Relationships Are Hard (And Anyone Who Tells You Otherwise Is Lying To You)

Lately, I’ve been seeing a very concerning trend on social media, particularly Twitter. A seemingly increasing number of single people (mostly women, but sometimes men too) seem to think that being in a relationship will solve all of their problems and automatically improve their life. I’ve seen this mentality range from people all across the spectrum of past relationship experience — from people who have never been in a serious relationship, to people who have been in one serious relationship, to people who have been in many.

So, this seems like a good time to talk about something that I feel like deep down everybody knows, but not enough people talk about. I don’t just mean not enough people on Twitter talk about it — I mean not enough people in SOCIETY talk about it. And that something is: RELATIONSHIPS ARE HARD. A person who says their relationship isn’t hard is lying 99.999% of the time (there is always an exception to every rule). We grow up hearing about the magic of love, how when “you know you know,” and generally just being lead to believe that relationships enhance our lives and finding one and getting married is the ultimate goal. The thing is, love IS amazing. But love is different than a relationship, and relationships are HARD.

I’m by no means a relationship expert. I have had what I would consider three serious relationships, all of which lasted at least a year. Two were when I was a fair bit younger, and the last one in more recent adulthood, and included several years together and living together. But, along with my own experiences, I have had enough friends and family members level with me about their relationships (both past and present) that I don’t live in a naive world of rainbows and butterflies where relationships are always positive and always good. There’s a few thing I think we all need to keep in mind as we search for our next partner.

Fairytales aren’t real.

Chemistry only gets you so far without work.

However, as important as chemistry/spark is, chemistry alone does not a relationship make. Relationships are WORK. Communicating with someone is work. Being vulnerable is work. Taking someone else’s wants and needs into account is work. Compromising is work. Fighting and working through it and learning not to hold a grudge is work. Mismatched sex drives are work. Taking one another into account when choosing where to work or where to live is work. Dealing with each other’s families is work. Spark alone can not carry you through all of these tough times, all the big decisions. Love can motivate you to WANT to put in the work, but it can not replace the work.

Relationships are a CHOICE that we make every day.

Your free time isn’t really yours anymore.

It also can mean making decisions based on another person, and living with the consequences of those decisions no matter what. For example, I gave up a spot in a much more prestigious doctorate program than the one I ended up choosing because the money I would have earned in that program would not have been enough for my ex and I to continue living in our current house or maintaining our current lifestyle, whereas in the program I ended up choosing I could still work full time and maintain my existing salary. And even though once we broke up it was easy to feel a bit bitter about that, and I may always have a tinge of “what if” when I think about it, at the time it was the choice I WANTED to make. I loved him, and I loved our life. I didn’t want to uproot us or make him sacrifice even more for me than he already had (and he had, admittedly, already sacrificed a lot). I made the choice that was best for US, not for ME. He didn’t pressure me strongly one way or the other, the choice was mine, but now I have to live with that choice even though it is no longer the best one for me. I can’t say I regret it because it was right at the time, but no one talks to you about the challenges of navigating when to put the relationship first versus when to put yourself first.

Ultimately, a relationship isn’t going to fix you

(and a baby isn’t going to fix a relationship)

I’m not saying people shouldn’t want to be in relationships. Relationships are wonderful. I hope to be in another one one day. Having a person who knows you so well and so deeply, who loves you because of and in spite of all your good and bad characteristics, who will support you in all the best and worst times of your life, it’s all amazing. I am very content being alone 95% of the time, but sometimes even I experience a bit of loneliness during that other 5%. And it’s usually not even when things are bad — it’s when things are good. When I get good news at work, when I pass a milestone in my doctorate program — I miss having someone I love to come home to and celebrate with, even if “celebrating” is just opening a beer and ordering our favorite takeout and laughing at our favorite TV show. Relationships are great, love is great. We should all keep seeking it.

But, we shouldn’t lie to ourselves or each other about what relationships ACTUALLY entail. We need to be ready for the work, and in order to get ready for that work, we need to work on ourselves. So, do things you enjoy. Travel. Read. Learn new skills. Do things you’re bad at. Do things you’re good at. Have a full life, do what it takes to be happy on your own, because as much as people hate to admit it to your face, you might never actually find someone worth putting in the work with. But if you do, it can be the greatest thing. Just remember that nothing great ever happens without an unbelievable amount of work.

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Lover of dogs, food, coffee, bourbon, and exploring new places.

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Sarah

Lover of dogs, food, coffee, bourbon, and exploring new places.