1.) Jealousy Is Bad
Female talk show hosts and social media really screwed this one up. On any given day there will be a parade of featured series that display the psychotic behavior of stalking ex-lovers under the banner of “out-of-control jealousy”. As women’s lib reaches its peak in the dawning age of instant media access and unlimited financial and political support, we’ve colored outside of the lines a bit with this one. Amidst the calls for women to break free of their former chains which bound them to men, the subject of relationship jealousy became strongly associated with men whose traditional values were stuck in the past. A jealous man in a relationship has become the ultimate anti-feminist statement, a blatant exhibition of male insecurities about women being free to interact with the world as they please. No longer imprisoned by kitchen stoves and submissive roles, jealousy is no longer understood as a facet of relationship boundaries and feelings of betrayal, but rather, only as a means of control.
From this the ultimate message for both men and women in long-term relationships is: jealousy is bad and a jealous person is a controlling person. The resulting culture of these ideas is that we should never question jealousy, but only condemn it and rid ourselves from it. Perhaps more important is that the associated images and implications of jealousy have become very much confused with possessiveness.
Jealousy is a natural part of a relationship. Everyone gets jealous (including God—because apparently if you worship someone else, you’re going to hell). Feeling hurt or angry that a significant other is paying more attention to someone outside of the relationship is a very common and enlightening experience. It tells us that our partner matters to us, that we have certain expectations about healthy boundaries between our relationships and the kinds of situations and people that may harm them. Simply put: jealousy is not a problem in a relationship; HOW we express and deal with jealousy is far more telling.
If, in our expression of jealousy, we become possessive and controlling, this becomes a problem. Controlling who our partner talks to, what they do, and with whom they do it is possessiveness. It’s extremely unhealthy, creating an air of anger, contempt, and punishment for enjoying life outside of the relationship. Instead, communicating feelings of jealousy are a much better way of letting our partner know what and who makes you feel uncomfortable when it comes to your partnership.
2.) Arguments Are Bad
My grandparents argued pretty much every day of their 56-year marriage. Does that mean they had an unhealthy relationship? Not necessarily, though, I once remember my grandmother trying to stab my grandfather with a fork at the dinner table because he refused to stop humming “The Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss II. Yet, more than anything, that memory presents evidence suggesting that HOW we argue, and HOW we make up, are more important than whether or not we argue at all with our partner.
Arguments are a great tool for exploring the values and expectation of each partner in the relationship. Using your verbal spats as a way to gain insight into what each of you need and want from one another is more important than pretending everything is alright. In fact, avoiding arguments for the sake of preserving the relationship’s “honeymoon” feeling is likely to create unspoken contempt between you for feeling unnoticed or unheard. Don’t assume your partner is going to understand; tell them how you feel. How quickly you can make up is a better indicator of relationship health than how often you argue. Ignoring your partner and cutting off communication is the fast lane to becoming single.
When you do argue, making sure to avoid name calling and displays of verbal and physical aggression are key. So, if your temper is known to go from 0-10 in no time flat, take a minute to collect yourself and begin the discussion with a clearer head. Remember: HOW you argue and what you LEARN from arguing is what determines a healthy relationship.
3.) It Doesn’t Matter What Other People Think
Especially in American culture, where the individual philosophy is greater than the group, the idea that “what others think doesn’t matter” is a bit of an overstatement when it comes to relationships. Don’t get me wrong, though. If someone’s just being a hater, screw them. There’s always going to be miserable people that find it difficult to see you happy.
But there’s a distinct difference between telling your grandfather off because he doesn’t want you dating outside of your race, and deserting all of your friends because they have some concerns about your partner. Not everyone is going to see what you see in your partner, but having family and friends that support your relationship is a huge plus when it comes to its health and longevity.
This doesn’t mean to say that you have to agree with every comment from the peanut gallery. But if you’re looking to be with someone for the long haul, being able to share that person with your other close relationships is really important. Simply put: if many of your family members and friends don’t like your partner and your partner doesn’t like them, it’s a big red flag.
4.) If It’s Right, It’s Right. No Work Required.
There’s a kind of magical thinking surrounding love and relationships that was left over from all that 90’s Disney crap. Intelligent, science respecting people continue to subscribe to this idea that true love doesn’t take work. This cartoon-born philosophy of “natural love” seeks to condemn the daily work of building strong relationships and assumes that love does it all. Well I got news for you folks: Santa isn’t real. And neither is Cupid.
Most often the question of legitimacy concerning one’s relationship with their partner comes into focus the moment trouble rocks the boat. You know the deal. You’ve had a fight with your lover and so you go to seek the wise counsel of your friend—the one who’s never had a successful relationship in their lives. They tell you that love shouldn’t be this “hard”, that if your partner were truly the “one” for you, you wouldn’t have to try so hard to make it work. The message here is that good things don’t require work; true success simply falls into place.
This is the kind of laissez-faire attitude used in current economic strategy: let markets do what they will—there’s no need to get involved. Thirty-years later and look where’s that’s gotten us: no middle-class wealth, jobs, or solid education, and a population where only 1% have seen a rise in income over the past three decades. Saying that things should just “work out” is simply stripping ourselves of responsibility. Good things take time and hard work. If you want a lasting, healthy partnership in love, you’ve got to work at it.
5.) Never Settle. There’s Plenty Of Fish In The Sea.
Internet dating sites, or perhaps MySpace, might be to blame for this little gem. But even before the Internet made it’s way onto our phones, before you could use a mobile app to find your next hookup tonight, people would tout this line as the end-all-be-all reason why people should never compromise. In fact, the very idea that one should never compromise is based solely on the assumption that, not only does someone better than your partner exist, it assumes that you will absolutely find that person.
Even with the possibilities provided by the Internet, there isn’t enough time or energy available for us to entertain every possible love interest that might turn into a relationship. Settling doesn’t mean that you have to choose to be miserable. By all means, if your partner makes you miserable, ditch them. But if you do have a good partner that you’ve built a great relationship with, be wary of the temptation to throw it all away just because you’ve had a minor disagreement. There may be other fish in the sea, but you’ll never meet them all in time, and (believe it or not) not all of them will be interested in you.
Finding and building great love takes a lot of time and work. Realizing what we have and holding onto it requires an equal amount of effort. We have to understand that sacrifices and work are required to make great relationships last. I once wrote about people who never compromise. They are easy to admire because it appears that they always get what they want. Yet, what’s often overlooked is how much more they have lost because they refused to budge an inch. I’m going to let you in on another little secret regarding the temptation to never settle: You’re not perfect. And no matter who you choose, your partner is never going to be perfect, either.