The Relationship Fantasy Needs To Stop

When it comes to relationships, lowering expectations is a good thing.

The relationship fantasy needs to stop…if you want your relationship to work.

This is what Eric Klinenberg had to say during his interview with Rayna Greenberg and Ashley Hesseltine via their hilarious and entertaining Girls Gotta Eat podcast.

Eric, alongside co-author Aziz Ansari, wrote the riveting book, Modern Romance, arguing that many of our relationship problems today are unique to our time — considering the rise of technology, the rise of women, and the viewpoint that being single isn’t looked at as being bad, but as an advantage to modern living.

Eric claims that our expectations out of romantic relationships are “crazy and unrealistic.” We want three different people out of one person — someone who is social but who will prioritize “us,” someone who is a high-earner but whose job doesn’t take over their lives, and someone who is dynamite in bed, but is vulnerable when we need a shoulder to cry on.

Can you relate? How many times have we freaked out on our husbands for being insensitive, all the while accusing them of not matching our anger on a subject as ridiculous as someone cutting us off on the highway?

I’ll give you an example. Last week, I was holding back tears while cooking, shouting at Jake: “I’m upset about us! We don’t feel like an ‘us’ right now!” Granted, I was on my period. But I spark these emotional outbursts every so often to get a reaction out of him to ensure he still cares. Any reaction.

But men — and this is important, so don’t get it twisted. You guys have many internal flaws as well (usually having to do with being terrible at communicating). You just hide them better.

Isn’t It Ironic…

The ironic thing is that while we want (and expect) these conflicting ideals from our partners, we spend significantly less time with them today than we have at any other point in history. How can we be so demanding of what we want our partners to look and act like when we refuse to take the time to be with them?

The cause, which may not be as glaringly obvious as one might think, is that we Americans work ourselves to the bone. Much more today than in any other era. We add side hustles and new businesses to our already packed schedules of full-time work + family life + housework, due to the slightly-annoying-yet-ever-so-popular “hustle culture.”

On this same idea of spouses or partners spending less time together, we have seen a rise in men spending more time with their children. Again, more today than any other time in history. This is what Eric had to say on that tip:

“Men are spending more time with their kids, but no time with their wives. It’s a brutal combination when we’re looking for everything but not putting in the time to make our relationships work.”

How Do You Make Your Relationship Work, Then?

Eric says that having non-negotiables — together and apart — is key to keeping harmony in the relationship. I love this rule, because I believe it to be quite effective when executed properly.

Stating what you need from your partner sets the expectation bar at a reasonable height, but still gives you what you crave out of a relationship.

My non-negotiables in my marriage are:

  1. Uninterrupted time to write

  2. Uninterrupted time to work out

  3. No spiders in the house

  4. Have a conversation with me at the end of the day, sans iPhone distractions

These are things I need every day in order to feel satisfied, fulfilled, and most importantly, validated — both as an individual and as a partner.

This Is How I See It

When I am in harmony, we are in harmony. When he is in harmony, we are in harmony. The kicker? This is also why relationships are hard. You don’t move at the same pace individually as you do as a couple. It is INEVITABLE that you will hit speed bumps when one person is one place professionally/personally while the other is in a completely different place.

The question then becomes, how do you come back together?

I think when you choose to look at the strengths of your partner — instead of the annoyances — you see both your partner and your relationship in a more favorable light.

So, the next time you want to scream at your boyfriend for leaving his dirty gym clothes on the bathroom floor, remember his good attributes.

Strengths of my husband: Jake is…

  • Funny — Can typically get me out of any bad mood by making me laugh.

  • Hot — I hate to say this but it’s true. When he’s looking especially attractive (his hair is done and he’s wearing a good outfit), it’s almost impossible for me to be upset with him. This fares especially well for him when we aren’t seeing eye to eye on something.

  • Chill — It takes something very serious for him to get worked up. I love his even keel-ness because it balances out my dramatics.

  • Good dad — He is the dad that takes his son fishing because his son wants to go fishing. He is the dad who views taking a 4-year-old on a 10-hour drive as a father/son bonding road trip, whereas I would view that as anxiety-inducing.

Annoyances of my husband: Jake is…

  • Financially conservative — I choose the restaurants with the $21 glasses of champagne. He is happy with a can of Bud Light.

  • Stubborn — Won’t kill the spiders when I ask, because I just asked.

  • Practical while I am whimsical — He likes white, reliable vehicles. I like showy Range Rovers.

Modern Love Questions

When you’ve been together for a significant amount of time, how do you keep things fresh and fun? Are date nights enough? Are weekend getaways enough? Is time apart what you need? How do you keep the romance alive? What matters most to you in your relationship? How can you sustain that “in love” feeling?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to romantic relationships.

Very Important Lesson: You have to be able to understand yourself and what you want before trying to understand what you want out of your relationship.

It’s easy for me to say this to my single friends. If they aren’t happy alone, they sure as hell are not going to be happy with someone else. The same goes for me (and anyone in a serious relationship). If I’m not happy as an individual, how can I expect to be happy in my marriage?

Modern Romance Takeaways

Have more realistic expectations. Break out of the fantasy that your significant other is going to be exciting-but-stable, funny-but-vulnerable, and spontaneous-but-reliable.

Answering the question, “Can my partner be both a hot sexual being AND a best friend?” Eric claims this idea is a myth and a fantasy.

Finally! Validation for what I have been saying forever. I can’t relate when people say they married their best friend. To me, my best friend is my best friend. And my husband is my husband. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

However (there is always a “however”), what works for one marriage doesn’t work for the next. Maybe I should be taking advice from the “best friend couples.” And maybe they should be taking tips from me. We might not ever know.

What I do know is that doing whatever works for you and your relationship is actually no one else’s business. Society has a judgy way of making us feel inadequate in every area, but especially in relationships.

Rom coms aren’t real life. Reality TV is not real life. Instagram is not real life. Yet we compare our relationships with these unrealistic ideals of what a relationship “should be.” And it’s damaging to our relationships.

Modern Relationship Advice

Let’s judge less and celebrate more. Let’s be more understanding and less bitchy. Let’s prioritize fun. Let’s talk more about vacations and less about bills.

Thanks for reading!

Be you.