Relationships Are Hard, Here's Why...

After you've been through the wringer a couple of times, you might find yourself wondering, 'Are relationships supposed to be hard?'

The answer is yes, but not all the time. Though challenging, romantic relationships should improve the quality of our lives and contribute to a general sense of well-being.

The thing about relationships though, is that they're made up of so many moving parts and that these parts must all find a way to work together.

But what makes them so challenging? Hang tight, we'll get to that.

Things to know

  • Relationships are not the perfect, constant fairy tale we think they are; realistically, they can't be.
  • They require constant attention and consistent effort to keep them alive and healthy
  • They challenge us mentally, emotionally, and in other ways that we may not be ready for or comfortable with.

Relationships are hard, here's why:

  1. They're held to unrealistic standards
  2. They change
  3. They force us to confront the darkest parts of ourselves
  4. They need us to work on our communication skills
  5. They require constant work
  6. They need us to overcome our differences
  7. They require us to think beyond ourselves
  8. They require us to be vulnerable
  9. They require us to get off our phones
  10. They require us to be patient and forgiving
  11. Key Takeaways
  12. FAQs

1. They're held to unrealistic standards

We think romantic relationships are a cure-all for loneliness, unhappiness, boredom, and other personal issues. We equate being paired up with 'having it all together' and being complete.

When we finally bag someone who meets our long list of requirements, we expect them to be a friend, lover, therapist, financial partner, or travel buddy - basically our entire support system.

Staying true to the values of consumerism, we want the perfect romantic partner and we want them now. But we can't get too comfortable or 'settle' because there could be somebody better waiting for us on a dating app.

For a lot of people, relationships are all about instant gratification and variety. They're plagued by a constant fear of missing out, whether they're in a relationship or out of one.

2. They change

We expect heart-stopping romance around the clock but this is neither healthy nor sustainable. Relationships have their ups and downs and must evolve into something deeper to be meaningful and fulfilling.

If we go through phases and mature over time, how can we expect our relationships to stay the same?

As we change and the circumstances in our lives change, our relationships change too. Some changes bring us closer while others put a strain on things. Examples of such changes include:

  • Major life events (marriage, losing family members, etc.)
  • Work stress
  • Financial stress
  • Having children
  • Dealing with illness
  • Changes in appearance
  • Physical changes (menopause, erectile dysfunction, etc.)

Dealing with the changing nature of relationships isn't easy, especially if we have unrealistic expectations. To survive these changes, we must be willing to work on our relationships together. We can't expect our partners to change or do all the work without working on ourselves too.

3. They force us to confront the darkest parts of ourselves

Romantic relationships challenge us to confront the darkest parts of ourselves. They force us to set aside our insecurities, past experiences, and emotional baggage to create a satisfying partnership with another person (who also has their own issues).

Basically, being coupled up is hard because we must:

  • Increase our self-awareness
  • Understand who we are in relationships
  • Determine what we truly need out of relationships
  • Figure out how to relate to other people in healthy, productive ways

Dealing with these issues is painstaking work, so we tend to avoid it. Unfortunately, this causes problems in future relationships. Issues are carried-over and before we know it, we're trapped in a vicious cycle of entertaining one toxic unfulfilling relationship after another.

4. They need us to work on our communication skills

As long as relationships require two different people to find a way to relate to each other and build something meaningful, open communication is key. However, it's about more than trading words.  

Healthy communication involves listening, body language, emotional intelligence and so much more. Relationships require us to get better at communicating our needs, expectations, and concerns in healthy ways.

We must navigate each other's communication styles and for our partners to feel valued, we must learn the art of active listening. We must understand and manage our own emotions while being sensitive and responsive to our partners.

We need to figure out how we deal with conflict and understand how our partners deal with it too. Then, we must find a way to resolve conflict in a way that strengthens the relationship.

Lastly, we need to figure out each other's conflict management styles and find a way to deal with conflict in a way that strengthens our relationships.

But, here's the catch: most of these skills don't come naturally, we must learn them and work on them continuously to keep our relationships strong.

5. They require constant work

Essentially, relationships require us to work on:

  • Communication and active listening
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-improvement
  • Trust and honesty
  • Flexibility and compromise
  • Quality time and attention
  • Understanding and empathy
  • Shared experiences and memories
  • Conflict resolution
  • Support and encouragement
  • Acceptance and love for each other's imperfections

It's clear: relationships are a lot of work — work on ourselves, work on the relationship itself, and work on anything around us that may affect our ability to work on it.

This can be demanding, but a relationship isn't like a toaster, you can't just set it and forget it. It's a living connection that requires ongoing attention and care.

When we neglect our partners or take them for granted, the distance between us grows wider and the 'spark' fades. We start to feel unfulfilled and resentful, which often leads to conflict.

Left unaddressed, this negative dynamic can breed contempt and eventually destroy a relationship.

