Once upon a time, two people fell in love, got married, and lived happily ever after…The End. Or did they? The picture perfect ending to most fairytales only shows the start of a partnership. These fairytale endings create the perception that real life should reflect the harmonious bliss depicted in cinema’s happily ever after moments. The truth is, Hollywood never displays the reality of what happens after the euphoric union. Hollywood, if you’re reading this, we would love to see a romantic comedy that begins with the happily ever after scene, and unfolds into the nitty gritty of real life.
Full disclosure: I love a good fairytale, and thoroughly enjoy escaping into a whirlwind love story. However, I did have to learn to normalize ups and downs in real life relationships. We’ve all been on enough bad dates to know that bliss doesn’t begin the instant two people make a connection. However, the movies teach us that an initial spark should start a seamless journey to happily ever after. Ideas about instant sparks, love at first sight, knowing immediately, and how easy it should be when you “find the one,” reinforce this black and white thinking. The reality is that long-term commitment lies at the start of an uncertain journey called a relationship.
Eastern cultures offer a somewhat practical approach to partnership. Arranged marriages aside, the principles of matchmaking people from similar backgrounds create a solid and enduring foundation. This doesn’t dismiss the importance of chemistry, but it does take the pressure off the idea that chemistry has to be instant. The belief is that where there’s a good foundation, chemistry and something far more grounding can evolve. Does that mean there won’t be bumps in the road? Absolutely not! But it could mean that the bumps are easier to withstand because the path beneath them is built on something more concrete. Beyond the cultural aspect, the principles of looking past initial attraction for something deeper are universal and applicable in combination with modern approaches.
So, with all that in mind, let’s explore some of the things that are normal to anticipate in real life relationships.
Expect ups and downs:
Anticipate difficulty as you get used to each other, and even after that. As with any new endeavor, things may feel foreign and overwhelming at first, until you get the hang of it. You may want to give up some days, or question your choice of partner. These thoughts and feelings are absolutely normal and to be expected. Remind yourself of all the wonderful and reassuring reasons why you made this choice, and know that most thoughts and feelings are temporary. Allow yourself to ride the emotional wave. Relationships require work the same way businesses, raising children and even training puppies do. Hardship doesn’t mean it’s time to leave. It just means finding solutions so you can continue to move forward.
Normalize difficult feelings:
Normalize not always feeling lit up by the other person. Ask yourself why you are feeling a certain way, and cultivate awareness around your emotions. We all bring our own baggage to the equation. If we’re not feeling great in ourselves or we’re having a bad day, we may find it hard to feel joy around our partner, or even project blame onto them for not being able to shield us from difficulty. Remind yourself that you don’t expect to always feel lit up in friendships or other familial relationships, so it’s normal to have phases where you don’t feel it in romantic ones.
Needing to be “whole”:
Do you have to be “whole” in order to be eligible for a stable relationship? The jury seems to be a little mixed on this one. Some experts advise that you shouldn’t be seeking completion from another person, while others offer a more empathic view that to some extent, it’s okay for people to complete each other. My own views rest somewhere in the middle. As humans, we are constantly evolving. Wholeness, to my mind, implies perfection or completion, neither of which can truly exist in living things. If we’re done evolving, then we’re done moving forward. Life is about moving forward, so find someone you can evolve with in a positive direction. Each one of us has something unique to offer, to enhance your partner’s life. As long as you find completion in a way that adds value to yourself and your partner, there’s nothing wrong with making each other feel whole.
Find safe spaces to share both your highs and your lows. These safe spaces may include friends, family and peers whom you trust and can be authentic with. Connecting with others who share similar experiences really helps to normalize negative feelings, shrinking them down to a manageable size, and making you feel less alone.
Lasting relationships don’t have to begin with a spark or instant connection to be the right choice. Find someone who feels like home, with whom you feel safe, and with whom you share the same fundamental goals in life. Your partner should be willing to grow, evolve, and make compromises with you. These are some of the qualities that make for strong foundations, which can weather storms and go the distance.
Written by Nadine Hallak, Founder of @4KiX.shop