Relationships are hard work. Maintaining connection, reaching compromises, and supporting another human all require emotional labor. What makes the effort worthwhile is the rewarding feeling that comes from a mutually beneficial, harmonious relationship; however, for some, love is all work and no play.
The cautionary saying that warns of the hardships of relationships holds a great deal of truth. Dating can be an absolute shit show- that is why there are entire channels devoted to women murdering their partners. Relationships require consideration, investment, intimacy, and a consistent willingness to be a better partner for your person.
But when is the effort needed to maintain the relationship too much? When do we jump ship and just call a spade a spade?
When the cost of the relationship is our own happiness. If we are madly in love, there is no limit to what we will endure to keep the relationship going, even in spite of our own well-being. We will convince ourselves that the bullshit we tolerate will somehow pay off in the end- that our deadbeat frogs will turn into halfway decent partners. And we would be wrong.
As with any job, there is a 90-day probationary period after which your employer determines if you are a good fit for the company. Dating is really no different. If your partner is consistently underperforming despite many targeted discussions regarding areas of improvement, it is your job to fire them. Not considering your needs, ignoring you, disrespecting you, and invalidating you are not easy-fix problems, they are character defects that should make someone ineligible to be your partner. Coach up or coach out, but do not continue compensating them with your time, your energy, and your body for a job poorly done.
But what if they change and we miss out on the glorious human that they become? The better question we should ask ourselves is: What if they never change and we waste years of our lives pouring all of our energy into black holes of stagnation? The latter being the more realistic outcome. But still, we stay, filled with undying hope and perpetual disappointment.
There is an unfortunate delusion that plagues the hopeful and in love: the belief that we have any control over one’s decision to change. As if by means of some vagina magic, we can sex or nag them into wanting to treat us well and value us as partners. The harsh reality is that change requires a strong desire to make amendments and daily effort put forth in order to maintain. If your partner truly wanted to be different, they would be. They would also probably consider you to be more than an afterthought.
If the majority of your relationship is spent wishing it were different, you are likely the one that needs to make a change. Coming to terms with the fact that your partner is exactly how they appear to be is a deceivingly hard pill for some to swallow. There is this instinctual, feral reaction to make excuses for what reality makes clear because, you know, he has childhood trauma and a busy schedule and a guarded heart because his ex cheated on him. He also has a partner that is entirely blinded by emotion and unwilling to accept the fact that the relationship is a hot ass mess.
Relationships are indeed hard but they are also intended to be rewarding and fulfilling. If your relationship is mostly stress with an adequate, yet still subpar, date night or two every quarter, you are in a high cost, low reward “love” affair. Do not listen to your fear telling you to stay because it will get better- that only means you will adapt to accepting far less than you deserve. And do not keep fighting the “good fight” for something that cannot be won.