Written by Emma Merkas
Oh, time. That dependable, ever-marching soldier that changes so much as it goes.
Time heals all wounds. Time waits for no man. Time is precious.
And when you think about it, time also has a way of eroding relationships, doesn’t it?
What often starts full of promise, love and joy can easily turn to resentment, frustration and bitter words after a few years together. Scientists already agree that the heady stage of early love – the butterflies, the giddy joy, the all-night phone calls… they can’t last beyond around two years.
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Time gets in the way, and suddenly it is not enough just to be around your partner, as it once was. Little things they say or do start to drive you crazy.
The glow wears off and you begin to only see the broken, tarnished parts of your partner and you can’t stop focusing on the things that annoy you, instead of seeing all their great qualities.
As it turns out, they’re not perfect. You were looking at them through loved-up, rose colored glasses the entire time.
Believe it or not, having your partner finally slip off a pedestal is not always a sign that the love is gone. You needn’t consider running away.
A relationship is a life’s work, ebbing and flowing over time and the way you feel about your partner can come and go in waves. There are the good times and the bad times, the ups and the downs.
A few years ago, my husband moved overseas for two months for work. We both welcomed the idea of a little space. Before he left, I felt like we were well into no-longer-friends territory. The stress of buying our first house, moving in and renovating as well as running a business in an economic slump was getting to us.
Sometimes I would hear words escape my mouth and not even know why I had been so mean-spirited. Other times, one of us would blow up in response to something completely benign the other had said.
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We were at the end of our patience and had nothing left in the tank to give each other.
But that’s what happens so often in relationships – you get caught in a pattern of action and reaction. Some of you may be reading this, thinking your own relationship will never get that way.
I thought that too.
But a marriage is full of seasons. And these winter periods are inevitable. Take comfort in the fact that it’s seasonal, and everyone I know goes through these same patterns.
While my husband was away for his two-month stint, I missed him terribly.
But I’m adamant that an enforced break of at least a week or two every year is a fantastic idea for any couple.
I’m lucky; he came back, just as we had planned. (Before he left, I’m sure we both fantasized for a split second or two about blissful freedom!)
But while he was away from me, I thought about all the people that have lost their partner permanently, and the ones who are enduring enforced leave, such as one military wife who emailed me telling me her husband was on his fifth round of a 4-9 month stint in a war zone.
It made me realize that for all the mundane moaning and groaning about whose turn it was to clean the kitchen or whatever… well, none of it mattered if he wasn’t here at all.
When he came home, it was like we’d been given the gift of a reset button for the relationship. Suddenly, I just wanted to make him smile. Wanted to be around him. Wanted to be happy. Wanted him to be happy.
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And vice versa. We both went out of our way to build our marriage back up.
Our relationship was better than it had been in years, quite honestly. Not that it was ever terribly awful, but when both partners make a concentrated effort to be nice to each other, that’s where the magic happens.
Think about all the best parts of your closest friendships and try applying that to your relationship: Be kind, not mean. Disagree peacefully and constructively. Accept them the way they are.
If you’re caught in the attack-react cycle, consider a week’s holiday alone as a reset button. Give yourself the space and time to miss your husband or wife, and to get some perspective.
Let time bring you closer. It can if you know how to work it to your advantage.
And don’t sweat the small stuff.
Emotions can change on an hourly basis. We cannot rely on emotions alone –they lie to us. Sometimes the emotions we feel aren’t even our own, but brought on by hormones, a change of season, life circumstances or even hunger pangs.
If you’ve gotten to the point where your partner is just plain irritating all the time, start by looking inwardly at yourself first to see what’s going on for you, rather than just blaming them.
The key to maintaining a good relationship while you weather the ups and downs is simple:friendship.
You and your partner should be not just romantically involved, but also the very best of friends.
Think about some of the meanest things you’ve said (or perhaps yelled) at your partner. Think about the little digs you seemingly can’t help but make, maybe even on a daily basis.
You would never remain friends with a person who talked to you that way, would you? I hope not. On the flip side, you would never be so careless with your friends, treating them that way.
So why do you treat the one person you love most in the world like that?
Strive to be a good friend to your partner.
Top Photo Credit: Caitlinn Mahar-Daniels
"What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility."
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