Great Relationships Don’t Just Happen: They Require Care

Divided couple are separated by white wall but holding hands

There’s a persistent relationship myth damaging many relationships. Actually, if you’ve read our previous article, you’ll know there are many. But there is one, in particular, doing long-term damage to relationships. 

You have probably heard it from friends or family or may even believe it yourself in the back of your mind. “Good relationships just happen.” or “A good relationship shouldn’t be this much work.”

Unfortunately, solid, positive relationships don’t “just happen.” Like anything of value, they require work, dedication, and commitment. 

Please don’t be scared. Working on maintaining a positive relationship doesn’t mean it’s going to be a constant struggle. With a proper view of where you’re headed, what it’ll take to get there, and guidance from a trained couples counsellor, you can have a ton of fun as you work together to create the relationship you’ve always dreamed about. 

Why do we believe this myth?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. We are taught this both directly and indirectly from childhood. We’re constantly shown couples that struggle to find each other, but once they find each other, they live “happily ever after.”

We’re never shown the daily struggles that continue after the credits roll. It’s the same when we meet up with our couple friends. We look on enviously at “perfect couples” who just seem to naturally work together, without any idea of the work they’ve put into reaching this stage in their relationship. That’s because relationship work is hidden from the public and downplayed by many. 

Sadly, most of us try to hide our struggles and only show our best face to the world. We might have just come out of a three-hour argument, but when it’s time to meet our friends, we wipe the tears and put a smile on our faces. When asked how we’re doing, we reply with generalities and focus on the good things going on. 

What’s the harm in believing things will be easy?

Believing that a great relationship “should just happen” sets couples up for failure. When people expect smooth sailing, they panic when they hit choppy waters. This might cause the person to flee the relationship before it can develop. 

Or worse, because the person believes so strongly that great relationships are easy, they’ll begin to overlook issues and not deal with them. They’ll “forgive” the partner quickly and avoid future fights without really getting to the root cause of the problem. Of course, this allows more minor issues to grow over time. 

Believing things should always be easy can also cause us to fall into seeing the “grass is greener” elsewhere. If we think that relationships should be easy, we’ll begin to see our partners as less or not the right fit anytime there’s a struggle. As we have interactions with new people without the long history we have with our partners, they’ll naturally go smoother. So, we risk believing they’re a “better” fit just because we’re not arguing with them. 

How Can We Get Started Maintaining Our Relationship?

Maintaining positive relationships can be a difficult task for couples and is something that should be taken seriously. But that doesn’t mean you can’t also have some fun.

Unlike maintaining a house, maintaining a relationship doesn’t have to be all mindless chores. And in many cases, the tips and suggestions are things you’ve done previously. You might have become distracted over time or forgotten some of the things you used to do regularly in your relationship’s early days. 

Schedule daily time for regular communication: Setting aside 15-20 minutes every day to talk and be present for one another (without distractions) can be a massive boost to your relationship. If you really want to make your time intentional, schedule weekly or biweekly communication sessions to talk specifically about more serious stuff. Use this time to debrief each other about the week, or to touch on anything one partner has done that has bothered someone.  This will help you avoid things building up and keep resentments from forming between you. When you are addressing things as they happen, you are more likely to notice if something is too big for you to deal with and can consider involving a therapist before they grow into problems too big to manage.

Find a time to choose to love when you don’t feel like it: As we grow more comfortable with our partners, we neglect showing little acts of love throughout the day and often forget to let them our apprectation. This is especially true when we are feeling stressed or distracted.  Overtime, not only do we stop showing love and appreciation but we also start to focus more on the negatives and notice our partners shortcomings. We are more likely to let them know when they disappoint us but not when they make us happy. Without signs of appreciation, we stop doing the positive things since we don’t feel they matter or make a difference. So, take the time to notice even small acts of love and support that comes from your partner and let them know you appreciate them for who they are and what they do.  

