Why It's So Hard To Stay Satisfied In A Relationship (Even Though You've Got A Good Thing Going)

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why you can't keep your partner satisfied

The grass isn't always greener.

The other day, I was listening to a girl talk to me about her boyfriend. Her boyfriend just proposed to her and she was very lukewarm about it. I asked her what the point of contention was and my jaw dropped when I heard the answer.

“Oh, he only spent $7,000 on the wedding ring. I don’t know if I want to marry a guy who won’t spend more on me,” she said. Mind you, this woman was unemployed for a year and had been job-hopping until she started dating this guy. The man had put her up in an apartment and also bought her a pair of Louboutins as a way of saying he loved her.

It was about this time that I realized I didn’t want to talk to her anymore. But the funny thing is that I’d known her for years and I would never have guessed she’d get this way. I knew her when she was much heavier, much shyer, and, like myself, would have been thrilled for any man to propose. She lost weight and now she’s unsatisfied with a $7,000 ring.

The conversation got me thinking about long-time relationships, dating, and partners. We’ve all met people who treated wonderful partners terribly, cheated on them with losers, and left the good ones high and dry. A lot of times, the people they take for granted get apologies years later, but at that point, it’s too late.

Speaking as someone who’s been there on both sides of the equation, it made me wonder why it’s so hard to stay satisfied with your partner. After some thought, here’s the truth of how to stay satisfied in marriage and why so many people can’t stay happy in good relationships — at least, from what I’ve gleaned.

1. Part of it is the law of diminishing returns.

In economics, the Law of Diminishing Returns says that people tend to value things less when they are incredibly commonplace or when they’re overexposed to it. A good example of this is all-you-can-eat buffets.

When you go to a buffet, that first plate of food always is the most satisfying; you get the crab legs, the wontons, and you’re good. Then, your next plate may fill you up, but you won’t savor it as much. By plate three, you’re feeling very full and a bit queasy. By plate four, you’re regretting plates one through three. This could be the fanciest buffet ever and that phenomenon will still happen.

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One of the reasons why people who are “mean,” politely assertive, or slightly selfish in dating tend to do well when compared to doormats is because they’re serving nice in “portions” that force you to value and savor the kindnesses they do. People don’t walk over assertive people because they know the assertive person won’t tolerate that. This is why being assertive and putting yourself (ever so slightly) first is such a huge deal when you date.

2. Laziness is also a thing.

The funny thing about good relationships is that they take hard work and an active choice to make it work. If you’re in a great relationship, there’s a good chance you may get too used to being pampered and may inadvertently take your partner’s emotional labor for granted.

If you leave all the relationship work to one person and assume they’re cool with it, you’re going to get resentment. Resentment is a relationship killer, which in turn means that you may notice your partner no longer being as loving or happy as they used to be.

3. Some people end up getting addicted to pursuing relationships much like others get addicted to luxury.

Did you know that there’s an addiction out there that has to deal with buying luxury goods? It’s true. People who are addicted to luxury (or “lifestyle inflation”) tend to love the rush of buying a pricey good, the comfort it offers, and the status they feel. The problem is that once they buy the item, it no longer pleases them the next day.

This is why you see a lot of people who have massive collections of makeup or clothing, only to say they need more. This is why you see kids in mansions talking about how “small” their house is. And it’s hard to go back down once you’ve inflated your lifestyle.

For some people, the confidence boost and happiness they got from a good relationship or the interest of someone way outside their league is a similar thrill. The boost they got from the original partner often makes them feel like they may “deserve more” or that someone better is out there for them. Or, they may end up going for the thrill of a new relationship, as in love addiction.

When they’re with someone for a long time, they often will forget the ugly relationships before and get less satisfied with the marriage.

4. Unrealistic expectations are hammered into us on a daily basis.

Blame Hollywood, major media, and society’s really unrealistic veneer for this. We live in a world where perfection seems to be mandatory, where double standards are rife, and where we all are supposed to believe that there’s a perfect someone for everyone.

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We all are constantly told to find someone who is perfect, but there’s no human being out there who is perfect. No human being has a perfect body, a perfect personality, and a perfect soul. Even the kindest people in the world had their flaws.

When you add this to the pressure we get for gender roles, it becomes hell. Men are constantly being told to be macho, misogynistic, and aggressive, but are then shamed for being what they think society wants men to be. Women are often shamed for wanting someone who fits our physical standards despite women being judged and shamed daily on their appearance.

It’s so damned hard to feel happy and satisfied in a relationship when people constantly tell you that you should be shooting higher and it's why you don't understand how to stay satisfied in marriage. It’s even worse when you think of how superficial a lot of the things people prize are.

Considering the pressure to be perfect, is it really that shocking that so many breakups happen because they “felt they could do better”? Moreover, is it that shocking that so many exes come back begging for a second chance when they realize they had it good in the first place?

5. Ego is also a thing.

Some people legit think they are the best thing ever and believe they’re above reproach. I’ve noticed this with a lot of people who used to be poor but then got rich. I’ve also noticed this with a lot of people who used to be fat but are now thin. If you think you are above everyone else, including your partner, then you will not be happy in your relationship.

6. Then, there’s also the times when you may simply outgrow your partner.

I’m not going to lie, this is a legitimate reason why it’s hard to stay in a relationship. If you’re growing and achieving new things, but your partner is content to be in high school mode forever, then you two can and will grow apart. If your life goals change, then it’s also not going to be possible for you to be happy with someone who’s still shooting for your old goals.

If they choose to grow with you, that’s great, but don’t try to force it. Trying to force them to do things they don’t want will only lead to heartbreak.

7. We also are fed some pretty toxic beliefs about relationships that can ruin our ability to be happy with our partners long-term.

Standards aside, we’re also told a lot of lies about how to hold a good relationship. We’re told kids strengthen a relationship, but the truth is they add a lot more stress to marriage and should be planned heavily in advance.

We’re told love shouldn’t be work, that “love is sacrifice,” or that our partners “should just know” what we’re feeling. This isn’t viable, and if we listen to too many toxic truisms, we may actually become unable to hold a long-term relationship.

8. Some people are also legitimately commitment-phobic or have hangups that cause them to be incompatible with long-term relationships.

Certain emotional or mental issues can make it nearly impossible to find long-term love. If you have dating-related PTSD like I do, then you will constantly need reassurance and may still struggle with all sorts of different elements of love. If you’re codependent, same deal.

With many of these issues, you’re totally fine during the first three months or so, but the relationship stops being fun and starts being terrifying by month six. Thankfully, things can get better with treatment and work in most cases, but it will likely always be there, albeit in smaller doses.

At the end of the day, most long-term relationships require two invested, communicative, and reasonably emotionally healthy partners to be a good influence on your life. Sadly, we live in a society that tends to cause people to become unhealthy, at least on an emotional level. So, there are less people out there who fit the “dateable” bill than there used to be.

These are facts that can’t be changed, but at the very least, you can work on yourself to make yourself a better partner — and that can do wonders for love.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart is a Jack-of-all-trades writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey. When she's not writing, she's drinking red wine and chilling with some cool cats. You can follow her @bluntandwitty on Twitter.