Are Relationships Supposed to Be Work?
Any relationship worth having takes work.
We’ve all heard that famous saying, but is it really true? For me, I now say no. Maybe it’s my definition of work or maybe I’m just wired differently, but relationships shouldn’t be work. Now effort – that’s a totally different story.
For most of my adult life romantic relationships were all about work. They were filled with insecurities, tension and fighting to be seen and understood. ‘It’s me, Hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.” as my girl Taylor Swift says. This was true, but let’s be honest, it was them too.
My part in the stream of relationships that required work, was not knowing who I was and not picking the right people. I was Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride, trying to figure out how I liked my eggs cooked. Scrambled by the way. Looking back, I also lacked boundaries, struggled with co-dependency and had major trust issues. Yes, I was always open about who I was and what I believed; but let’s be honest – I was still figuring this all out too. I could only be as honest as I genuinely knew myself.
The second part of these difficult relationships was that I was picking people based on their potential and people I thought I ‘should’ like. I’d think, I could really like this person if they stopped drinking, got healthier, got their life together…they were a fixer upper and I thought it was my job to fix them. My insecurities and need to be loved, where major factors in picking men that just weren’t healthy for me. Helloooo narcissistic love bombers and addicts.
When I finally divorced at 45, I started getting my shit together. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly I started figuring out who I was and healing the old, open wounds. These wounds had been seeping into my life for so long, that somewhere in my life I stopped paying attention to them. Some of my issues I wasn’t even aware of until a therapist pointed them out. As for self-healing, I did work hard in this area – I put in the effort and time needed to get better. Some days it was pushing a boulder uphill, but I was doing it for me and that was a different type of hard work.
Being on a healing journey also changed my dating life. No longer would I accept the fixer uppers or project people. I said no thanks to the boundary crashers and narcissistic addicts, and happily found that healthy me wasn’t attracting them as often. I was living my authentic life and getting to know my 'knowing' - they were now parts of me that I could trust and listen to.
Here is where effort is very different than work. Effort is showing up, being accountable to self and making needed adjustments along the way. Effort is saying, I’m sorry, I’ll work on it. Effort says I’ll own my stuff and you own yours. Effort also has a flow that naturally feels easier. Effort doesn’t feel like the work of pushing that boulder up the hill, but effort feels mutual and respectful. Effort is not letting something fester into a ‘big thing’, but dealing with it at a core level. Effort is a joy to do with the right person. Work is just that, working hard at a job/relationship you don’t like, probably don’t really want, and know deep inside isn’t good for you. Today I put in a lot of effort, but it never feels like work.