Relationships Take Work — but That Doesn’t Mean You Should Suffer

All Relationships Take Work. but Not All “Work” Is Good

One of the things that kept me in a bad relationship longer than I should have stayed — and what keeps a lot of us in bad relationships longer than we should stay — is the unfortunate phrase:

“All relationships take work.”

And it’s ugly cousin phrase:

“All couples fight.”

It’s not that I had never dated before or that every dude before him had been just as bad, because I had, and they weren’t.

It was more that many of my previous relationships — especially my high school sweetheart, whom I adored — were the makes of fantasy lands. We “never fought” and it was “easy” simply because we didn’t have a care in the world — our entire universe consisted of little more than deciding where to eat lunch, which movie to watch, and who would finally hang up on the other — after endless “I love you’s” — first.

I knew I didn’t want to live forever on puppy love alone. I knew I wanted a grown-up partner. Someone I could be serious with. Someone who shared my aspirations. Someone with whom I could share real struggles. Someone who wanted more than to settle down into a white picket fenced house made of gingerbread and tickle fights.

And I thought being in an adult relationship meant taking the bad with the good, and that part of the bad meant ugly fighting and contempt.

“All Couples Fight,” but Not All Fights Are Good

Contempt is a red flag. Resentment is a red flag. Name-calling and low blows and emotional warfare are all loud and proud red flags.

Maybe this sounds obvious. Or maybe it sounds like fantasy. I can understand either way.

Because I’ve certainly agreed with both at different points in my life. There have been times where I thought, “I would never be hateful towards my partner,” and other moments where I thought, “everyone hates their partner from time to time!” (Because, I mean come on — it’s in the sitcoms! And if it’s good enough to be a running joke across all our mass media, I figured it was good enough for me).

It’s not. It’s not good, to fight this way. To see each other this way. To hate, even for a moment. There is a better version out there, and if you decide you want it hard enough, you can have it, too.

And after having it both ways, I can decidedly tell you: pervasive love and care and kindness — pervasive even in times of anger or frustration or disappointment, and probably especially so! — is totally and mind-blowingly worth it, and when you’re lucky enough to have it — both extend it and receive it back — you’ll wonder how you ever almost settled for any other way.

All couples get upset. All people have disagreements, frustrations, human emotions that don’t perfectly coincide. The difference between “good” work and “bad” is how you channel this, and whether you see each other as partners or opponents against whom you want to win, overpower, or be “right.”