3 Tips To Get Through Rough Patches In Romantic Relationships
Relationships take work. That’s not news and yet, we rarely ever talk about the detail and intricacies of what kind of work it requires.
The way I describe it is that relationships should not be hard work, but satisfying work. The kind of satisfaction you get when you tick something off your to-do list and the kind of work where you feel proud of yourself, and your partner, at the end of it when you’ve healed, repaired and come up with a specific solution to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
With the gloss of social media, I don’t think there is enough conversation about how every relationship will have bumps on the road, even healthy ones because we now live in a culture where if you mention something negative about your partner, it is immediately demonised. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be something negative. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know I don’t share pictures of my partner or even his name online but despite that, with the tiniest of snippets I have mentioned, I still get comments saying that I should dump him.
Here’s an example. After I had Covid last year, I started snoring and as my boyfriend started spending more and more time at mine, this was becoming an issue with him ending up on the sofa most nights. I would wake up in an empty bed feeling really guilty because my sleep is SO important to me and if it was vice versa, I know I would get frustrated. My boyfriend however is an incredibly good sport, doesn’t mind going to the sofa and never once has made me feel guilty for it. Even when I apologise, he says ‘don’t apologise, you can’t control it. It’s not your fault’ but since he was the one moving to the sofa every night, I thought it was only fair I start looking into other solutions. I found many suggestions including taping your mouth shut and decided to try it, not only for him, but also for me because if I’m snoring, it probably is affecting my quality of sleep too. Cue comments and DMs saying I’m in an abusive relationship because anyone who would want me to tape my mouth shut wants to control me and make me feel bad for something out of my control. They were clearly projections, with one even saying that this is what her abusive partner used to do. And this wasn’t even me sharing an actual fight we have actually had!
Of course, like most relationships, we have arguments and disagreements and before Christmas last year as we navigated moving in together, we were having more than we had ever had. We had never fought before and then suddenly at least once a week, we were having an issue. It was tiring for us both, it was draining but as a result, we learned some techniques to help weather us through those difficult periods.
How You Label Your Rough Patch
I hated calling it a rough patch because it automatically had a negative connotation because ultimately our fights didn’t come from nowhere. We had changed from seeing each other at the weekend to doing one week on and one week off as we eased into living together. I was going from living by myself to living with someone for the first time in five years and we were both living with our partner for the first time. I started labelling it as a ‘transitional period’ and that helped. We weren’t to blame. The change was to blame and with each change comes an adjustment.
View it as turbulence
This tip was inspired by Pink’s latest song Turbulence. I was listening to it last week when it came out and I realised that I have to see these transitional periods as turbulence. Turbulence is uncomfortable, it can bring up anxiety and worries but ultimately when you experience turbulence on a plane, you know you are going to be fine. You know it’s going to come to an end and you know that it will pass. Can you imagine if you went into every fight like this? As Pink says “the panic is temporary, but I’ll be permanent so when it hits, don’t forget as scary as it gets, it’s just turbulence”. This summed up exactly the mentality we have when we fight. I grew up in a household where every fight the word ‘divorce’ was thrown in and I vowed that when I grew up, I would never do that. Not only is it really extreme but it also creates so much uncertainty in your relationship that it affects your trust. After all, you aren’t going to trust someone who is halfway out the door. Last year though, in one of our conversations, my boyfriend told me that whilst I never threaten a break up or to leave, I will say ambiguous statements that imply the same thing - “I can’t do this anymore”, “this is too much”. This was a pivotal learning for me and when he said that, I didn’t even realise I was doing it. I apologised and promised to not do it again and I haven’t. And that’s all you can do, is improve on each of your disagreements and learn from your missteps so that every rupture leads to better communication next time.
Housemate issues vs Relationship issues
Ultimately, this turbulent period came to an end as the year came to an end. It took us going away for Christmas and spending 5 weeks away from our home to realise that we don’t have relationship problems, we have housemate problems. This was a huge mindset shift. We realised that all our squabbles, bickering and fights were about the dishwasher or the dryer or how we reacted coming home to the house in a certain way. The way I see it is that there are always going to be things that make someone difficult to live with. If you asked me how many of my friends I could live with without the friendship being affected, I would say very few. In fact, many of my friendships have been permanently impacted by living together because we were never able to separate our housemate issues from our friendship issues. As I say in The Selfish Romantic “Everyone is difficult to date. Everyone has a past, their own insecurities, and something you will have to ‘deal with’. It’s not just about compatibility, it’s about the incompatibility you can handle” .
Now that we are out on the other side, I’m actually so grateful for our turbulence because it showed me what an honest relationship should look like. In too many of my past relationships, in my people-pleaser days, I would bury how I would really feel because I was too scared that a fight would mean game over. I’m now in a relationship where I feel safe and comfortable to voice my needs and vocalise the issues and as a result, that means that we might have more moments of conflict but it’s not about how many ruptures you have, it’s about how you repair that matters.
Lots of love,
Paid subscribers, look forward to a thread all about how to split your finances about your partner on Monday!
Have you ever been through a transitional period? What are the solutions you have found? Back in the day, my comments section on Instagram used to be a great resource full of solutions, and I would love the comments section on my Substack to be the same so let me know if there is anything that has helped you weather the storms in your relationships!