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The Hardest Part Of Relationships

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:36 am
by mraubergine
Hi everyone.

I wonder if you can help me out with something? I work with couples having difficulty in relationships and I'm doing some research on the most common themes that get in our way when we are trying to find and sustain love. I have a few questions which I'd be really interested to have your views.

1. What's the hardest part of building a good relationship?
2. When a relationship goes wrong, what is the most difficult thing to cope with?
3. If there is one thing you'd like to have a better understanding of in relationships, what would it be?

Thank you :)

Re: The Hardest Part Of Relationships

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:01 pm
by johnay
1. I think relationships are often fairly easy to build up especially as you are both talking lots about each other. The hardest thing can often be practical stuff like where are you going to live? And how will you make ends meet and how can you build both of your careers within that framework. Other hard things can be when you have been brought up in different ways and have differing attitudes towards certain things like doing jobs, cleanliness and intimacy.
2.When things go wrong it's not always obvious how things have worsened especially if one partner can't see any problem or won't acknowledge when things have to change. The other thing I find still is when you discuss changes or upsets and you are listened too. A little effort is made for a couple of days but them it's all back to square one. It's so frustrating..
3.I would like a better understanding of how to grow with your relationship. How can we talk meaningfully and constructively to improve a relationship without it being taken wrongly , it upsetting one partner or being completely ignored. How you can stop getting out of sync with a long term partner. How you can preserve intimacy so that it is balanced between you both and one partner doesn't feel unloved, frustrated and ignored.

I don't know if these comments are any help.. I've been in my relationship since 1971

Re: The Hardest Part Of Relationships

PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 9:22 am
by mraubergine
Yes, thats great thanks. A couple of thoughts for you.

Communication is often at the core of difficulty, not too little necessarily, but the wrong type. We end up focusing on what's wrong rather than what's right and, as you point out, not listening to our partners perspective. A little exercise I give to couples is to give each other ten minutes of time when only one of them is allowed to speak and the other must listen, then after the ten minutes is up they swap over. Its an opportunity to talk about what you are feeling but must be kept to "I feel" rather than "You did" which is where the trouble starts (accusation and blame).

Relationships are hard to maintain over a long period because they require Certainty (love, stability, predictability, care) but they also need Uncertainty (desire, spark, excitement, unpredictability). That's why people have affairs, they have the first half but they can't find a way to build the second.

Re: The Hardest Part Of Relationships

PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 11:53 am
by johnay
Thanks for your comments and perspective and I agree. I find though that in my experience both partners need to WANT to communicate and need to recognise when things aren't particularly good so that they can make an effort to improve things. It's not always easy to bring up particular aspects with your partner as well especially if they don't want to or enjoy discussing those things. They may also not want to improve certain things and just ignore it all in the hope they will go away.
My generation were brought up not to be self centred and have great expectations of life. We were expected to get on with things and think ourselves lucky with what we've got. It was deemed vulgar and rather common to talk about sex, fantasies and desires. I know times have changed and hopefully I have changed immensely since I was a young man. I and many my age want to having a physical life similar to those who are younger and who are much more adventurous etc. But many folks don't change and adapt as they age and when it comes to sex my wife is still living in the 1970s. I on the other hand look,act,talk and come over as younger than I am. I have felt a growing divide in my relationship which I don't know how to improve..
Sorry maybe I'm going off on a tangent and being personal and that may not be what you want to hear about.. But yes our relationship has a long stable certainty about it and my wife seems very comfortable in this expecting me to provide more and more of that. It feels very one sided when I do the majority of things especially the decision making.. I have vented frustrations at this but I have to be assertive which I don't like to do before I get more effort.. I feel it's not acceptable for my wife to sit and do puzzles and games all day with her feet up.. It's all very difficult when one partner is intent on doing solitary things and is very sedentary and the other is sociable, a team player and active. It's getting some balance without needing to get cross or keep asking for change when it doesn't happen.
The uncertainty disappeared about 15 years ago and I went out looking for some spark desire and excitement. I found it.. I had a bit of a wild time and had a couple of affairs and some casual sex too. Most here will disapprove but my self esteem was very low and life had just become so dull and predictable and hard work. Then I found out that I was actually quite attractive. I'd never been told I was good looking or sexy before and I was 48 and I actually felt it then. Things have settled again since we retired early a few years back. We have a good life and do some travelling and are good companions. I would like us to be good lovers too and I'd like a more balanced and equal relationship. I don't always want to be the driving force in my family and want a lot more intimacy too. I feel I have to compromise so much and I don't always feel that that is returned. No my wife does not know about my affairs or that they were with men either..

Re: The Hardest Part Of Relationships

PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:42 pm
by mraubergine
Yes, both partners need to want to change but fundamentally we want or relationships to be as good as they can be. Often when someone is resistant to change it is because they fear what it will "cost" them (opening up to difficulties and issues they have carried for a long time or even all their lives) or they don't sufficiently believe in the possibility of improvement through that change. Its a cost/benefit thing essentially.

You describe basically subjugating your own needs for the sake of the relationship and, where affairs are concerned, nobody looks elsewhere when they are satisfied and so it is easy to cast blame but however thinly things are sliced both parties have some responsibility.

When you talk about your self esteem being low and finding it when others found you attractive you identify a central tenet of happy relationships, the need to be happy with oneself. It is hard to be free in a relationship if you don't feel sufficiently loved by yourself.

It sounds like you have some strong foundations. What would you need to do in order to take your relationship to a level that feels satisfying? You know this but, all the time you are willing to settle for less than you want it is likely all you will get.

