It should be easy, right? Things should just fall into place, click, be all Sympatico. You should ‘meet cute’ on a colourful city sidewalk where you are distracted by a street vendor hollering today’s deal on hot dogs and they are leaning over to pick up the package an old lady just unwittingly dropped, and you trip over one another to find that their chocolate has cleverly landed in your peanut butter. Two great tastes that taste great together. And then you’re off! You get each other’s jokes. You finish each other’s sentences. You get caught in the rain, and kiss for hours. You both love that weekly quiz on page 9 of the Wall Street Journal. She lies around in his work shirt sipping coffee and he makes eggs, and the rest of the world just fades away as the curtain lifts and the credits roll.
We are told by well meaning friends, by the world and our favourite movies to measure love this way.
Worried about whether they are into you? It shouldn’t be this hard. Disturbed by that judgy thing they said about your friend? It shouldn’t be this hard. Feeling criticized judged misunderstood confused scared or irritated? It shouldn’t be this hard. You should be calling up your pals with stories of magic and wonder and sprinkling Pixie Dust wherever you go. This can’t be the one if you have to fix something ALREADY.
And then we are warned with equal enthusiasm delivered with a somber tone dropped to an octave reserved just for this topic that marriage is dun dun dun HARD. Relationship is hard. Hard as nails. Hard as a HELL. Prepare yourself. It’s work. It’s compromise. It’s sacrifice. It’s the god forsaken toothpaste cap, All. Over. Again. It’s a black sludge of problems bleeding into one another and dragging everyone DOWN.
It should frolic like a rom com and delight you with its simplicity and then knock you to humility with its difficulty and need for digging in, buckling down and persevering. Expect it to be light, but don’t take it lightly. Is that a contradiction? Or are they saying that even the most auspicious and film worthy love stories are destined for the dank swamp, the dark bog, the slough after the honeymoon. Are they right?
Well guess what friend, you can put down your battle axe and your cans of Love Attractant-Repellant, because I am going to call BS on this paradox, and break Tinkerbell out of Mordor.
Sometimes it is just that easy. Until it’s not.
And what if it isn’t that easy, until it is?
What do WE even mean when we say it should be easy?
What we mean, is that we are experiencing conflict and we don’t know how to resolve it and it is causing us discomfort. And FEELING discomfort in no way determines the viability of a romantic relationship. There are infinite variables that contribute to conflict in relationship and there is one way to solve it. We have to learn to differentiate between what we are feeling and the meaning we are attaching to that feeling. It’s like I broke it down for a ten year old client (whose parent I have helped with relationship): when we don’t deal with scary feelings they become scary thoughts which make our scary feelings worse!!!
Of course we all want the GOOD stuff, the box office worthy scenes dripping with butter and handfuls of colourful M & M’s. We want the high, and the playfulness and the mooning swooning giddy, as much as we want the deep abiding love, the emotional safety, the partnership and the intimacy.
But the conflict that we experience when something isn’t feeling good, does not mean we are with the wrong person. Saying that something should feel easy and using that as our measure of viability is going to land a lot of babies in the bathwater swamp. So that is kind of a disgusting metaphor my point being please don’t throw out your babies. Again, how did that one ever become a thing?
Sometimes it IS easy. And that can be on account of compatibility. It can also be because both love interests don’t want to rock the love boat and so they sweep conflict under the rug. They don’t want to see what’s not lining up, let alone talk about it. Sometimes conflicts take a while to surface. We start to integrate our lives and there are actual differences to make room for and changes on the table.
But they are not a BAD THING. We are most likely going to have some, because we aren’t the same person as our love interest, unless we are solving problems from complete Buddhist style enlightenment, where we are one and there are none, which begs the question.
Sure sometimes we want it more than they do and we are not an equal match for partnership, and that can feel like too much work. But so often, and I can say this with the authority of a woman who is navigating a hundred relationships at a time (I’ve started to talk about “our weddings” and yes I want to be seated at the head table); we confuse fear and hurt and vulnerability with red flags and we don’t let a relationship breathe, grow, and become it’s own beautiful unique thing because of that confusion.
Even for the perfectly matched:
- Somebody is not going to call you enough, or at the same time they did last week.
- Someone is going to criticize you, or fail to be super interested in that thing that is important to you.
- Someone is going to be scared and pull away, even for five minutes.
- You are going to imagine something that isn’t true, and so is your love interest.
- Someone is going to see a gold dress and someone is going to see a blue.
And it turns out, that our ability to navigate and resolve conflict becomes the foundation of our relationship, and the means by which we avoid creating the EVIL EMOTIONAL SWAMP that turns the wedding ring into My Precious and your friends into Orks and you know where this is going, marriage into Mordor.
Marriage, or long term relationship, does not have to feel hard. It does not. Fact. Yes life can deal us some shit, for sure. But partnership can actually lift us up and build us up. It can make us healthier and stronger. It’s hard to deal with emotional pain because we have been taught that it is scary. But to blame relationship for that, to blame love for that, and to blame one another, robs us of our capacity for joy. So please, don’t sell yourself this swampland in Florida, don’t jump into that slough. Not on my watch. And for the love of all things good and beautiful, don’t throw your babies into it. There are alligators.
Sometimes all of this sorting out that happens at the beginning of a relationship that we want to call effort, is all the really good trust, intimacy and communication building. And it can actually feel pretty damn good to do. Like stretching out that hip that has you driving your golf ball into someone’s fancy barbecue or the swamp. There are so many swamps friends.
It’s okay to need help with it. It’s fine if your well meaning loved ones want to support you. But if they can’t because they don’t have the tools for relationship building, because they are too close to you and want to protect, because they don’t know how to help you see what has triggered you in a safe way and how to get your needs met without sabotaging your relationship, then it might be time to get some help from ME, or someone like me, who has spent her entire adult life sorting this shit out.
You get to choose what your relationship is going to look like, even if you haven’t met the person you’re going to build it with yet (WE ARE MAKING THESE CHOICES RIGHT NOW AND IN EVERY MOMENT). And emotionally investing in your choice is a very different feeling than having your fairy dust wear off over the Kepler Mire.
— Love Erin
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.