The Hard Work Myth


“Relationships are hard work.” We’ve all heard it. Most people believe it and that unquestioned...

Relationships are hard work.”  We’ve all heard it.  Most people believe it and that unquestioned belief in and of itself is an evil spell that is cast on most relationships before they ever take root.  The thing is, it’s not true.  Healthy relationships are not hard work.  Healthy relationships make the actual work of living life easier, lighter, and more manageable.

That said, healthy relationships require energy and a lot of it.  If your relationship is a priority and you want it to continue to function optimally, the word “priority” can’t be lip service.  Something that is a priority gets taken care of before other things do.  Simply put for a relationship to stay healthy it has to come before almost everything else in your life.

Relationships need fuel.  They require time and attention.  However, most couples think once they have sealed the deal they can put the relationship on autopilot and focus on everything else.  They focus on houses, and jobs, and kids, and everything else in their lives that feels like a moving target, assuming their relationship will stay strong and stay put.  That assumption is simply false.  It doesn’t take long before a love that was once strong starts to cool off and then gets rocky.  At that point, relationships are incredibly hard work.  Lots and lots of couples live right there, in a cycle of starving their relationship of energy, and then experiencing the pain of a failing love.  Then they “work” on it and it’s very hard.  When a relationship is in critical condition often times there’s not enough energy or attention in the world to keep it alive.

I hear it all too often, “My wife knows I love her.  I tell her everyday.  We just don’t have the time or the money to do the kinds of things we used to.  Life is different.”  Yes, life is different, but saying your relationship is a priority and not treating it like one isn’t good enough.  You wouldn’t tell your child you love them everyday and get too busy to take care of them.  If you want to have a marriage, you can’t assume it will feed itself.  It won’t.  If life is busy, if it’s hectic, or hard, your relationship needs even more energy and attention than it did when things were simple.
If a relationship is hard work, it’s starving.

It’s a sign of systemic relationship sickness.  It’s not normal.  It’s a problem.  If you see it for what it is early enough, it’s probably fixable.  If you decide hard work is what you signed up for, and you’re in it for the long haul, you’re in for something you won’t like in the name of love and that’s not love, it’s torture.

There is a difference between investing energy and being faced with and forced to do hard work.  We all know it.  Taking care of your relationship should be a joy.  It should be something worthy of doing and there’s no point doing the relationship thing at all if you aren’t going to give it the energy it requires.   A relationship on the brink will require much, much more energy than the daily maintenance required to keep it healthy in the first place.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.