Don’t you just love shortcuts? Isn’t it amazing how they not only make it easier to achieve your goals but also get you there so much faster?
When it comes to figuring out what makes relationships succeed, there’s no shortage of information—it’s literally an avalanche out there. Which is great, but not all of it is helpful. Just look at the skyrocketing number of relationships that break down, some within just a few years.
Why is that? Well, because people have different personalities and no one suit can fit them all. The strategy that works for one couple may fail miserably with another.
So, the best way? Simply use a shortcut to determine what it takes to make relationships work by identifying the reasons why relationships fail and then do the exact opposite. It’s a much easier route because the reasons behind the failure of relationships are few. The script is short.
If your relationship is dangling at the edge of a cliff, chances are it’s down to one of the following reasons.
1. You’re in it for the wrong reasons
This is best explained by looking at why you entered the relationship in the first place. Perhaps you cherished being with someone who would make you feel all giddy and mushy inside. Or maybe everyone around you was getting hitched, being single felt odd, and the awkward looks of your friends and family didn’t make it easier. They kept rubbing the proverbial biological ticking of the clock in your face. It wasn’t long before you got sucked in the euphoria of it all.
It’s possible you were genuinely weary of straddling the fence of singlehood and therefore got hitched to the first person who came along because on paper the relationship looked good. And although you didn’t feel a resounding earth-shattering feeling when you first met that person, you still took it a step farther and settled down with them.
Maybe none of these reasons apply to you because you were simply young, naive, and hopelessly wrapped up in a bubble of love. You looked at life through blurry lenses, thinking that love alone could solve all of life’s problems.
2. Your expectations are unrealistic
When you enter into a relationship on the mere fact that you’re hopelessly in love, you delude yourself into thinking you’ll always be ‘gaga’ over each other, coasting through moments of passion and an endless happily ever after.
To be trapped in the safety of unrealistic expectations is a terrible thing. It can inject regret into your relationship and leave you feeling the sting of dissatisfaction.
You see, whilst there’s no denying how amazing this passion and emotional high can feel at the onset of your relationship, it can also blindside you the moment it wears off. Because eventually, it does. To think that you’ll always feel this way is irrational at best and worst, delusional.
This woozy feeling wears off as soon as the weaknesses of your lover start to swim into focus. You realize your lover won’t always cheer you up when you’re feeling blue because they, too, have their own little demons of fears and insecurities tucked away in the crevices of their personalities.
Also, because life isn’t a straight line, you’ll always contend with the harsh blows that test relationships—for example, the loss of a job, relocating to a new city, raising a teenager, or losing a relative. This can put a strain in the relationship by forcing you to tolerate circumstances that aren’t convenient for you, such as living with your terrible mother-in-law.
3. You’ve dropped the ball
Or your spouse has. Meaning that although your spouse can see you physically, they can’t really see you because you’re absent emotionally or financially. Perhaps you’re not a good support system for your spouse, maybe you lack a work ethic, you’re lazy, and bring nothing to the family table.
When your spouse is deeply in love with you, they find a way to fill the gaps you create when you drop the ball. But they can only do it for so long. After a while, the respect they once felt for you starts to dissipate like smoke in winter. They stop believing in you, which puts a wedge on your bond.
Questions like, “Why am I married to her/him anyway?” start to permeate their minds like a blade of grass pushing through the wall. When your partner is unable to find answers, they start to look at your motives and choices doubtfully and scrutinize your every move, which in turn makes you feel an encroachment on your independence. Your spouse’s loss of trust in you means they go about their business without keeping you abreast of their life, making you seem like roommates although you’re in a relationship.
4. You’re a bad fighter
Although it appears paradoxical, stress does build strong marriages, just like muscles get stronger with tension. It all comes down to how well a couple can fight. You’ve heard the common adage that anything good is worth fighting right? Fighting in relationships is not only helpful but essential.
When you understand that pent up tension and grievances are ticking time bombs, you’ll not think twice about screaming your lungs out if need be. However, if fighting makes you uncomfortable and your best approach is to desist, you end up building a wall that keeps your spouse out and allows thorny issues to fester in the dark.
The key is to focus on winning the war, not the fight. In a good fight, the end goal is to create a win-win situation. “What is a bad fight?” you ask. It looks like this:
- Defining your spouse by their actions because you’re unable to separate who they are from their actions. For instance, you tell them, “You’re so irresponsible” instead of, “What you did was irresponsible.”
- Failing to take responsibility for any wrongdoing on your part and shifting the blame on your partner instead.
- Resulting in stonewalling in moments of arguments and ignoring your partner altogether.
5. You’re embittered constantly
So, he cheated. Did you forgive him? Yes. She made a terrible investment that drained your entire life savings. Did you forgive her? Yes. Good. Now move on.
If you’re still hung up on something your spouse did seven and a half years ago, you clearly have some major issues. A real marriage is built on the basis that nobody is perfect. How can you say you love someone when you can never see past their mistakes?
Talking about mistakes, when you end up right about something contentious, please don’t grease it. Choose to hold yourself with maturity and dignity. You can be right and quiet at the same time.
Remember, eyes on the price: Winning the war, not the fight. It’s also your best approach when it comes to handling differences in a marriage. And talking about differences, you and your partner will almost always have distinct hobbies, and this causes many couples to stumble.
Let’s assume your relationship is one of these: for example, instead of embracing his hobbies, you force him to either engage in those which you personally enjoy or you dissuade him from taking part in what he enjoys.
You might even mean well by doing so, but this is always a recipe for disaster because now, your partner feels forced into becoming a person he wasn’t before the relationship. And although he might reluctantly give up his hobbies to please you, this definitely chips away at the aliveness in him. As long as his hobbies are legal and don’t encroach the space for meaningful responsibilities, just let him be.
Most marriages are built on the premise of love. Unfortunately, love by itself is never enough to make a marriage work because it’s always evolving, constantly contracting and expanding. That’s why you are giddy and mushy on some days but struggle on others. Love aside, what you need is a decent human being whom you deeply and genuinely respect and enjoy being with, one whom you can fight well and accommodate each others’ differences.
But the most crucial thing when it comes to success in your relationship is to determine that sweet spot between compatibility and emotional connection. Because it’s not unusual to fall in love with someone who disrespects you and makes you feel unworthy. When you understand that love itself isn’t enough, you stand better chances of successful relationships.