If you ever want to feel bad about your personal relationships, just start searching the internet for relationship advice. You will soon discover that a lot of people have a lot of opinions about what constitutes an ideal relationship. But beware: there is danger in embracing such thinking.
Just what is the ideal ‘relationship’? Everyone seems to have an opinion, but no one truly seems to know. Yet the many varied opinions seem to lead to one place: the idea of living happily ever after, as though couples should always be giddily happy.
If your vision of an ideal relationship is modeled after fairy tales with princesses and their princes, you are destined for a rocky road. No matter how happy couples are in a general sense, there will be conflict between them. Conflict is part of being human. But just because there is conflict does not mean a relationship is in trouble.
People Are Different by Design
Conflict between couples is a result of the simple fact that people are different. No two people are identical. No two people see the world in exactly the same way. Put two people together and you create an opportunity for them to disagree.
For some strange reason, modern society tends to shy away from differences. Instead, we seem to be working ever harder to all be the same. That never works. It is never going to work. It’s better to embrace the fact that we are different and figure out ways to still live together amicably.
When We Strive to Overcome Nature
The danger in believing that there is an ideal relationship is found in striving to overcome nature. A good illustration of this point is found in annual holiday celebrations. How many couples drive themselves to the verge of a nervous breakdown trying to create picture-perfect holiday celebrations where everyone smiles and absolutely nothing goes wrong?
At Relationships & More, a family and relationship therapy clinic in Westchester County, NY, it is not uncommon for therapists to work with clients who have unrealistic expectations about their relationships. They see clients who are striving to make everything absolutely perfect, only to be disappointed when perfection is not achieved.
That perfect family Christmas you see on the Hallmark Channel isn’t reality. Your spouse always being your knight in shining armor or your damsel in distress isn’t, either. That’s okay. There is nothing wrong with being imperfect. If we were all perfect, we wouldn’t need each another.
Whatever Works for You
So how do couples make it at a time when we have access to so much information about how to have perfect relationships? By adopting a proper perspective. By coming to grips with the reality that storybook princes and princesses are just fantasy.
In addition, what ultimately constitutes your ideal marriage is whatever works for you and your partner. Your marriage doesn’t have to fit into a nice little box with colorful wrapping and a perfect bow. Your relationship can be anything but ideal to the rest of the world but still perfect for the two of you.
The truth is that there is no such thing as an ideal marriage. Every couple is different because each partner is different. Yes, there are some general guidelines – like maintaining open communication, showing one another respect, etc. – that are necessary to maintain healthy relationships. But the details of what makes your relationship work are up to you and your partner.
The danger of believing in an ideal marriage is striving to attain something that cannot be attained. A lot of marriages end for that very reason.