You’re speeding home, angry and frustrated. The conversation didn’t turn out how you’d hoped and it culminated in a yelling match where you both said things you didn’t mean.
You’ve been fighting more often, having the same arguments every week and things aren’t getting better.
As you keep driving, you ask yourself, “What’s going on? Why is this relationship so difficult?”
You’ve talked to your friends about these fights and they’ve given you some solid advice.
“You know, if you’re struggling this much, maybe you’re just not right for each other. Relationships aren’t supposed to be this hard,” they often say. “The most important thing is making sure you’re happy in the relationship. I mean, if you’re not happy and benefitting the relationship, why are you even in it?”
That’s solid advice…isn’t it?
How often have you been a part of this story? How often have you seen this play out in your life or a friends life? Have you been the person either giving or receiving this advice?
If you’re like me, maybe you’ve found yourself questioning whether the person you’re with is really your soulmate.
My wife and I put phrases like, “soulmate” and “meant to be” in a category we so lovingly call, “Things That Sound Smart But Are Actually Dumb.”
The words that we use matter and using words in this context like “soulmate,” “meant to be” and “destiny” indicates a belief structure is inherently flawed.
Thinking this way reveals that we’ve bought into the lie that our relationships are about us. They exist to serve us, submit to us and make us happy at all costs; anything less is unjust and unfair, a failure not worth pursuing. As a result of this, many of us run for this hills the moment we encounter tension or discomfort.
We’ve bought into the idea that quality relationships take place while floating in the clouds among the rainbows and the unicorns. Couples who are “meant to be” never fight and never struggle together, we think.
Whether you’re married, engaged, in a relationship or want to be in a relationship one day, you must accept this fact: A relationship is made up of two imperfect, fallible selfish human beings. You’ll hurt each other and let each other down often. There will be beautiful moments but there will also be hard seasons.
That’s the reality.
When the Going Gets Tough
But here is another truth: Just because it gets hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Very often, encountering some rough patches indicates you’re on the right path. It means you’ve refused to sit on the surface level and you’re digging deeper together. You understand that the soul-edifying surgery that saves your life necessitates getting cut with the scalpel.
Healthy relationships aren’t about trying to be perfect for the other person (or the other person being perfect for you). They’re about a consistent pursuit of understanding, of coming together and of service. You’ll find deep, high quality relationships that are absent of these things just about as often as you’ll find those unicorns.
Healthy, growing couples don’t rely on destiny and fleeting feelings. Instead, they understand that love is a daily action, and they choose to take that action.
What to Do Next
I’m a big believer in action steps, so one thing that my wife and I have practiced since the beginning of our marriage is setting aside an hour every week (we choose Sunday evenings) to purposefully connect and talk about how we’re doing individually and as a couple. This meeting is an opportunity to air out all our concerns or frustrations and engage tough issues in a constructive environment.
It allows you to ask all sorts of important questions:
Why did we fight this week? Did we fight well or hit below the belt? Where have we chosen to be selfish instead of servant-hearted? How can we love each other better? Am I making this relationship all about me?
It rarely resembles romantic scenes from the movies and it’ll get gritty sometimes. You’ll end up needing to apologize for the same things over and over again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to admit that I’ve lost my patience and been snippy with my words or have been selfish and prideful.
But you know what? By God’s grace we’ve created a beautiful rhythm of apologizing, forgiving and moving forward instead of wounding, blaming and allowing space for resentment to fester.
I want that for you as well. I’d urge you to implement something similar in your relationship because I believe God blesses these efforts.
So friends, don’t believe the lies. Don’t listen to the people who tell you that it’s all supposed to be clean and easy. Don’t believe that your relationship was meant to cater to your every whim and desire. The magical, fairytale love story we all dreamt of as kids is possible, but will likely look differently than we imagined. And we can thank God for that.
You can stop worrying that you’re not constantly floating in the clouds. Sometimes gravity gets the better of us and we’re pulled down to the reality of our relationships. They are work. Being on the frontline of your relational health brings you to the ground and it’s messy and gritty.
But the ground is where the roots grow.