6. They need us to overcome our differences

We believe in marriage, they don't. We like to tackle conflict head-on, and they run from it. They save first, spend later while we spend first, and well…

The point is, 'differences' are the great arch nemesis of relationships, and not being able to work through them is every relationship's Achilles heel.

Differences in attachment styles mean we're not always going to understand intimacy in the same way. We must learn to overcome these differences for a relationship to grow.

Love languages, or the way we express and receive love, must be honored so a relationship can be mutually satisfying.

Even when we're brought together by similar goals, values, and perspectives, the fact that we all process things in our own unique way means we still need to work through our differences.

Finding middle ground takes time, communication, and compromise, and that's what makes relationships so challenging.

7. They require us to think beyond ourselves

Relationships demand that we step outside of ourselves and think about another person. This special person must become our partner in every sense of the word.

We must find a balance between meeting our own emotional needs and meeting theirs. We must compromise and forgo certain things for the sake of the relationship. We must be open-minded, not to mention considerate of their thoughts and feelings — all while hoping for the same in return.

Between putting the relationship first, meeting each other halfway, and losing complete autonomy over our decisions, we must be willing to set aside our pride and take responsibility for our actions when the need arises.

Even for the most selfless people, existing as a unit can be quite an adjustment. Throw in power dynamics (who has more control and influence) and it's no wonder relationships are so hard to navigate.

8. They require us to be vulnerable

Trust is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, and vulnerability is what sustains it. For intimacy to grow, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable and encourage our partners to do the same.

To create a safe, nurturing environment, there should be equal levels of emotional availability in a relationship.

We must be willing to make the emotional investment into ourselves and our partners and continue to work on our emotional connection together.

However, vulnerability is scary, and because of past experiences, we may not feel comfortable or be able to share so much of ourselves with someone else.

Sometimes, even when we trust someone and let them in, things don't work out. They may betray us or use our insecurities against us. They might have their own trust issues and refuse to open up. In this sense, relationships are like a minefield. and we've all got the scars to prove it.

9. They require us to get off our phones

Relationships require us to strike a healthy balance between screen time and quality time with our partners.

But in a world where we're constantly glued to our phones, it's easy to forget the importance of genuine human connection in our relationships. We scroll through endless videos and updates, neglecting our partners in favor of virtual validation.

Instead of actually working on our relationships, we pretend everything is perfect by snapping selfies and participating in viral 'relationship goal' challenges.

As long as things look peachy on socials, it's all good, right? Sadly, the constant comparison to others tends to leave us feeling inadequate and dissatisfied with our own relationships.

Relationships aren't about achieving the perfect social media facade. Instead, they require effort, attention, and a willingness to disconnect from our screens and engage in meaningful experiences.

10. They require us to be patient and forgiving

We all have our quirks and flaws, and it's only natural for them to affect our relationships. The key to truly satisfying relationships is the ability to work through these challenges as a team.

Relationships by their nature, implore us to continuously practice patience and forgiveness. No one is perfect; they're bound to disappoint us. However, it's crucial that we offer them grace and understanding and that they reciprocate in kind.

If we're being honest, the constant need to forgive our partners can be emotionally taxing. And as their transgressions add up, it's tempting to hold grudges or withdraw. But, to maintain a strong and loving connection, we must be willing to forgive and move forward.

Key Takeaways

Ultimately, even though they're rewarding, relationships challenge us in many ways. Keep in mind that while some level of difficulty is expected, unhealthy patterns of conflict, communication, or behavior shouldn’t be tolerated or considered a normal part of any relationship.

There are key things to keep in mind to make navigating relationships easier. Firstly, it's unreasonable to expect a romantic relationship to be our sole source of happiness and emotional well-being.

Having other meaningful, well-rounded relationships is essential for leading a balanced and fulfilling life.

Even the best relationships have their fair share of tough times, and it's normal for the romance, passion, and excitement to ebb and flow.

Finally, differences are inevitable and it's unrealistic to expect to agree on everything or that things will be perfect. Remember, relationships require effort, compromise, communication, and a willingness to work through every rough patch.


Let's answer some of your burning questions about relationships.

What is the hardest thing about relationships?

The hardest thing about relationships is that they're made up of a lot of elements that must work in harmony for them to thrive. These elements include communication, trust, a healthy balance between individual needs and the needs of the relationship, navigating conflict and differences, and self-improvement.

Why do most romantic relationships fail?

Most romantic relationships fail due to a lack of communication, trust, and the inability to effectively address and resolve conflicts. Additionally, unrealistic expectations, infidelity, personal growth, and other life changes may also play a role in the breakdown of a relationship

Are relationships supposed to be hard at first?

Yes, relationships are supposed to be hard at first, as this is usually when couples must learn each other's habits and preferences and figure out how to work together as a team.

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