When people begin a romantic relationship, or fall in love, they are responding to the feelings created by chemicals that won’t always be there – much like the rush a drug addict gets that makes them keep reaching for their “fix.” This attraction, like gravity, is non-specific; if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed it can happen to anyone. And when it does, it becomes easy to overlook certain personality traits, habits, and character “flaws” that are bound to cause problems after the newness of the relationship has passed, or, as they say, after “the honeymoon is over.”
It’s not that these behaviors were once “okay,” and now they’re not; it’s just that our hormones temporarily anesthetize us to these minor irritations – sometimes even making them seem “cute” – for nature’s purpose of drawing together a mating pair. Your partner’s habits irritate you, in other words, because you didn’t recognize the difference between love and infatuation soon enough to keep this “incompatible” person from becoming your mate. Of course, this information is lost on people caught in the gravitational pull of which I speak; but how can we avoid – or escape – this trap?
Now that you are in this relationship with someone who “all of a sudden” has irritating habits, it is up to you to realize that they always did and those things simply aren’t “cute” anymore because you’ve come down from the hormonal rush of your romantic high. Long engagements are one way around this problem, as people can’t pretend to be someone else for very long; and, once the initial excitement wears off, you’ll be able to make a more clear-headed decision about your future – you’ll be better able to imagine daily life with someone who lives on the couch watching sports and playing video games, or leaves dirty clothes and dishes laying around for someone else to clean up, or treats people poorly, etc.
If it’s too late for the long engagement – where you might actually have a chance to observe your partner with children, your family, your friends, around the house, in public, etc. – then you are essentially left with two-options: Stay, or Go. Over half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce; so, clearly, the first option is the more popular of the two. And divorce does indeed improve many relationships. But oftentimes there is real love there – underneath the irritation and bad habits. With awareness, willingness to change, and a willing partner, you can certainly build a better, stronger, happier relationship by first contemplating the meaning of unconditional love, and then communicating the seriousness of these issues to your partner.
Keep in mind, it isn’t completely up to any one person to change completely in order to become another person’s ideal mate; but it is the responsibility of both people in a relationship to change in order to become better partners. This is true in any marriage and in any relationship. Communication is essential at this stage; and writing things down – like chores you’ve agreed to share, or promises you’ve made – helps both partners remember what to do and know what to expect. Of course, we can’t always know what the future holds; but, with a little love, and a lot of awareness (and incentive), you can find a happy middle-ground and create that ideal relationship you hoped for in the beginning.