Our culture loves to romanticize the “perfect” romantic relationship. You know what I’m talking about: the married couple that got together in high school and are still going strong 20 years later; the ones that finish each other’s sentences; the ones that never fight. And while that’s all well and good, I’ve been thinking lately about the idea that the kind of partnership we all should be striving for isn’t the supposedly “perfect” one but instead one that goes through the fire and comes out the other side smoking — but stronger.
First of all, there’s no such thing as “perfect.” That "perfect" couple that you’re jealously stalking on Facebook has their own problems. Every relationship looks a certain way from the outside, but that the view from the inside is probably completely different. Secondly, it’s way past time that we normalize adversity in our romantic relationships. I was speaking with a friend recently who went through a breakup with her partner earlier this year and now is planning on getting married. She told me that it’s been hard because a lot of her friends are skeptical of the engagement after seeing her go through such a tough time earlier this year. And while it’s normal for her friends to be worried about her (they’d be pretty crappy friends if they weren’t), their worry is greater because we have a cultural expectation that relationships should always be “good" — and that definition of "good" is extremely narrow.
That expectation also prevents us from talking about tough times with friends and family, which can be really isolating. Who wants to be isolated when they’re having a hard time with their romantic partner? Pushing back against the idea that a good relationship necessarily means ones without troubles will help take away some of the same and stigma that people feel when their relationships are anything less than “perfect.”
Licensed clinical psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish tells Bustle that going through hard times will help you see your partner for who they really are. "People show different versions of who they are during both good times and bad," she says.
Not totally ready to give up the myth of the perfect relationship yet? Here are five more reasons to hope for hard times in your relationship.
1. It Forces You To Take Stock
When you’re in a decent relationship, it can be really easy to just keep on for the sake of keeping on. But when something big happens, it forces you to really assess what’s working — and what isn’t. “Similar to when the economy goes through a recession and companies have to focus on areas of inefficiency to make necessary cuts, when relationships go through difficult times it forces couples to analyze their relationship to see what needs to be improved and why,” Dr. Wyatt Fisher, licensed psychologist, tells Bustle.
2. It’s Good Practice
Bad things happen in life — that’s an unavoidable fact. If you’re going to be together for the long haul, then you’re going to go through some really intense stuff. Hitting some rough patches earlier on in a relationship means you’ll have practice for those things — things like your parents dying or car accidents or cancer — that might come up later.
3. You Stop Taking Each Other For Granted
“Often couples will begin to coast in their relationship and start taking one another for granted,” Dr. Wyatt says. “When this occurs, spouses often become negligent on sensitively meeting one another’s needs. However, when a crisis in the relationship occurs, it forces the couple to focus and invest their energy intentionally to building and sustaining their connection.”
4. You’ll Be Super Grateful Once You’re Through It
I’m a firm believer in the idea that we need the hard times to show us how great the good times are and this situation is no different. Pushing through a difficult time in your relationship is extremely hard. It may be one of the hardest things you ever do — I can definitely say that it has been for me. But when you get to the other side and you find yourself in love with your partner again, it’s the best feeling in the world.
5. What Doesn't Kill Your Relationship Makes It Stronger
“Research has shown that children who experience mild to moderate levels of adversity growing up actually fair better in adulthood than children who experienced no adversity at all because some level of strain makes us stronger,” Dr. Wyatt says. “When couples go through difficult times and learn to work through it successfully, it often strengthens their bond and closeness and makes their relationship more resilient than it was before.”
6. You'll Have A More Accurate View Of Your Partner
If you've only ever seen your partner during good times, your perspective is pretty skewed. "You'll get a more accurate view of your partner when you see how he or she manages good and bad stress, and the challenges of bad news or unexpected changes, Dr. Wish says."
So shelve that rom-com version of what a “perfect” romantic relationship should look like and welcome the hard times that are inevitably going to come — you’ll be much happier for it.
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