When I was a child I was told I needed to work hard if I wanted something. I was sent to all manner of performing arts outlets – dance, piano, acting – and was always told that I must practice if I wanted to get better, I must rehearse if I wanted to be good and I must be dedicated if I wanted to succeed. At school, my parents and my teachers told me often that I must study if I wanted to get the grades I wanted to progress. When I started working my father taught me that I should be the first one in and the last one home, my lecturers instilled in me that I must continue my education and read everything to stay ahead of the curve and be open to everyone and everything.
These people in my life showed me that hard work would eventually pay off for me and if I wanted to get where I wanted to be, I would not get there without hard work. But all these people failed me in possibly the most important area of my life, where hard work is maybe the most lacking. Love. No one ever told me that love required hard work.
I mean, it’s something you know and it something people say all the time but no one ever breaks it down to you or teaches you the lessons that we need to survive in a relationship. Well no one taught me anyway.
The thing is, we learn our relationship values from our parents, and since I’ve become an adult I’ve had to come to the conclusion that they are just winging it too. My mum was expecting her second child, was married and had a mortgage by the time she was my age and I’m struggling to keep myself alive. So, she had to be faking it too, right? What I’m trying to say is that parents can only do what they think is best, and there are pros and cons to all types of parenting.
My parents are still together after 30 years of marriage (I know!!!) it’s an amazing achievement, and they have a beautiful relationship that I aspire to have, but they had their share of ups and downs like every couple. There were a lot of financial issues in our family when I was a child but I’m only finding this stuff out now because my mum and dad (bless them) worked tirelessly to keep their problems hidden from us, to make it look to their children that they were solid and to shield us from any upset. This led to an amazing childhood full of happy memories, but it also set me up for failure when it came to relationships. I put my parent’s marriage as the benchmark to every relationship I’ve ever has. No one would ever treat me the way my Dad treated my Mum, and no one would ever take care of me the way she did to him. If I had an argument, I would immediately think we should break up because I have no experience in watching a couple hit a road block and work through it. I know that they did hit bumps in the road, but I never saw it. Our parent’s relationship, no matter what they taught us, are only one example of how things should be done.
As young girls, we are programmed to believe that a man will catch our eye across a crowded room and the surroundings will melt away as we drift over to each other on a cloud and fall in love and, wham-bam-thank-you-mam, that’s us sorted! From the films we watch, the stories we hear we are led to believe that there is a powerful force that will drive you to the person that you are meant to be with, and that once we meet that person everything else will just fall into place. When we learn the harsh reality, it can be a devastating blow. Our parent’s relationship, no matter what it taught us, is only one example of how things should be done.
Love is not enough, no matter what popular culture teaches us it’s not. Love is the foundation on which everything else should be built, but love cannot conquer all alone. How many people do you know claim to love each but treat each other with zero respect. Or love each so much they are moving forward in a toxic relationship. Love it is not the answer and certainly not the excuse for negative behaviour or for not working hard.
A relationship takes respect, compromise, compatibility and a desire to put the needs of someone else before your own at times. It means having to love someone despite their flaws, and to find someone that you can trust enough to be vulnerable with and them to be vulnerable with you. Find someone who brings out a side of you that you can’t find on your own and someone who seeks a part of your personality they feel they lack. It’s about finding a balance and accepting your differences. This is love, not catching the eye of someone so beautiful they take your breath away, but finding someone who’s laugh and smile makes you weak at the knees. Seek a partner who you become more attracted too, who you can’t keep your hands off a year on. And even more attracted to five years on.
Remember to work, and work hard. Because that is what it takes to form a partnership. It requires stepping out of ourselves to understand someone else’s thought process, about not saying something just to hurt someone else. It’s about compromise, and about carving out time for each other and keeping the spark alive.
The workload of a relationship requires two people, it literally cannot be done by one. You will fail. Share the load, help one another and communicate. I nearly lost something very special this week because we were both afraid of hard work. And the truth is that if we do work hard at the start, and make this the objective of our relationship,the work will get easier and suddenly it won’t seem so hard anymore.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your relationships? I’d love to know how you work through things with your partners!
Love, and hard work, always