Relationships Are Only As Difficult As We Make Them

I don’t declare myself to be an expert on relationships, as there have only been two people in my life who became serious love interests for me. One was a marriage that lasted nearly a decade; the other an engagement that lasted three years. When it comes to telling people what they should do when it comes to their partner in life, I am not really the best qualified to give advice.

Still, there are some basic concepts that apply universally across all areas of life. While I don’t really understand all of the nuances of how to make a woman happy, I can point out on very large factor that contributes to the happiness, or lack thereof, in a relationship. People jump into serious relationships for a multitude of reasons, and each of us has a different primary goal when we decide to commit ourselves to being with another person. Regardless of what those reasons might be, our ability to be content in any relationship comes down to a single factor: expectations.

Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we each bring in our own expectations of what our relationships with other people should be like. For many, especially women, romance is an important part of being with another person. They like to be made to feel special and important, and this is accomplished through the method of providing them with the kind of attention they seek. For some, it’s special gifts, expensive or cheap, that show that you know and understand them. For others it might be kind words or physical affection. Regardless of the type, it is the attention given that makes a woman happy with her partner.

This attention seeking behavior isn’t really a bad thing all by itself. It is normal and healthy for a woman to want the important people in her life to reassure her that she matters to them. As with all things relating to happiness, however, it is the level of expectation that marks the line between a reasonable partner and one seeking a co-dependent relationship. The line between the two can be very thin, and where the line falls exactly is dependent on the people in the relationship. No universal guide exists to set the bar because each couple is a unique pair.

It is this variance in people combined with an abnormally high level of expectation that likely causes the widespread dissatisfaction with relationships that we see today. We hear all the time that more than half of marriages end in failure, but we almost never hear good reasons as to why this might be. Of course, the natural assumption is people rushed in too quickly, not getting to know each other well enough before deciding to tie the knot. While this is absolutely a contributing factor, it can’t logically explain the common cause that ends a relationship. People of all types and backgrounds have joined together across the span of human existence, and if it was only because people were “too different” that relationships failed, we wouldn’t see very many successful unions at all. We are all very different.

In the end, it all comes down to our own expectations. We each want to get something out of the relationship that matters to us. If we aren’t getting it, then we become dissatisfied, and then eventually unhappy. This is not unreasonable all by itself, as nothing we humans do in life overall makes us happy unless our expectations are being met. The difference is all in making sure that we are being realistic about where we set the bar.

It makes sense to me that most relationships today fail not because people don’t love each other, but because we have all become quite unrealistic about what a relationship is supposed to be. Movies and books and whatever other media we consume presents us with fantastic stories of couples who fall madly in love with one another and get their “happily ever after”. This is a nice little fantasy to daydream about, sure, but like most things in life, the statistical probability that any of us will find something as special and unique as this is much like winning the lottery. When was the last time you got a winning ticket?

You might be one of the lucky few who meets someone who clicks with you so well that it’s no effort to make them happy and you both enjoy a lifetime of powerful love. For the rest of us, though, the real goal of making a relationship work is learning to set our expectations based on the person we choose to be with. This obviously isn’t very romantic, but the brutal truth is that relationships only work when both sides are able to meet the other’s expectations. If your partner simply can’t, do you go looking for someone who can? What if you never find them? Are you prepared to be alone for the rest of your life while you stubbornly cling to what you’ve decided you absolutely need?

For myself, I’ve finally learned at this later stage in my life that it’s better to be lonely than unhappy. My expectations for any relationship are quite low, consisting of seeking lifelong companionship with an attractive woman who enjoys being around me and occasionally doing things together, but doesn’t need me to constantly be taking my attention away from the things I’m interested in because she needs me to reassure her. Since I don’t expect much from my partner, I’m not willing to do nearly as much as most women today seem to expect. Part of me has accepted that maybe I’m just not cut out for a relationship. I can’t live with the chains that women seem to want to shackle me with.

Regardless, the point of this article is to make the case that happiness is simply a matter of adjusting our expectations. While it sounds sad to say, it’s much easier to lower our expectations than for someone else to work harder to meet something higher. It’s all good and well to be uncompromising and stand firm in what you want, but just be sure that you’re willing to live with the potential consequences of that position, including spending your life alone.

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