When I saw the headline, “Why Relationships Shouldn’t Be Hard Work,” I had to click through and read more. They shouldn’t be? Hard work? Really? This is news to me!
In the article, blogger Kristen Crockett argues that a difficult relationship is a sign of a bad match. “…a healthy relationship shouldn’t be hard at all,” she writes. “The hard work comes when two incompatible people try to make things work between them.”
If that was true, then my husband and I would never have been able to work out our marital issues. Several years ago, I was so unhappy that I was even planning his funeral, just in case he conveniently dropped dead. At the time, I swore I’d married the wrong person. We were incompatible, I assumed. My husband? He shouldn’t be married to anyone, and especially not to me!
Or so I thought.
Twelve marriage improvement books later, I’d changed my mind, and that’s because the advice I learned in those books actually worked.
I’m no anomaly. I’ve interviewed countless couples over the years, so I can tell you something with great certainty: finding a couple that never went through a rough patch is like finding 600 Chinese Yen in your washing machine. Sure, it happens sometimes, but not very often. Know someone who has been married for 40 or more years? Ask whether his or her marriage was ever hard. You’ll be greeted with a snort and a, “Was it ever! This one time, back in…”
I’m not saying that everyone’s love-hate relationship can be saved, but I am saying this: Just because your relationship is hard doesn’t necessarily mean you are incompatible.
After all, living with another person — any other person — is about as about as easy as cooking Thanksgiving dinner inside of an Easy Bake Oven. Okay, sure, you’re right, it’s probably impossible to stuff a turkey inside an Easy Bake. Let me revise that analogy. It’s like cooking your dinner over an open fire: you can pull it off, but you’ll need to learn some skills and practice a lot before you get good at it.
A happy marriage is more about being the right person than it is about marrying the right person.
Be kind. Be skillful in your speech. Be assertive. Be generous. Be considerate. Be thoughtful. Be grateful. Be warm. Be affectionate. Be attentive. Be selfless. Be forgiving. Be a fastidious listener.
Be willing to grow.
If you and your partner practice being all of those things, then you are working hard to create a happy marriage, and your relationship will feel easy. If neither of you are doing this, then your relationship will feel hard because neither one of you is working hard.
It takes hard work to have an easy marriage.
Marriage does take hard work, but that doesn’t mean that your marriage will always feel hard. If you do the work and if you are both willing to change, your love-hate relationship will grow into a love-love relationship, and you both will grow into happier, stronger, more emotionally intelligent people, too.
That’s something to feel thankful for.
Read more of Alisa’s writing at ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com.