Relationships are not easy at the best of times, but aspects of modern life seem to make them harder. We want to make love last but the high divorce rate makes us doubtful that we can. We understand that relationships are about compromising and giving, but how exactly do you square that when we are also supposed to strive as individuals in order to achieve? It can be hard to know where the boundaries lie between putting ‘me’ or ‘us’ first. In addition, the modern emphasis on keeping up the appearance of a perfect relationship means that few people really talk about the ups and downs.
My aim during the writing and researching of COUPLES was to go deep into the heart of modern love to provide a new template for making relationships work today – not as a ‘how to’ book, but through the voices of as many different people as possible together with the latest academic research on the psychology and sociology of relationships. Most of my reading was done in the excellent library at One Plus One. I used a similar model for my two previous works of non fiction – LIFE AFTER BIRTH and THE TERRIBLE TEENS. I interviewed 120 people – men and women, gay and straight, with and without children, married and cohabiting – who talked honestly about their experiences, and, I read through the history of marriage, divorce and relationships.
In a nutshell these are some of the new relationship commandments!
- A good relationship is something we achieve; it doesn’t just happen because we love someone, or because we got lucky and found our ‘soul mate’, which is itself a romantic myth. There are literally hundreds of people out there with whom we could form a lasting partnership. The key to a good relationship lies in taking complete responsibility for it. We need to find ways to bridge the distance and differences between us, with honest communication as well as respect for each other as an individual.
- Have realistic expectations of each other and of what the relationship can offer. The romantic script suggests that there is someone out there who will fulfill all of our needs but nobody is perfect.
- Fairness matters. That means men doing their fair share of the domestic work and being hands on dads, so that women feel less resentment. Complete equality all of the time is unrealistic, but when couples build a sense of fairness into their partnership, over the finances, the housework, the children as well finding enough time to themselves, they tend to be happier together. They establish foundations in their relationship which are strong enough to see them through the inevitable difficulties we all face from time to time in life.
- Try and recognize ways in which the family you come from influences the family you create. It can affect the way we row and what we row about, our expectations of a relationship and the way we behave as parents in so many ways.
- Seek advice from friends and help from experts at the earliest sign of difficulty. The ‘Talk it Out’ section of thecoupleconnection.net is a great place to start. Every relationship has low points. You are not failing when you admit to finding things tough; you are giving your relationship the attention it deserves.
By Kate Figes