There’s No Getting Around the Work in a Relationship


Ben Affleck, Jennifer GarnerWhen Ben Affleck accepted the Oscar for best picture on Sunday night, he thanked his wife, Jennifer Garner, saying marriage is hard work, but it is the best kind of work. It reminds me of a couple who came to see me for marriage counseling. The husband was resentful, saying he wasn’t interested in working on his marriage. He couldn’t see the reason, suggesting that a successful relationship shouldn’t require exertion in that way, but should instead simply fall into place. I said okay, if he didn’t want to work on how to get along better in a positive way with his wife, would he rather work on plans for separating and then divorcing? He got my point. Nobody gets a pass on doing the work.

One area that takes great effort in a relationship is finding the balance between each person’s needs and desires. Say football is your thing. It always has been, ever since you were a little kid watching at home with your dad. So it is impossible for you to understand why your new partner has no interest in it. You want to go to games together, talk about plays, and plan weekends around the tailgate parties. But she says no. What do you do?

There is no question that one of the pleasures of being in a relationship is sharing the things you love with the one you love. If pizza is your thing – well, then by all means it would be convenient if the person you’re dating had similar feelings about it. If that were the case, you could be together and have your favorite food at the same time. But it doesn’t always work that way. In reality, two different people often have two different sets of tastes. So how can you preserve your own pleasures, hobbies and space to do what you love while being in a serious relationship? And is there a way to include your significant other but not force feed them?

This is where a “thank you” portion can be useful. You remember when you were a child and your mother wanted you to eat the peas, right? They looked awful but you had to have a few to appease her, so you took a small “thank you” portion. In other words, you took a taste. Before you suggest this, though, acknowledge to your partner that you understand and accept this is not their cup of tea. But sometimes, when it’s a play-off game or something special is going on, you would really like to have their company. Be clear that you know it is a sacrifice of sorts, but you would really love it if they watched just this one game with you. Not the whole season, just this one game; a “thank you” portion.

Read more: Jane Greer Ph.D., PsychologyToday


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