Being in a relationship can be one of the most rewarding, fulfilling and pleasurable experiences of life and that's because love is truly incredible. However, relationships of all sorts also come with their own set of challenges and moments of conflict, where growth (both personal and as a couple) is not only required but necessary.
For longevity and survival of a relationship, it's important to realise some key and confronting relationship truths:
Relationships aren't easy, or simple.
Putting two people together and expecting them to co-exist happily in perfect harmony forever is like putting balsamic vinegar in oil and expecting it to combine; it's not going to happen. However, both sit side by side and together make a perfect combination.
Relationships are always works in progress where you wake up every day with the intention to do and be better than yesterday. Nobody is perfect and expecting perfection in your relationship will only set you up for disappointment. Off-days are not only a part of life, they're a relationship reality.
If it's not broken, don't try to fix it.
Being comfortable and content doesn't mean your relationship is boring or is getting stale. Looking for fault where there is none only puts your relationship in jeopardy. Self-sabotage can be a common problem with many couples. If you're consistently seeking faults in your partner, chances are you'll find them. Again, we all have flaws, so don't spend time consistently seeking them out.
Space is a great thing.
Being in a relationship doesn't mean you have to be joined at the hip 24/7. In fact, time apart is an essential. It's important for both partners to have independent time doing what enriches their souls and makes them happy. It also allows for new conversations and fresh connections to occur.
Communication is essential.
If you can't talk to your partner openly and honestly about life, work, your children, your family, how you're feeling etc., you need to reconsider the relationship. Effective, transparent and open communication is the foundation of any lasting and fulfilling relationship, period.
Arguing is normal.
Conflict will always occur because of differences in opinion, it's only natural. Don't fall into the trap of thinking your relationship is doomed because you argue. What isn't normal (or acceptable) is when arguments become physically or emotionally abusive. Should this occur, please seek assistance and support in safely exiting the relationship.
You can't change someone.
A relationship isn't a project where you change your partner into who you want them to be. It's where you love someone as they are and in turn, they love you for the same reason. You are responsible for your own personal growth whilst in a relationship and they for theirs.
You're not always going to be attracted to your partner.
Life gets busy and sexual attraction can get moved down the priority list or disappear completely when you're distracted with other things. It's completely natural and normal. It can also be hard feeling attraction for someone when you're tired after work or have been up all night trying to ease a restless baby. Feelings of attraction will come and go throughout your relationship and are by no means a 'red flag'.
Differences in beliefs can be challenging.
Having someone challenge your beliefs can be tough but it also brings with it moments of growth and great conversations. Don't expect to always see eye-to-eye, however know that differences in opinion doesn't necessarily equate to a miss-matched relationship.
You won't always miss each other.
In fact, sometimes you'll have lots of fun when you're apart, and that's completely fine. You are allowed to be independent because regardless of being in a relationship, you are still your own person.
Sex will come in ebbs and flows and, for periods of time, stop completely.
When other priorities take precedent in your relationship, sex might not be on the radar for one (or both) of you. It's important to communicate your sexual desires to your partner so you understand where you both stand. Sometimes scheduling sex is necessary (and normal). Take the pressure and expectation off sex and know that just because you're not doing it every night (or every week) doesn't mean that anything is wrong.
Doubt doesn't always mean 'don't'.
When relationships get tough, it's normal to have a moment where you might wonder "is this the right relationship for me?" Relationships are a conscious commitment and, as with most things in life, opting out when things look challenging rarely ever pays off.
You will hurt each other.
In the heat of the moment, you are both going to say things you don't mean that could negatively impact your partner's feelings and the relationship in the long-term. These moments are inevitable, but when they do happen it's important both partners take accountability for their words/actions in order for the relationship to grow and continue in moving forward.
You will bring the past into the present.
You know that argument you had six months ago you still haven't gotten over? That time they upset you a few weeks back but you didn't bring it up? Those ex-partners they had before you started dating? The list goes on and chances are you might throw these scenarios into today's arguments (but shouldn't.) The past, specifically their past, is done and gone, leave it there.
Holding things against each other or bringing up things you can't change is unfair. If you're having a constructive discussion based on past actions, that can be okay, but if you're using the past against each other it's certain to stunt relationship growth. Move forward together.
You will need to put your pride and ego aside and (at times) apologise first.
This means sometimes it's necessary to bite your tongue and not make it a priority to always have the final word. It's more important to resolve the issue at hand than always be 'right'. Remember, when you argue, you should be on the same team against the problem, not against each other.
You will need to be accountable.
You are responsible for what you say, do and how you act in a relationship, not only to yourself but to your partner. Take ownership of who you are as a person and partner. This means owning up to your mistakes and faults.
Being on the 'same page' is paramount.
If you both want different things from a relationship and life, the chances of your relationship surviving long term are pretty low. Be sure to understand each other's wants in life (personally and professionally) to see if they marry up to your own. A relationship with common goals is one that will grow and last.
You'll mourn for and miss the honeymoon phase.
The constant euphoria, hearts fluttering, thinking of each other endlessly and all that comes with the early stages of a relationship do come to an end and with good reason. You wouldn't be able to function otherwise. While there will be moments of lust, excitement and skipped heartbeats, they won't be as constant as before. This is completely normal and means your relationship is growing from 'lust' into a real, comfortable and secure love.
Compromise is needed.
Sometimes you'll need to agree to disagree and that's okay. Other times you'll have to compromise on life circumstances and schedules, such as taking care of the household, bills, children etc. Both partners need to be giving (and receiving) equal amounts when it comes to compromising.
Your relationship is not the same as anyone else's.
Don't compare your relationship or partner to any one else because every relationship is different. Just because your friends or family are constantly putting picture perfect updates on social media doesn't mean that's their actual reality. Problems behind closed doors aren't often made public, so don't focus on what you perceive to be a standard to measure your own relationship against. Be and participate in your own relationship without looking for comparison in others.
'Couple time' is crucial.
Scheduling 'couple time' is important because life gets busy. Taking time out and away from your home where you can be alone together for an intimate catch up is crucial for your relationship to continue growing. Make time to spend together where topics such as work or children are off limits and reconnect as a couple. It's also a great way to reward your relationship for getting through life together.