Pop culture is obsessed with sex, love and relationships. It seems that nearly every TV show and every movie has some sort of romantic sub-plot, not to mention all the media that focuses on romance specifically.Television shows tend to capture the complexity of relationships more so than other forms of media, mostly because ‘happily ever after’ does not work well in a serialised format, however TV relationships tend to be extreme and complicated by outside factors.
The major relationship of my life was deeply complicated by external factors, but that was not the hardest thing about it. The hardest thing was learning to be a good partner. I grew up with basically no role models for what a healthy and functional relationship looked like. I had to teach myself, and it wasn’t easy. It was hard for me to learn how to be open and honest about my feelings. It was hard for me to learn how not to be passive aggressive and instead ask for what I wanted and needed and it was most difficult for me to learn how not to try and test my partner. To make him prove his love for me in ways that he could never win because he didn’t know what was at stake.
In some ways managing relationships is a skill like any other. You have to learn how to do it and practice makes perfect. However, when it comes to relationships they are something we are expected to know how to do, even if no one in our lives does them very well. We are always being bombarded with media that tells us if we do relationships in a particular way then we will always be happy and everything will be alright. As with anything else in life however, there is no magical formula. Every relationship is different because every person is different and we have to learn to meet each others needs from scratch almost every single time.
The learning process can be painful and difficult and some times that can lead to conflict. I am thankful to my husband for his patience and kindness as I learned how to navigate our relationship in a way that would not damage the two of us. Unlike me, he had many positive role models in his life for what a healthy loving relationship can look like, and many times our differing perspectives on how relationships should work. For a long time I thought that manipulation was part and parcel of a relationship, and obviously this led to conflict between the two of us.
I do not have a perfect relationship, conflict is unavoidable when you have two people trying to build a life together, but I do have a relationship where I know that I will always be heard and where I am always willing to listen. I know that my husband will always be direct with me and I can be so with him with about fearing consequences, speaking my truth is not a crime. I wish there was more mainstream relationship advice that was devoted to strong evidence based principles in regards to communication, rather than how to manipulate another person to get what you want. Relationships don’t have to be difficult, but they do take work and the more we have open and honest conversations about that the better.