If love is a labor, I’ll slave till the end.”Rise Against, Swing Life Away
Trigger warning: This blog post is not for everyone. I bring up the taboo topics of infidelity and major relationship challenges. I believe there are dark parts of our world that should be discussed somewhat openly. For some, this may help you feel less alone. If you want to read something joyful, click out, and I promise tomorrow’s blog post will be light-hearted.
If I could go back in time, maybe 10 years ago or so, I’d love to tell my younger self that relationships take a lot of work. Love comes at a considerable cost, and we should be prepared! It’s nothing like anything you’ve seen in a movie or a tv show (with maybe the exception of How I Met Your Mother), and it’s not like anything you see people posting about on Facebook. Sometimes it straight up sucks, and we want nothing to do with it, yet we crave it when it is absent from our lives.
Let’s start at the beginning:
How the hell do we meet people these days? At a bar? Dating app (I’ll get to this in another blog post)? On the subway? These all sound terrible, but for many, that’s how it’s done. At a bar, I picture a drunk guy with alcohol on his breath, trying to get my number (haha no thanks). A dating app might mean someone swiping my photo based on my physical appearance. And no one talks to each other on the subway. You get the point. Putting yourself out there is work.
Then we finally meet our prospects. Dating can be an anxiety-inducing experience. Why? Hookup culture. Many people out there on the dating scene are only looking for something casual and might be deceptive about their intentions. So, we must work to figure out where the honest souls are while filtering out all of the bad eggs. You better have some sort of strategy, and you may go through some trial and error, which again, is stressful.
Having fun? I’m already drained from writing about this. Let’s push through.
Next, we meet that special someone who is ready to commit to something more serious. Starting a relationship is fun because of the honeymoon phase. The work comes in as you learn about each other on an intimate level; the good, the bad, and the ugly. You may experience your first fight, which is distressing because you were so high from the butterflies. That first fight brings you right back down. But hey, everyone fights and you can get through it. We can’t have light without darkness.
Then the honeymoon phase ends. The butterflies go away for the most part. You enter a more comfortable companionship. As the years go on, you have to get comfortable with the idea that things will probably never be as exciting as they were during the honeymoon phase. You have to put in the work to keep it interesting. It helps if you view your partner as your best friend, and you both take care of each other. Maybe then, the butterflies won’t matter so much.
Surely, there will come a time when you will need to move the relationship forward with milestones such as moving in together and getting married. Maybe one partner is ready, and the other isn’t. Perhaps you can’t agree on a place to live. Or whether you should get married at city hall or cough up the money for a wedding (if your families can’t/won’t pay). You put in the work by compromising.
Let’s take a song break before the next part:
During my sophomore year in college, I took a course titled “How to Live.” Best class ever, I don’t think I’ve ever learned and unlearned so much in a semester. Seriously, it was life-changing (I guess that was the point given the title of the course). The professor was remarkable, brutally honest, and loved to make the room full of us 19 – 20-year-olds uncomfortable. The good kind of uncomfortable — where we were forced to think. Towards the middle of the semester, we reached a section of the course about love and relationships. He started the section by saying “there will come a time when you are in a committed relationship and you will have a crush on someone else”. It’s a grand claim, and I can’t prove that it applies to everyone, but he knew what he was talking about. He had the strength to say it out loud to a classroom full of students. I never thought I had a sheltered upbringing. However, this professor proved me wrong. Before this professor, no one in my life ever mentioned the idea of anyone having any sort of romantic feelings outside of a relationship. Sure, I knew cheaters existed, and that they were awful. But what I didn’t realize is that there are good, wholesome people who innocently develop a crush while in a committed relationship. We then read a bunch of material about the struggles that come with monogamy. Frankly, I am a hopeless romantic, and I truly wish this wasn’t a reality. I wish my professor was joking. However, he was preparing us by setting our expectations.
First off, what is a crush? Is it someone you briefly check out on the subway? Is it that person you sit next to in class who you talk to twice a month? Or is it that person you wish you could stop thinking about. I don’t know the answer, but I know there are different levels to this sh*t. If you relate to the last example — having someone you can’t get out of your head, there’s nothing wrong with you. All it means is there is something you are craving that you are not receiving in your relationship. You have to decide how much you need this “thing” you are craving. Is it something that can be fixed in your current relationship? Can you have an honest conversation with your partner about it? This is hard work, but people do it every day. Just because no one ever talks about these issues, doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.
Like I mentioned earlier, It helps if you view your partner as your best friend, and you both take care of each other. Be aware of shiny object syndrome, which is the behavior pattern where one always chases after a new project while forgetting the old one — this can be applied to relationships, career, and more. Think of it as the belief that the grass is always greener. The primary sign of shiny object syndrome is if an individual consistently decides to move from relationship to relationship. Nothing seems to stick long term. If this is the case for you, do a little self-reflection regarding your relationship expectations. Remember, all that glitters is not gold.
If you decide you do need this missing “thing” and your partner cannot give it to you, I would advise you to put in the work by handling the situation the right way. You know precisely what this means — don’t cheat on your significant other. Too many people in his world cheat. According to research from the University of Colorado Boulder, “21 percent of men and 13 percent of women reported infidelity at some point in their lifetime.” Be better than them. Be brave and end the relationship before you do anything dumb.
What if you are the one who’s heart was broken? Maybe your partner, who you thought would never leave you, left you out in the cold. Maybe they cheated on you. You have to put in an incredible amount of work to heal and start fresh again (if you wish to do so). If this resonates with you, please give my previous blog post, The (Ceaseless) Pursuit of Happiness, a quick read. I hope it brings you a new perspective.
Growing old together is challenging, as well. Health issues, raising a family, finances, all of that practical activity requires working together.
That said, I challenge you to view labor with the following alternative mindset:
The labor we put into our love-life brings us the low that is required for us to experience the high.
Do you hate me yet? Well, I’m not here writing blog posts to be liked. We paint such a beautiful picture of love while undermining the struggle. If it makes you feel any better, after writing all of this mess, I’d fall in love all over again. 🙂 I’d go through all of the motions I mentioned in this blog post. The difference is I won’t be shocked when these obstacles present themselves. I learn through experience, it’s the only way that genuinely seems to stick. For those who have never experienced these struggles, you probably will in the future, at least some of them. You may forget about my message to you in this blog post, and that’s okay because you will also learn through your own unique encounters.
Like a fine wine, we get better with age. Now, it is time for a glass of wine.