I was devastated when I heard the news. There was no way it could be true. If they couldn’t make it, what chance did the rest of us have?
You may have had a similar response when you heard about the breakup of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. I like to imagine myself as someone that does not pay attention to celebrity news because I am too busy edifying my mind with enriching intellectual pursuits and good works in the world. However, I must confess, I was surprisingly riveted and saddened by their story of love lost.
They had it all, didn’t they? Money, status, beauty, social support, values they aimed to lived by…so how could even such a well-resourced relationship succumb to dissolution? I mean, sure they had Hollywood pressures to deal with, but are they really over?
Of course, we all know that even intimate relationships that do not live under Hollywood’s hungry gaze face constant pressures. The stresses of work, money worries, kids, other care giving duties, self development pressures and a culture that encourages extreme independence over interdependence, are just a few of the challenges most partnerships face.
Below, I would like to share what I believe are some of the myths around intimate partnering that I believe are unhelpful in building lasting, satisfying relationships:
Myth #1: An intimate partnership is and should be fun.
It should feel like you are living in a sitcom with a built in laugh track 24/7.
As I am writing this, I am sitting on my partner’s dirty socks in our bed. A million mundane daily activities build an intimate partnership: texting about what to make for dinner, grocery shopping, having a random brief argument over who left the garbage on the carpet so it leaves a stain, laundry, getting ready for work, taking the kitchen apart so you can discover why you have a moth infestation…
The craft of relationship building is perhaps learning to appreciate if not the beauty, then the value of the mundane as the connective tissue that keeps the body of the relationship together. It ain’t pretty but it’s the stuff of real love. May I suggest that you stop pressuring yourself with unrealistic expectations?
Myth #2: You should “work” on your marriage.
I don’t know about you, but the word “work” makes me want to run into bed and throw the covers over my head. Some of the synonyms we may associate with work are:” toil”, “labor”, “exertion” and my favorite “drudgery”. I don’t know about you, but these associations don’t exactly motivate me. If you have ever said to someone, “I think we need to work on our relationship”, I suspect you have sense of how effective that was. For some folks, hearing those words or having to say them is akin to being told you need to have a root canal.
Myth #3: You don’t need to make strategic choices for your relationship.
There is an idea in our culture that you can achieve a kind of work/life/balance. And this I think is a useful idea if you have complete decision-making power in your life. But if you are in the 99% of folks, your schedule is decided by a boss and is intertwined with the schedules of others in your life-the kids, your partner’s, relatives…Again take the pressure of yourself to create a utopian relationship that does not exist.
Instead, think of making some realistic, achievable strategic choices for your relationship. For example, how might you use body language to convey love and tenderness? So maybe after a stressful day at work, instead of grumbling, giving your partner a gentle back rub. Comic Tracy Morgan on an episode of the View talks about the loving “gaze” he confers on his wife and daughter. Maybe taking a romantic weekend getaway is out of reach, but you can choose to look at your partner, this fellow human being with love. Maybe you can’t have a “date night”, but watch TV that perhaps highlights some of the values you are trying to nurture in your relationship. Make pro-relationship choices that work for your unique circumstances.
Wishing you lots of love dear ones!