Zooming out to see the positives:  When we first meet our partners we naturally show each other all our positive traits and filter out the rest. Even when we do notice a trait that we don’t like, we are less likely to be botherred by it during the early stages of things. As the relationship progresses and we become comfortable with each other, more of who we really are is revealed. We begin to see they leave dishes everywhere, spend too much time on their phones, or use their money unwisely. Over time, we’ll focus more on their negatives, shortcomings, and any mistake they make. This is when we need to take a step back, zoom out, and allow ourselves to see them as a whole. We have to allow ourselves to see the good they bring into our lives, as well as any shortcomings, and remember that we also bring things to the table that don’t necessarily sit well with them. This is where we need to learn to communicate about our differences and to find a way to effectively navigate them.    

Schedule regular date nights: Scheduling romance might not sound romantic. But we all know how it is. As we get older, little things constantly pop up and distract us from doing what we want. If we’re not intentionally carving out time for something, it won’t happen.  Take turns asking each other out on a date and make thoughtfully plan your what you will do together.   

Get outside your comfort zone: We previously discussed this in another blog article here, but doing activities or things that take you out of your comfort zone provide a huge boost to your relationship. Comfort is always nice, but we grow the most when we’re trying and learning new things. Of course, getting outside of one’s comfort zone varies for each couple. Maybe you’ve been too isolated. In this case, just getting out to a concert or comedy show might be enough to shake things up. For other couples, it could be something bigger like taking a class in something new, traveling to another country, or even skydiving! The important thing is that you’re exploring the edges of your comfort zones together and showing each other that you’re there to support and assist along the way.  

How Couples Counselling Can Help

When dealing with beliefs we’ve held onto that are either conscious or subconscious, it is incredibly valuable to have a trained counsellor help us navigate through them. People often don’t even realize they secretly believe in true or easy love. 

Struggling couples can turn to an experienced therapist for individual/couples counselling sessions to help them address their beliefs. The counsellor can equip the couple with techniques and strategies to help them overcome their preconceptions and see and deal with conflict more positively. 

Individual and/or couples counselling are highly effective forms of communication aid when two people are working together to resolve issues in their relationship. Couples who seek marriage or couples therapy are freed from the myths that were holding them back and also benefit from the expertise of a qualified professional trained on issues such as infidelity, trust issues, parenting concerns, financial stressors, or arguments over simple everyday tasks like housework division. 

Couples and Marriage Counselling sessions offer both partners a safe place where difficult conversations can occur without fear of judgement or criticism while allowing them to gain insight into one another’s feelings resulting in greater mutual understanding and respect toward each other. 

Couples counsellors will use specific and carefully selected modalities when conducting therapy with clients, including:

  • The Developmental Model of couples therapy focuses on each partner’s growth and development as individuals as well as the growth and development of the relationship unit. It assumes that long-term relationships go through predicatable developmental stages as they progress, and that sometimes issues or blockages occur in the course of this progression that a counsellor can help you with. 
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), emotionally focused couple’s therapy (EFT), family systems theory-based techniques that look at identifying patterns between family members which may be carried into relationships outside the home environment. 
  • Narrative therapy encourages story-telling about experiences with each other. 
  • Attachment theory explores how secure connection between partners does not just happen but must be intentionally fostered through companionship activities. 
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy assists individuals in creating more satisfying relationships by helping them become aware of negative patterns they trigger during interaction with others and teaching assertive response styles instead. 

It’s vital for individuals/couples seeking therapy to understand that progress isn’t made overnight. But many find comfort in knowing that everyone involved is genuinely trying to heal whatever rift exists within their dynamics. The ultimate goal during a couple’s therapy sessions is to properly equip both parties to handle future conversations and conflicts. 

Get started maintaining your relationship today

Positive relationships are an essential part of life. Still, myths or misconceptions often prevent them from achieving their full potential. Fortunately, with the help of a therapist or counsellor, couples and individuals can work to uncover any underlying issues that may be holding them back and take steps toward having healthier, happier relationships.

Despite what we’ve said here, happily ever after is possible…it just doesn’t magically happen. If you put in the work, time, and effort, you can enjoy your happily ever after. 

Maha Elias is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), Comprehensive Family Mediator (FMC), and sexual health and trauma-informed couples therapist with a private counselling practice in Victoria, British Columbia.

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