I was asked that question the other day by a woman who has been dating a guy for several months now. During that time, they have had numerous “issues” and serious “discussions.”
“Shouldn’t this be easier,” she asked? “Yes, and no,” I replied.
Strong, good, productive, and successful relationships aren’t easy. They are hard work. They require constant nurturing and maintenance. They require a focus and a dedication. In that respect, relationships are not easy … at all! Anyone who thinks relationships are easy is in for a big surprise when life’s challenges appear. We all hit bumps in the road, and a strong foundation is necessary to navigate these potholes.
By the same token, when I first met and started dating the man who is now my husband, I do recall saying, “This is so easy! I feel like I have known him forever.” In retrospect, there were a lot of things that needed to be worked through. We affectionately called these the “hurdles.” Would we have children together? Where were we going to live? Where would we go to church? What baggage were we bringing from our prior marriages? We knew we needed to work on some things – some pretty major things – and we did. Was it easy? Not really, so maybe “easy” isn’t the right word, but it was “smooth” and was defined by mutual respect and collaboration and a willingness by both of us to clear those hurdles successfully.
So, what’s the difference? I strongly believe that all new relationships require that “hurdles” be identified, discussed and cleared. New relationships require that some “hard” discussions take place. By hard, I mean open, honest, and inquisitive. So many new relationships focus more on the new romance and love, and less on the practical elements of life, so that when the romance part wears off a bit, and the practical stuff comes into focus, they find they don’t agree on things like spending vs. saving patterns, having kids or not, disciplining kids, going to church, etc.
And, these “hard” discussions, of which I am such an advocate, don’t have to be “difficult.” My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I enjoyed wrestling these points, and the back and forth dialogue, as we shared our viewpoints on so many important areas in our lives. We would regularly ask, “Where are we at with the hurdles?” We discussed what we were willing to change or flex on, and where we weren’t! Certain things were non-negotiable. Others were open for new learning and new experiences.
Any of those could have been deal-breakers, and might constitute a “hard” discussion to some people. Unfortunately, many people also equate “hard” with “let’s try to avoid it at all costs.” “Hard” can also mean difficult. It can mean embarrassing. It can mean having to show your own cracks. It can mean your aura of perfection might get a little fuzzy. It can mean revisiting your past. It can mean being vulnerable. Skipping “hard” discussions and insisting that things are better when “easy” is an error in judgment!
Wouldn’t you rather know how tough some of this was going to be, and have those “hurdle” discussions when you are dating, rather than after you have walked down the aisle and said “I do”? I certainly would!
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” (2010) in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys, and “The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view” (2013) to provide perspectives on love, marriage, divorce and everything in between. The books are available on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.HighRoadLessTraffic.com.