Is A Relationship Supposed To Be Hard Work?

Feb. 26, 2013
Karen is an overthinker who loves the Boston Celtics, crime noir and breakfast for dinner. Contact her at ...

I’ve been in relationships that were easy. Relationships where the other person fit into my life neat as a puzzle piece. Where there was hardly ever any arguing and every day spent together was blissful. And guess what? Those relationships didn’t last. In the end, one or both of us got bored. One or both of us felt there wasn’t a spark, wasn’t any passion.

I’ve also been in relationships where all we did was fight. There was never any agreement or seeing eye to eye. We didn’t have the same sense of humor, or of what was right or wrong. We were always at each other’s throats, able to magically tear each other apart and push each other’s buttons epically.

When at the Oscars, Ben Affleck thanked his wife Jennifer Garner by saying their marriage was hard work but worth it every day, I didn’t think, “Oh, he’s in the doghouse now.” I just thought he was telling the truth — and that is was kind of sweet and cute. Relationships are hard work. They take compromise and sometimes you want to slap the other person. They’re sort of unnatural in a way. Even if you were told by society that you had to live with your best friend in one bedroom for the rest of forever, you’d probably be like, “Uh, do I like my best friend THAT much?” It’s a breeding ground for arguing.

People say it’s good to fight when you’re with someone. It means you’re communicating. It means you’re constantly working on the relationship and working out problems. But it’s exhausting to fight all the time and it’s exhausting to feel like you’re constantly building the relationship up again and again.

How hard should you be working? Should you feel tired and stressed out all the time? Should you constantly be making concessions and worrying? Should a relationship be so much work? What’s the right amount of work?

The risk when it’s no work at all is that the other person doesn’t mean anything to you. Not to go all Hollywood but how many movies or TV shows have the two people get together flawlessly and then never struggle again? It’s the struggle that brings them closer and closer together. It’s communicating and overcoming adversity that makes the relationship stronger, deeper and more long-lasting. I’ve seen friends in long-term relationships or marriages who are only drawn closer by all they’ve had to go through to be together.

But on the flip side, shouldn’t relationships also be fun? Shouldn’t you feel maddening joy and happiness around this person you’re choosing to share your life with? Shouldn’t you miss them when they’re not around and have an array of fun things you want to do with them? Maybe I’m under the mistaken impression from like, jewelry commercials and Hallmark cards, that every day should be a magical, wonderful adventure — and that’s just not true.

It has to be a balance. You don’t want to work on something that makes you miserable more often then it makes you happy. You have to measure the pros and cons and decide if it’s worth it to dedicate so much time to the relationship. You don’t want to be with someone who makes you feel small or awful, and if you’re crying more than you’re smiling or stressed out more than you’re content then you may have an unfixable problem. But you also want someone who challenges you and makes you think and who will fight for their opinions. You don’t want a dead fish. But do you really need to be wasting so much time arguing?

The question becomes: Do you think it’s a waste of time? If you really see a future with this person, you should respect each other’s differences and be willing to talk them out until everyone feels good and okay. But if you are doing this so often it impedes on your ability to enjoy each other’s company, maybe these differences are irreconcilable. There’s a difference between the necessary hard work that leaves you, like Affleck, feeling grateful and truthful, and the type of person is just exhausting you, wasting your time, and bleeding you dry emotionally and mentally. That decision is up to you. TC Mark

Karen Noble

Karen Noble

Karen is an overthinker who loves the Boston Celtics, crime noir and breakfast for dinner. Contact her at …

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