Happy Couples: Realism Over Idealism
There is no such thing as the perfect union, although fairytales and Hollywood want us to believe otherwise. It is the expectation of perfection that sets us up for failure. We are all a work in progress and our needs vary at different times. Under stress, we often fail to communicate our needs and then resent our loved ones for not reading our minds and responding accordingly. Even though many of us are aware of these patterns, we repeat them. Why?
In a capitalist society where competition is considered good, our relationships have even fallen prey to being valued by the market. Facebook, Instagram and other forms of social media have opened up the market for individuals to promote and market their own relationship and compare its’ value against others. In a perfect world, seeing a post about a romantic gesture might inspire another to find a form of expression for his or her love. More often or likely, however, our psychological response is to perceive that gesture as a greater measurement of love when compared -- in that moment -- with our own partner.
I used to think happiness was a simple choice: “if you want to be happy, be.” I have learned that it is not quite that simple. Enjoying long-term happiness takes energy, good communication skills and most importantly perhaps, happiness embraces realism over idealism. People need to understand that all relationships will inevitably face challenges and tough obstacles. These challenges; however, will provide an opportunity to either deepen or weaken your connection; and you do get to choose if you want to be proactive in how things unfold. Happiness itself may not be a simple choice, but we are all wired with instincts on how to respond to challenges: fight, flight or ignore. There are people that ignore their problems thinking that if they are not discussed they will somehow go away or not exist. One could argue that they remain together for practicality over purpose. There are people that choose flight and exit relationships because they are no longer simple or easy or perhaps were a mistake from the start. Then there are the fighters, who realistically understand there will problems and that most problems have solutions. Fighters know that with communication and hard work, conflict can be resolved. The fighters are rewarded for their efforts and enjoy greater relationship satisfaction and long-term happiness. Fighters accept that relationships are not constant and survival of the fittest requires adaptation to change.
We are not often taught conflict resolution skills. We may model behavior that we have seen work for others or repeat behavior that doesn’t work if that is all we know. Even worse, we may think we know how to resolve conflict and lack the understanding to either put it into practice effectively or fail to account for differing conflict management styles.
Which do you believe is a greater weakness -- seeking help in the pursuit of happiness or pretending to be happy?
Statistics would lead us to infer that our society believes that asking for help is the greater weakness, which is why studies show fewer couples are enjoying lasting happiness.
All couples face challenges especially when being pulled by the many demands of daily life. It is easy to let your relationship fall to the back burner when seemingly more pressing needs require your immediate attention. Couples often implement a divide and conquer approach to keep afloat, leaving each feeling lonely, overwhelmed and perhaps worst of all – resentful. The key to happiness is to make your relationship a top priority. Work together to set goals that meet each of your needs and communicate a plan for reaching those goals. Check in with your partner regularly to discuss how things are working and always strive to make it even better. Couples that communicate feel appreciated and supported and often find a deeper level of overall happiness both as indivuals and together.