A few years ago a family member approached me about a business idea, thinking that we could potentially do a side business together. I didn’t give it chance. I told him that I believed that family and business don’t mix. My worry was that it would change the nature of our relationship. We would have to wear two hats, one as friends/family, and the other as business partners; and those two things could potentially conflict. Sometimes you need to make a call that’s best for the business and it might not be what’s best for the relationship. So I figured to avoid the potential of hurt feelings (and damage to a relationship I valued) it would be best to just avoid the whole situation.
Looking back, I still stand by what I said and think my reasoning was correct. However I have come to realize that I was also incredibly naive.
The Marriage Business
In a marriage you and your spouse are essentially small business owners. Your “business” just happens to be the most important business there is, your lives, your family, and your future. You and your spouse need to be friends, confidants, lovers. But on top of that you are also business partners in a sense.
All the things I said above about business impacting relationships are still true. The interests of the relationship don’t always line up with the interests of the business (marriage). And yes, this will sometimes result in hurt feelings that can potentially damage the relationship.
I guess a part of me has always known this, but I’m only fully understanding it now. Better late than never I suppose.
Causes of Conflict
Do a web search for something like “sources of conflict in relationships” and you are bound to find some combination of the following. Every couple and every relationship is different, but it’s amazing how similar the issues we run into are. Not all of these will apply to every couple, but even for the closest relationships there’s a pretty good chance that you will find yourself nodding your head to at least the first four:
- Children (can be whether to have, or child rearing once you have them
- Chores/Domestic Work
- Sexual Expectations
- Family (dealing with extended)
- Elderly Parents (care of)
- Life Priorities
At some point or another, we all have differences of opinion about these things, and nothing can drain energy out of a relationship quite like a struggle over them.
This is why communication is so important. It’s very important that both parties are on the same page for these things. It may not be possible to be completely on the same page, but at the very least couples should discuss these things and be sure that they understand each other.
I recently came across an article saying that couples should talk about all of these things before they get married, and I think that’s true. Depending on the age you were when you were married it’s possible that you may have. But it’s more likely that you didn’t. Either it never even occurred to you, or you thought you could “figure it out” as you went.
In addition to discussing these things, I think they are things couples should periodically revisit. Let’s face it, we all change, and our life situations change. In order to remain happy over the long term, it’s important that ensure that our expectations and understandings of each other in these potential conflict areas change along with us.
All You Need Is Love?
We all seem to grow up believing that when it comes to relationships, just like the Beatles song says, all you need is love.
Once you find that person that you connect with, and you find love, then things will work out. We will all have that beautiful, magical romance. One day it will culminate in marriage and we will drive off into the sunset, to live happily ever after.
Yes, we know that a lot of marriages don’t last, but maybe they were never “meant to be”, or maybe it wasn’t “true love”. This is where the glamorized Hollywood version of relationships fails us.
In one of my early posts I talked about the different stages of love. The Hollywood version of love charts the exciting times. It shows us the moment when people meet, when their eyes first make contact across a crowded room. It shows us the excitement as people start to learn about each other, and fall in love. It shows us the passion/infatuation stage, where they can’t get the other person out of their head and the connection is mostly physical. And it shows us the promises that this is real, and that they will always be together. Then the screen fades to black, as the couple drives off into that metaphorical sunset
Hollywood shows us the easy parts and the fun parts. We are led to believe that as long as we love each other, everything will work out.
I hate to say it, but the Beatles were wrong. Love is important, and you need it as a starting point. But love alone won’t get you though the conflicts and obstacles of life.
The problem with the metaphorical sunset is that it’s not always sunny. There will be hard days. When no one is getting any sleep because the baby is crying or you are having a tough time making the mortgage payments, it’s easy to get frustrated with the other person.
All relationships have ups and downs, and the longer you are together the more “opportunities” you have for downs. Chances are, you will have times that your love is tested, and you may even question it. When this happens, what is the glue that holds people together?
…actually it’s love.
I know, I know, I’m being contradictory here. I believe it IS still love that holds people together, but it’s not the Hollywood style romantic version of love that holds people together.
Just as people change over time, so does love. Personally, I think love strengthen and deepens over time. What starts as mostly a hormonal and biochemical response becomes something more. Commitment, trust, respect, devotion, caring, affection, intimacy (both physical and emotional), communication, compromise and understanding. These may not all be the stuff of poems, but they are the elements of “mature love”. And it is mature love that will give you the best chance to make it through the difficult times.
I guess the Beatles were right after all.