Romantic relationships can bring challenges into our lives and sometimes be hard to navigate. They start with excitement and bliss, but sooner or later, one or both partners feel the romance wane, and the relationship begins to feel more like a chore than a blissful union of souls. This does not have to be the fate of every relationship, but it may very well happen to you without a conscientious awareness of what makes relationships difficult. So, if you are wondering ‘why are relationships so hard?‘, then read on.
This article will explore some of the most common reasons relationships become so difficult. If you are experiencing this right now, do not worry. Later in the article, we will discuss how you can improve the quality of your relationship and save it from potential destruction. Even if this one does not work out, you will be better prepared to navigate the complexities of your future relationships. So, let us talk about what makes a relationship so hard.
Reasons Why Are Relationships So Hard
1. Unrealistic Expectations
It is normal to have some expectations of your partner. For example, you can expect your partner to treat you with dignity and respect and care about you. Those are not big things to ask for, especially from a romantic partner. However, if you put a lot of expectations on your partner that are unfair and unrealistic, you are bound to disappoint yourself when they do not fulfill them. That disappointment may soon turn to conflict, or even worse, unspoken resentment, and as a result, the relationship will suffer.
Do you expect your partner to be emotionally available to you at all times? Do you expect them to put their wants and needs to the side to help you meet yours? Do you expect them to follow your rules about how things should be done and completely ignore their own? Do you look at other people’s romantic lives and compare them to your relationship? It is important to check with yourself if you are trying to make your partner be someone else they are not.
These questions around your expectations might seem ridiculous when you see them written down, but often they exist subconsciously. Try to uncover those rules and expectations that lie beneath the surface of your mind to understand more about how you operate within a romantic relationship.
2. A Lack of Intimacy
Intimacy plays a crucial role in healthy relationships. It can be hard to maintain because it requires vulnerability, and being vulnerable can be challenging for many of us. Surviving in the world today often calls upon us to harden up and close our hearts to the world, usually to protect ourselves from too much pain. However, if we do not open our hearts to our partners, we create emotional and psychological distance. Intimacy fades, and the relationship suffers.
So, one thing that makes relationships hard is that intimacy can be challenging. Without working on one’s emotional vulnerability and offering space for one’s partner, the relationship is bound to feel like a chore rather than a source of love and affection.
When intimacy is alive and well in the relationship, both partners are in touch with their authentic selves. Sexual intimacy, for example, involves the interaction of both partners, but to be authentically sexually intimate in the first place requires access to that place within oneself. It will be incredible to share that space with the other if one partner is closed off to their sense of sexuality.
3. Unresolved Emotional Baggage
We are at our most vulnerable in intimate relationships. As exciting and joyous as they can be, they can also bring up unresolved emotions, baggage, and unhealed wounds. It is completely normal to have negative emotions, and it is normal for a relationship to trigger them. Still, the important thing is that we are honest with ourselves and committed to healing and growth and that we keep our partner’s well-being in mind when our own negative emotions come up.
When one or both partners has unresolved baggage, such as childhood abuse, toxic ex-partner, or any other form of trauma, it is important that the other knows what is going on and can trust the affected partner to focus on healing. Suppose that partner is not focused on healing but instead avoids or ignores their baggage. In that case, their emotional needs may become overwhelming for the partner, and the relationship may fail.
Just because you and your partner have difficult emotions from past experiences does not mean your relationship will not prosper. Relationships can be complicated because they make us feel so vulnerable, but we can also achieve significant and lasting growth through accepting and working with, not against, that vulnerability.
4. Poor Communication Skills
There is no doubt that communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship. A relationship is a partnership, and a partnership cannot function effectively without good communication. As time goes on and the relationship surpasses that excitement and bliss of the honeymoon phase, good communication becomes exponentially more important. This is when the relationship gets more serious and long-term, so confront issues directly and honestly with compassion and partnership.
Without good communication, a relationship is merely a hollow vessel carrying you along a frustrating journey fraught with the perils of confusion, projection, and misunderstanding.Cherie Carter-Scott, Ph.D., Author, Life Coach
It is better to communicate your thoughts, concerns, issues, and ideas when they come up rather than waiting for some imagined ‘perfect’ time. If these things are left unresolved, when those issues inevitably surface, the lack of previous communication may make them a whole lot worse.
