Love is not a bed of roses. I am sorry to break this to you. But before you start labeling me as a bitter cynic, allow me to remind you that when it comes to relationships, there is always more than meets the eye. And if you know any better, you should be aware of this first before you step into one. If every relationship looked as if it came straight out of that kissing in the rain scene from The Notebook, Taylor Swift would have no one left to write her break-up songs about.
I used to be that wide-eyed idealist. All I had to do was take one look at the guy and BAM we would be married with three babies. Before you know it, your brain starts working overtime. The two of you would have progressed, in the span of two minutes, from strangers to non-detachable sticky magnets. And if you take to binge-watching sappy romance films like me, the heartfelt confessions beneath the starry night sky are a must. There’s just something so dreamy about that safe sanctuary you create when you are in a relationship. I mean, how hard could it be right? Just you, me and a whole lot of love and affection to go around. Isn’t that enough? Isn’t that all we need?
After all, your rose-tinted glasses only show you what you want to see. Will we call each other “babe” or “baby” or “dear”? Will we wear couple tees? Will our Instagram captions be downright cheesy? What will our first date be like? Congratulations! You have now constructed the quixotic version of a partner you want and not a realistic one of the partner you actually have.
A romantic relationship is very much like that kid in your class getting all the As for his examinations. He makes it look so effortless with his carefree, easygoing disposition in school. But you would never know of the blood, sweat and tears gone into securing those stellar grades, unless you were home with him watching him studying his ass off at the desk from day to night. Never take things at face value.
I am a pragmatist. A matured idealist. I still have my fair share of daydreams but I’d like to think I’m more aware of what a relationship really entails right now. Sorry, friends. Love is simply not enough. Texting the occasional “I love you” throughout the day is not enough. Touching first, second, third base is obviously not enough. It is insufficient to simply affirm your undying attraction to each other.
Post honeymoon stage and everything usually goes to shit. When the initial dopamine high dies down, we sober up and harsh sunlight starts peeking out rudely through the blinds. Pet peeves become glaringly obvious.
Playful banter turns into little riffs, which morph into heated debates and finally a full-blown yelling contest. And after all the tear-jerking drama, we turn to others for support but then realize, to our horror that we have lost all our friends after multiple blue-ticked texts and unanswered calls (they probably think we died or fell off the face of the earth.)
To top that off, jealousy rears its ugly head and somewhere amidst stalking our lovers’ social media sites for possible one-night hook-ups, you freeze in your tracks and come to the realization that you have become that insecure, suspicious housewife stereotype you have always detested. The uphill climb features a refreshing scenic route and is always rewarding once you find your way, slowly but surely, to the peak of the hill. The downhill stumble though is easier, faster and boring AF. Also, you are more likely to end up tumbling headfirst into the dirt.
Some things soon come to light: Your existence is entirely dependent on validation from your other half. You have devoted your life completely to tending to their every need. You are nothing but a by-product of your relationship. Your identity has always been like Parmesan cheese – sprinkled on pizza, it brings out the taste and flavor but without the pizza, it is, on its own, just bland, tasteless and a tad bit pointless. The scariest thing about this is not the break-up. It is the knowing that after the break-up, you are a hollowed-out shell with no substance.
The good news is I just spelled out the worst-case scenario of idealism gone horribly wrong. But it happens. All the time. Ready for a crash course on reality? That one thing you need that will make or break your relationship is this: emotional maturity. Picture this. You come back from work all exhausted and shagged out. What do you do? No, you do not hit the sack immediately. You haul your ass to the phone and hit the dial button instead. Emotional maturity is a muscle you have to constantly exercise. It is listening to your lover’s ramblings about the daily grind without missing out on a single detail even when you are dying of fatigue.
It is wrecking your brain to come up with creative date ideas even when you just want the usual Netflix and Chill sesh. It is accompanying them to that party even when your introverted self is internally combusting and you’re having a misogynistic moment. It is tiny sacrifices. It is open-mindedness. It is finding middle ground. It is effort, effort, effort. This is what keeps it going. Passivity and a building-castles-in-the-sky state of mind get the both of you nowhere. Making those ideals a reality by actually taking action and making that effort – this is what both parties have to do to maintain a healthy relationship.
You can’t just chicken out and scurry away like a coward as and when you like. A relationship is all about hard work and commitment. No one gets to slack off and take the back seat. But you have to remember that life is not restricted solely to your relationship. You have to give yourself space for being a good friend, a good lover, a good son/daughter and above all, good enough for yourself.
So to all my fellow idealists out there – the paper walls of your castle will most certainly crumple, you will most certainly be a little disappointed, but what you can do is prepare for it first. I suggest it’s about time you wipe the sleep from your eyes and take reality by its horns for once because, you and I both, have a lot of growing up to do.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Sure, I had to personally deconstruct my fairytale prince and sure, I had to ditch my rose-tinted glasses forever but at least I can take comfort in the fact that when love finally comes my way, it would walk straight through the front door instead of throwing nasty rocks at my window.