Singles find it hard to believe that healthy marriages are possible


Lately, I have had more than a few conversations with people who don’t seem to like their significant other. Don’t get me wrong, these are people who love the ones they’re with, but they don’t like them very much. If this sounds strange, keep reading.

In case you didn’t know, you don’t actually have to like someone to love them. Because the start of romantic love is a primarily hormonal experience, it is easy to fall head-over-heart in love with someone who you do not enjoy. And believe it or not, this happens a lot.

You’ve seen those couples. They’ve been married for a gazillion years. They have all the trappings of a happy life — a beautiful home, steady income, successful children, and they vacation several times a year. But when you talk to them separately, they complain incessantly about one another.

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to assume that this is what marriage is like. Why? Because you don’t just know one of these couples — you know several. Of course, you believe that you’ll be the exception until you find yourself in the same position. Perhaps not married, but partnered with someone that looks good on paper, but that just doesn’t fit the bill.

The good news is — you’re wrong. Not all relationships look like this. And most relationships are not unhealthy.

But there is a deeper reason that you have a hard time believing that happy, healthy relationships are possible. Well, there’s actually three:

Looking for perfection

If you’re like most people, which I suspect you are, you want to be happy. And if you’re relationship-minded, you want some of that happiness to come from your romantic relationship(s).

You probably have a rough idea of what you want in a partner. Or how you would like your current partner to be or act. Most of these things are based on how you want to feel, but a large portion is based on how you want to be perceived by others. Both generate expectations that are often unrealistic.

If love is a cure — expectations are a disease.

Relationships are not perfect because people aren’t perfect. Your partner is going to disappoint you. And you won’t like them all the time. Sometimes your heart will overflow with so much love that you fear drowning. And other times, you won’t want to be in the same zip code as your beloved.

Love is not static; it ebbs and flows — which is normal AND healthy. And relationships don’t have to be perfect to add to the quality of your life.

Listening to your friends

They say you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. And that is true. Humans mirror one another. That means that a good portion of your thoughts, beliefs, and mannerisms have been transferred to you by the people you hang with.

But here’s the thing, the signals emitted by your peeps include their positive experiences and their negative ones too. And unfortunately, negative experiences are a lot more sticky. That means that you are absorbing their pain, trauma, disappointments, and resentments.

So when you’re shooting the shit about relationships and your bestie starts spewing unfounded statistics about men being cheaters, women being clingy, and most relationships lacking intimacy, more often than not, you take on those beliefs as you own.

And while their experiences may be factual, their opinions are not. This brings me to my next point.

The world looks how you look at it.

This is the biggest one of all.

When you go out into the world, you are not looking for the love you read about or have seen in the movies; you are seeking your compliment. And this is true for romantic and platonic relationships.

That means if you’re like me and you had a parent who emotionally abandoned you, you will unconsciously seek out people who will emotionally abandon you. Or if you looked up to your older brother and he manipulated and controlled you, you’ll look for someone who can replicate that behavior.

And because those experiences were painful at best and traumatic at worst, that’s what you see when you look at the world. This is true, no matter how optimistic and cup-half-full you may appear to be. Your unconscious mind will still run the program that the world is not safe and good. And that relationships are minefields that maim, kill, and destroy dreams.

But here’s the thing — relationships are also our most excellent teachers. Relationships are like an accelerated course in YOU 101. Nearly everything you know about yourself, especially the juicy bits, you learned through the mirror of a relationship.

You might be compelled to blame the other person for the not-so-great stuff, but the truth is everything that shows up in your life requires your participation. And there is very little to learn from getting it right, which is why faux pas are so valuable.

So while hindsight is still and always will be 20/20, you get to choose how you see the world in present time. Whether you see lessons and opportunities or suffering and mishaps — is up to you. Just know that perception is everything.

Relationships give our lives meaning. They are the magic ingredient that makes fulfillment possible. So if you have not-so-great relationship experiences — reevaluate your expectations, release ideas that don’t belong to you, and shift your perspective.

And one more thing…

Nearly half of all marriages (in America) do end in divorce, but the other half don’t. So it’s not that most relationships end, it’s that people in lasting relationships are too busy enjoying themselves to talk about it.

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Intimacy & Relationship coach, writer, and creator of The Sensuality Project. I specialize in Relationship-ing (it's a verb).

Los Angeles County, CA

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