Oh, and age is irrelevant to a need to feel fulfilled. It's wonderful that you haven't given up.

Re: The Hardest Part Of Relationships

PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 9:04 pm
by johnay
Hi thanks for replying and I appreciate your thoughts. I do contribute to a men's forum and sometimes offer advice so its nice to get it in return. I agree with your comments regarding change but it can be more complex I think. In my experience change is not welcomed or desired by some including my wife who just likes things as they are. Her family were resistant to change and lived back in the 50s and 60s and it was a devil of a job to get them to embrace new things. My wife has brought that attitude with her I think. They say you should look at your mother in law and that's what your wife will be like in 30 years time. Sometimes its a bury your head in the sand syndrome that I witness and a general laziness as well. There is a bit of obsessive behaviour in her family and I witness it in her.. Like for instance if she doesn't get the daily paper for her crossword then she will seriously take the hump.

I think many folks subjugate their needs to safeguard and preserve a relationship especially if there are children involved. Its easy to drop into routines and patterns of behaviour and often difficult to change those when they get established. I am very easy going and find it hard to be overly assertive when it comes to what I want. As a couple we don't like to tell each other what to do and my Mrs is terrible at making decisions as well so its hard going when I have to make the decisions or push agendas when she doesn't like being told what to do yet doesn't want to make the decisions in the first place. Affairs can happen for lots of reasons but when one partner feels neglected both emotionally and physically then sometimes it is inevitable. Many men really want and desire a close physical and emotional relationship although many don't often admit that. They have different needs and desires to women at times and they don't go away as they get older, in fact sometimes they become more important. Middle age can be problematic for both sexes and the menopause and aging process often impacts on both sexes.. I know I got to a stage that I couldn't go on and be just so dead inside..I wanted to LIVE.. I don't want to blame my behaviour on anyone else because it was me who chose to behave in that way. But when you get rather out of sync with a partner and want different things it can get problematic. We are a couple where I am fighting like hell to be young in every way I can and my wife likes being older. I am also a person who has tried very hard to be fair in my marriage and to do any housework and be a modern man. My wife likes that and is happy to just let me do most things and friends have said I just spoil her. But when women say that the more housework you do the more sex you get then that's absolute rubbish. The more housework you do the more they will let you in my experience.

As for the self esteem thing I think that again is something that can be linked in many ways to the way in which you were brought up. I have had spells of feeling low most of my life although I've never been on medication and others wouldn't necessarily expect it in me because I am a bubbly person and very outgoing. I was a very shy child and remember being scared of everything.. Dad was very strict on us and we had to behave in certain ways in most situations. It certainly wasn't appropriate for us to be self centred or self indulgent. I still find it hard to receive compliments although I do enjoy getting them. I suppose I needed a lot of nurturing as a child to bring me out of myself but I got loads of criticism instead and then Mum died when I was 7.. They never talked about her after that.. Dads second marriage wasn't a great success and I had my teenage years living in a home that wasn't happy and that wasn't an example of a healthy normal relationship where sex wasn't viewed well. I left to go to college at 18 and never returned. I met my wife at 19 and we were virgins and I think I just jumped at the first opportunity of getting some affection. She has been my only woman. I just wanted to be married and have a normal family and children. I wanted to appear to be a manly man but I'm not. I'm rather a camp man and folks often assume I am gay. It was hard when I was younger but now I don't really mind. But I'm like most folks in that self esteem is often about being wanted, being desired and being shown that through physical contact. Loving myself hasn't always been an easy task. I suppose Ive always been an adorer and not an adored person..

Yes we have a long established relationship that has some strong foundations. We function well and are good companions , have many similar interests and philosophies.. You are right in that I need to take things to a level that feels satisfying but don't feel like I can do that without some major upset taking place. I have been pondering on it for months and have been trying to make subtle changes without much success. I have settled for less for far too long and I know its my fault for letting things drift..But like with many things change only happens in this household if I am doing all the pushing. Being pushy isn't my big strength as I'm much more of a team player.. I love her very much but don't always feel in love.

Yes you are right in that age isn't relevant here. You don't stop feeling at a certain age. I'm not on any medication and am in full working order if you know what I mean and many in my generation aren't prepared to just be old and give up. We want fun and life in much the same way as folks 30 years younger. Sorry that was a bit of an epistle and hope I haven't bored you.

Re: The Hardest Part Of Relationships

PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2016 9:21 am
by David020549
MrA. I guess from an advisors viewpoint the fact that all couples are different and that makes it really difficult to find what will keep them together, of course in many cases the mismatch is obvious and there is no hope. My own sister married two bad boys, both of which ended disasterously before she met a decent man and had a happy life, everyone except her could see that from the start.
In most cases the girl chooses her mate and judging by the breakdown rate either they are not very good at choosing, or they want a father for their children and don't really commit to the relationship. Years ago there were moral and economic reasons to stay together, today there is little incentive to try and make it work, a lot of couples are simply with the wrong partner
To stay together a couple have to have enduring desire, common values and a common cause, building a family, a business or a shared interest, if they both lead mostly independant lives problems start. New couples think it is going to be easy together in most cases it is not, the hardest part is finding a way to resolve disputes amicably, compromise and balance are not always easy to get right.
I have been married for a great many years and it has always been a balancing act, we dont flare up, it just gets very frosty if either of us oversteps the mark, then after a week or so desire takes over, a good romp in the bedroom and the dispute is forgotten. Being able to forgive and forget is pretty essential because bringing up a past problem repeatedly is a sure fire way to destroy it all.