I have a perfect marriage and truth is, I’d bet you do too, depending on how you look at it. The thing is, real relationships are not always easy. Actually, that’s probably a gross understatement….they can be excruciatingly hard. In a very healthy and happy relationship filled with love and a ton of picture-perfect photos, there is still conflict. Conflict is normal. I think the difference between “perfect” relationships and those that fail, is how the difficult times are handled and what our expectations are for the partnership.
You see, I fell in love hard with the man I would without a doubt consider to be my match for life, the man that is now my husband. As is so very common, the first few months felt like a drug-induced high of epic proportions filled with intense feelings of love and passion. We are still riding the high, but have certainly felt the normalities of real life kick in and have had to face the reality of conflict within our marriage. I don’t believe anyone is exempt from this, so take some of the pressure off and know that you and your partner are not alone.
True “perfect” love isn’t without flaws, just as life isn’t without constant mistakes and learning. As partners, we will mess up. We will hurt each other and say terrible things out of anger. We will likely break promises and tell lies. Some of us will even have infidelity and break our vows. These things are not what make or break the marriage, it is what we do with them and how we manage these mistakes that will define how “perfect” our marriage is. It is within the day to day moments that we create habits together that can build a love that is unbreakable and can withstand the storms that will inevitably show up from time to time.
And what is perfect anyway? I mean, what a perfect relationship means to me is quite likely not the same as your ideal. So much of our perceived idea of perfect is defined based on our expectations. Expectations of how life “should” look. What would happen if we changed our expectations to something more realistic and attainable? When I tell you that conflict in any relationship is normal, does that change your view at all? Perhaps we all need to take a step back away from the present moment and see our relationship as a whole throughout its entirety. Rather than focusing on each and every disagreement as proof of our mistakes, what if we chose to see the bigger picture through a more positive lens that displayed a colorful life shared together filled with all of its experiences and learning. A shift in perception is sometimes all it takes to alter the respect we have for what we have built together and how truly fortunate we are.
So what habits are you doing daily to help you weather these storms? What acts of love are you instilling in each other to strengthen your bond? It is these actions that can act as prevention towards having to face the really tough stuff and can act as armor for when times get really difficult.
Never underestimate the power of making a few small, simple changes within your relationship to develop the skills needed to make your love flourish for many years to come. It can feel completely overwhelming to think we must change the entire relationship with grandiose romantic gestures in order to make it “perfect”. A much simpler approach, and quite honestly, a much more effective one, is to make small changes often. Small acts of love take little-to-no time or money but can reconnect a couple instantly. Something as small as a stolen glance, a quick shoulder massage, or a kiss on the neck, can remind your partner that you are more than just roommates in this world and that you are loved and supported.
I often get clients to start with some of the most simple, yet useful Gottman tools to get them started on re-connecting and building their resilience towards the tough times. My favorite exercises to begin with are often love mapping and the weekly “state of affairs” meeting. Starting small and slowly building in new, authentic ways for couples to connect, communicate, and rebuild a deeper understanding and respect for one another is key.
Despite what we have been told, happily ever after isn’t simply a given, it must be earned. Achieving a happy and fulfilling marriage doesn’t have to be rocket science, and with a few small changes daily, you too can experience what it feels like to have a “perfect” relationship.
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