How to Improve the Quality of Your Relationships
When relationships feel difficult, what can we do to make them easier? How do we maintain romance when there is regular conflict? Below we have outlined some key things to consider if you want to not only make your relationships easier but significantly improve their quality.
1. Let Go of Those Unrealistic Expectations
The more you expect of your partner, the more you are bound to disappointment. That is not to say you should not have any expectations at all. You are entitled to want a relationship that involves love and respect. You are entitled to leave a relationship where those qualities are not present. Still, be mindful of how many expectations you place on your partner. Do not let go of all your expectations, but let go of those that cannot make your relationship prosper.
Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our relationships to be romantic and emotionally, and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?Esther Perel
If you want to improve the quality of your relationships, let go of unfair expectations. Learn to trust your partner and forgive them for the mistakes and errors that come with being a human.
Be open to your partner’s uniqueness and dissolve the idea you hold of how they should be. Even further, let go of that idea of what your ‘perfect’ relationship looks like. Understand that this is about you and your partner, and no model, idea, or social structure matters. It is about the two of you and how you both feel, not what you see in others, or the media, or what people tell you.
When your partner fails to meet your expectations, be mindful of what you do next. What is your go-to attempt at resolution? Do you call them names and blame them? Or do you communicate with compassion? The way you approach an unmet expectation will influence how a similar situation is dealt with in the future.
2. Work on Yourself
The best and healthiest relationships are those in which partners are committed to their personal growth and development—their sense of personal fulfillment and meaning outside gained experiences. Sometimes we enter relationships with the mindset that we can stop working on ourselves now that we have found that perfect person. A relationship is a partnership. That means both partners need to pull their weight and commit to making the relationship work, even when things get tough. The fact is that romance will not always be easy, conflict is inevitable, and doubt can creep in at times.
What matters most is that we understand and work with those facts, not deny or suppress them. Working towards a healthy and lasting relationship means working on each other’s needs, including self-acceptance, authentic self-expression, and self-compassion.
Moreover, old wounds will inevitably resurface at some point in a relationship. Part of working on yourself is working on those parts of your past that still hurt and influence your behavior. The more in touch you are with your emotional baggage and your current needs, the easier it will be to communicate those wounds and needs to your partner, making it easier to work in harmony for each others’ highest growth.
3. Respect Your Partner
Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.Esther Perel.
Mutual respect is fundamental to the health of your relationship. It means understanding your partner’s unique conflict management style and working with it rather than against it. It also means understanding your partner’s need for space, as well as their need for closeness and affection. As mentioned earlier, sometimes we expect our partners to be there for us all the time, and in that haze of neediness, we do not see how they might need time to themselves.
Friendship fuels the flames of romance because it offers the best protection against feeling adversarial toward your spouse.John M. Gottman
4. Appreciate Your Partner
It is all too common to take one’s partner for granted. As time passes, we can get a little bit too comfortable with the relationship and stop working on improving it. We forget that it is up to us to create romantic moments and that it is not our partner’s job to provide us with a fulfilling life. We start to expect things from our partners and lose sight of the magic that brought us together in the first place.
If you want to improve your relationship and keep things in the present, pay attention to your partner in the present moment. Look at them and see them like it is the first time, and try to fall in love with them over again. It might sound like a big ask, especially when things get complicated, but it is possible to have a fresh start. Learn to appreciate your partner fully.
Remember that relationships are in a constant feedback loop. They are not static; instead, they always change and powerfully influence each other. Whatever is going on with you will affect your relationship, and the same goes for your partner. As such, if you take even one thing from this article, let it be that communication is key. Without it, any relationship is doomed to fail.
Relationships become extremely difficult when healthy communication is missing because we no longer get feedback from our partners and need to figure things out alone. Having a healthy relationship without good communication is nearly impossible. We can never honestly know what is going on with someone, even with our partner, unless they communicate it.
On a final note, understand that while it is important and healthy to work on your relationships, some relationships are not meant to be. You can work all you want on improving communication and respecting each other, but if that partner is simply not ready for you or does not respect you, then no matter what you do, the relationship will not prosper. Having healthy and growth-oriented relationships means understanding that each other deserves time, energy, and attention.