I wanted to write this blog post to call for some hard truth about the reality of relationships these days: they’re falling apart too easily. Relationships today seem more fragile compared to those from a generation or two ago; almost like they could end at a moment’s notice.
NOTE: This an opinion piece made by the author. It’s not a clinical, scientific piece. It’s an opinion, informed by a bit of research and a lot of experience.
You might have heard some statistics on divorce recently. In Australia, more and more marriages are ending; and the divorce rate is even higher in some parts of the world (about 40-50% in the United States). Not only that, more people are either steering away from relationships, or are ending them after years of being together. Why is it happening? Do we no longer know how to love? Have we forgotten what love actually is?
This may not be true for all, but here are a few common reasons why relationships in this modern age are falling apart so easily:
1. We need instant gratification.
In a world where everything is all so instant, so hands-free, and so swipe-right, we want things fast and we want things now. But when it comes to relationships, the need for instant gratification can be a bad thing. In our need to have a relationship now, we get into them at the slightest attraction. And at the first sign of problems, either one or both become all too willing to step out. We find all these small infractions that we use to justify leaving a connection (absurd things like they don’t text you back right away!)
We don’t give people a real chance. We want them to be perfect for us NOW. We have become a spoiled, impatient bunch that we end up abandoning potentially healthy relationships in their infancy, believing that there could be a better option down the road.
‘Compatibility’ is an achievement of love; it shouldn’t be its precondition. — Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) March 14, 2014
But the truth is you can’t expect good relationships to be handed to you on a plate. Interestingly, they’re also a bit like a gourmet dish – they take time, effort, commitment and they have to be handled delicately.
Patience is the key to every stage of a relationship and it will take practice. If you’re in the early stages, instead of trying to define how your relationship should be, take the time to get to know the other person to find out whether or not they are a good match for you. Keep in mind that every relationship will always have its own set of problems. The only thing that makes a relationship perfect is when two people decide to be together despite some nuances and problems.
2. We let social media take over our lives.
We’ve all fallen into this pit once or twice but social media can be quite a problem when it takes over every other waking minute of your relationship. Research has shown that people who spent more time on sites like Facebook had more social media-related problems and negative relationship outcomes.
So if you’ve spent time with your significant other with either one of you looking at your phone the whole time, instead of actually talking and asking about each other’s day – you might want to put a stop to that, for your relationship’s sake. Social media has become so accessible that we don’t realise how much time we spend on it. Or we don’t realise how our partners are bothered that they have to compete with it for our attention. We fall prey into this false sense of reality, and lose sight of what’s really important – the person sitting right next to us.
How about the next time you’re with your partner, unplug from your device, pry yourself away from online friends and make your partner feel that they’re the most important person in your life? The notifications may have to wait – but it won’t be the end of the world, and it will all be worth it for your relationship.
3. We don’t know how to communicate.
So many relationships these days fall victim to having poor communication. In a lot of cases, relationships end from the most minuscule arguments that could have easily been resolved through open and honest communication. Every couple will have their own style of communicating, it’s just a matter of finding out what works for you. It will take practice and patience, but no matter what type of relationship you’re in, here are a few steps to take for a healthier kind of communication:
Find the right time. If something is bothering you and you want to talk to your partner about it, timing will be everything. A good time to talk with your partner is when both of you are calm and undistracted, and are not in a rush to do anything else.
Talk face-to-face. Some things are best discussed offline, especially serious matters in a relationship. Talking in person will prevent unnecessary miscommunication, whereas doing it over chat, text, phone or email could call for serious cause of misinterpretation. If you find it a struggle to gather your thoughts, you could write them down beforehand and then read it aloud to your partner.
Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. The mind-reading fantasy that happens in relationships says that if you really love someone, and they really love you, you don’t need to explain with so many words. This kind of expectation can be detrimental to relationships because it just doesn’t work like that.
“It’s led in an outbreak of sulking. You’re upset, but you’re not going to tell your lover. And the reason you’re not going to tell them is because if they loved you, they would know why you’re upset. So you bolt into the bathroom and you won’t say what’s wrong. Because a true lover should be able to read what was wrong with you through the bathroom door.”
– Alain de Botton, The School of Life
Sounds familiar? The sooner you can learn to minimise your expectations of others in this area, the happier you can become.
Listen carefully. Listening to your partner is very important. Provide a safe and healthy space for him or her to express how they feel in the best way they can. Don’t interrupt. Just sit and listen to what they have to say, and then you respond.
Empathise. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and try to understand where they are coming from. If his or her feelings were hurt, try to understand the reasoning behind it. Tell your partner you understand and thank them for expressing their feelings to you. This will drive connection between you both and make for better conversations in the future.
Resolve together, but take your time. Discuss the problem at hand with your partner and think together of ways on how you can improve things. Listen to each other’s ideas, have an equal share of the decision, but also keep in mind that you don’t have to move faster than the situation will allow. Some problems may call for an immediate resolution, while some will require time, work and further communication between you and your partner.
4. We’re too busy for our relationships.
We don’t make time for love, nor do we have the patience to deal with relationships. The conflict between ambition and relationships lies in the heart of many types of connections in today’s society. We’re too busy chasing dreams that being in a relationship, or the idea of it, becomes nothing more than an inconvenience.
When you or your partner (or both) start to live excessively busy lives, this can gradually keep you apart. You become so used to spending time alone that you forget to make a point to make time for one another. You forget how to be a couple and then things start to get sour.
The simple solution to this is to make time for each other. Talk. Plan an afternoon date, or a night away from the kids. Do activities you both enjoy, or be adventurous and try something new, like a dance class or a painting class. Never allow for work or other obligations to keep you and your partner apart for too long. If you can manage to create a work-life balance that allows you to experience the joys of love and a successful career, then you will have a truly happy and rewarding life.
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