water bottles all over the car. Whatever lazy thing you're doing, if they are bothering your partner, you need to put forth some effort to make a change. I know, I know, You do what you want. But sometimes when you're in a relationship, part of the hard work is not doing what you want. And keep in mind, you don't have to change the very essence of your personality. You do have to pull your own weight, though.
6. You've Checked Out
It's hard work to fight. Well, let me rephrase that. It's hard work to fight in a constructive way. It's mentally and emotionally exhausting. But a sure sign that you're in serious trouble in your relationship is when you get to the point where you don't even bother to fight anymore. You'd rather just check out and save your energy. This is relationship suicide. If you've checked out, you need to check back in and talk out those problems like a person who wants to save their relationship.
7. You're An Island
This looks like a lot of different things. You can be used to fierce independence. You can have serious trust issues. You can be a free spirit who can't be tamed. You can be damaged and protecting yourself. Whatever you call it, the outcome is still the same. You create distance, and you never truly let your partner in. If this is you, you absolutely have to do the work of bending or healing so you can create that real bond. Otherwise, what's the point?
8. You're Not Nice To Their People
OK, so that thing your partner's mom said was totally snarky and the shade in their eyes could kill all the houseplants in a ten block radius. But sometimes you gotta do the work of sucking it up, being nice, and making your partner happy. Or maybe you could put all your partner's idiot buddies together and still not get one fully functioning brain. You have to be nice. You have to let your partner have relationships with friends and family, and you have to find a way to be at peace with that.
9. You Don't Handle Your Scandal
We all have our problems. It's an easy trap to shift blame to your partner for not accepting you exactly how you are instead of dealing with your problems. "This is just who I am" might be true to some extent, but it's no excuse to not be your best self. If you aren't willing to work on your own issues, you're probably not in the right place to work on relationship issues. I'm talking anxiety, poor budgeting, oversleeping, not taking care of yourself, arguing with your mom — whatever it is you need to work on. Because when you're in a relationship, it's your responsibility to do the work of being your best self so you can bring that to the table.
It's like carrying boulders uphill sometimes, but it's totally worth it. And next time someone tells you their relationship isn't a lot of work, they never fight, and they're just blissful best friends, you can say "that's nice" and feel smug because you know you've put in the work of building that next-level love.