Long-term romantic relationships take work and they often have some degree of conflict. And this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
Look, the reality is that whenever you get two or more people together in a relationship, whether this is romantic, familial, friend or colleague, conflict will be inevitable.
Conflict itself doesn’t mean that the relationship is in trouble, it’s how you two work through your conflicts that really influence the health of the relationship.
Still, in the midst of periods of conflict, it’s normal and natural to feel despondent about the future of your relationship and to wonder if you two will stay together. I totally get that.
I also think there are two things to reflect on that can mostly illustrate how fundamentally stable your relationship is, despite the conflicts you may be having.
1) You can still envision (and want to envision!) a future with one another.
When you’re going through a rough patch working through the tough power struggles and differences that all couples face, it can often feel like your relationship is doomed or that you two just don’t have enough between you two to make it.
This is when I always challenge my clients to think about whether or not they can still envision a future with the other person. Sure, you may be mad as heck with one of you sleeping on the couch right now, but when you think about being old, grey, and possibly on your deathbed, do you still want to be holding that person’s hand gazing into their eyes?
If you can still envision a future with the other person (and if they can with you!), to me as a therapist it’s a sign that the foundation and devotion between you two is strong and stable despite the turbulence you’re currently experiencing.
2) Are you both willing to still work on the relationship?
Like I said above, conflict is inevitable between two people.
Your differences in personality, temperament, triggers, childhood traumas, etc. are bound to create friction and challenges between you over the course of a relationship. And when this happens it can often feel like the relationship itself is unstable.
But I always challenge my clients to consider whether or not despite the differences and challenges you two might be facing, are you both still willing to work on the relationship?
None of us know how to do relationship perfectly – we’re all novices.
That’s why the willingness to work on your relationship is so critical. You don’t have to be experts. You just have to be willing to keep working on it together. And that shared willingness, in my opinion as a therapist, is a big indicator that your relationship is stable at its core.