Working at it

I’ve been thinking a lot about a post written by NicoleandMaggie on Sunday. They talked about how the most necessary component of a healthy relationship – communication – is fairly straightforward and easy for them. As a result, they don’t see relationships as work, and they don’t (seem to) believe others should either. The comments immediately following the post implied that people who have to work at their relationships are toxic. Or that their relationships are toxic. How sad it was for those toxic individuals and their families.

Whatever the intent, I was hurt. Hubby and I have to work at our relationship… a lot. Does that make us toxic? Does that mean our relationship is troubled or doomed to fail? We’re currently working through some major life challenges – financially, parentally, and spiritually. I have no doubt we’ll be fine, but effective communication doesn’t come all that easy for us. With the present strain of our life weighing so heavily, I couldn’t get past the first few comments of NicoleandMaggie’s post, and I couldn’t react with my own. I needed to think about what work in a relationship meant to me, and why it was acceptable.

Hubby and I both had difficult upbringings, his much more stressful than mine. Neither of us had exceptionally great models for romantic relationships, and Hubby was raised by a rather demented model for parenting. As a result, we have a difficult time with communication, especially when everyday life (and now parenthood) introduce stress and exhaustion. When conflicts arise, we sometimes react instead of looking for solutions. Fears of grueling conflict often stall needed discussions. Pride gets in the way. We both recognize our shortcomings, and we consistently make the decision to overcome them. But at times life can make our differences appear impossible to bridge, and we have to dig deep for the emotional stamina to keep going.

So why do Hubby and I continue to forge a relationship that requires so much work? Because, simply said, it’s worth it. When Hubby, Monkey, and I are playing together, when I see Hubby comforting Monkey, when Hubby and I enjoy time alone, I know how incredibly blessed we are. When our will is depleted, we derive strength from outside of ourselves, from what we call “God”, to keep moving forward. Our faith compels us to see past our own weaknesses and selfish desires. We owe it to ourselves to pursue happiness, and we owe it to our son to provide the loving environment for growing into a confident young man. If we do our job well, maybe Monkey won’t have to work so hard to do that which requires so much energy from us.

Perhaps the toxicity comments were aimed at those who don’t work at their relationships, either because they don’t want to or just don’t know how. I’m not really sure. However, I agree with NicoleandMaggie that the mindset you take into a relationship has a lot to do with how successful and healthy that relationship will be. Hubby and I have made the decision that we are committed to one another, for better or worse. We do our best to view our struggles in a positive light, but sometimes fail to live up to this expectation. In spite of our shortcomings, our relationship is strong and will mature as we grow old together. Someday, the ability to work with, instead of against, each other may even become natural for us. But for now, we work. And I’m proud of the work we do.

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