Love can sometimes be a roller coaster of emotions, both positive and negative. Even with all the ups and downs, some relationships are worth fighting for. Others, not so much. It’s important to be able to tell the difference. When a relationship is toxic, it results in more harm than good. Occasional romantic gestures are nice, but they do not compensate for frequent demonstrations of abuse or negative behavior. Some relationships will have challenges that can be overcome. This is not always easy. In many cases, couples therapy may be needed to help mediate emotional conflict. Others, however, will find that no matter what resources they use to help their relationship, some relationship problems only seem to get worse. When there are problems than solutions, it’s likely that a relationship has met its end. An end is also a new beginning for a new chapter in both individuals’ lives.
Be a Person, Not a Stereotype
One of the biggest challenges most couples face when it comes to their relationships is issues with communication. Fundamentally, most men and women communicate very differently. Based on hormonal difference and also on how they were raised, people communicate in different ways. Stereotypes based on gender roles and expectations can be one of the most detrimental influences on a relationship. When a person expects their partner to fulfill a certain role which fits in with their expectations of masculinity or femininity, they often discount the fluidity of those terms and roles in favor of more rigid, and frankly, impossible to meet, qualifications. Men are taught to be more stoic, emotionless, and reserved. Women are expected to be more emotionally open and receptive to the feelings of others. These stereotypes and expectations can case problems in any relationship.
When we feel as though we must meet a stereotype or expectation, we are denying ourselves our true thoughts and feelings. We become characters, rather than people. If we recognize this and are willing to reevaluate ourselves and our role in our relationships, we can restore some sort of connection. Hiding our vulnerabilities from our partners, particularly for men, can create a significant problem. If not addressed, this can grow until it is too big to be repaired. The real source of the problems within that relationship then become blurred as the partners drift away, as do the real solutions to those problems.
Privacy vs. Intimacy
Privacy and independence are important in relationships. We should never feel as though we are entirely dependent on our partners. This is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. We cannot withhold ourselves completely from our partners either. Good relationships are founded on trust, honesty, and healthy communication. If any of these are lacking, it is usually a sign of trouble. If all three of these things are lacking, then the relationship has likely lost its significance to both partners. Intimacy requires partners to be close. Intimacy is just as emotional as it is physical, if not more so. When we’re not emotionally intimate, we’re not allowing ourselves to be as close to our partners as they may need us to be. This lack of connection can lead to insecurity.
Similar insecurity emerges when we feel as though we’re not “playing our part” correctly. Sometimes, these feelings are internal. Most cases of insecurity relating to roles within a relationship comes from dissatisfaction expressed by one’s partner. Relationship therapists all-too-often hear complaints from couples along the lines of “she never ____” or “he won’t _______ anymore.” When we expect our partners to fulfill a specific gendered role, we are setting them up for failure. Human beings are only capable of being themselves, with all of the unique qualities and behaviors that entails. Not all women are born nurturers, and men do not have to disguise their emotions in order to be considered masculine.
Vulnerability is Key in Healthy Relationships
We are more than a single role or set of expected qualities. Rather than setting and struggling to meet unrealistic expectations, direct your energy on allowing yourself to be vulnerable. This will lead to more emotional intimacy with your partner. Even something as simple as “checking in” on one’s partner every now and then to make sure that they’re alright can make a big difference. Kind and caring gestures show that we really care. When we no longer care, it is time to move on. Relationships are most certainly hard. If in spite of every challenge and struggle, we do still care, then there is hope. We have to be willing to love our partners as they really are, rather than what we want them to be.