5 Reasons Intimate Relationships are so Hard Today
There are many reasons relationships are so hard today. Many people struggle to maintain intimate relationships, particularly in our fast-paced culture. What can you do to strengthen the fragile bond that holds together an intimate relationship?
Let’s start at the beginning. Most couples find themselves highly satisfied when they first spark up an intimate relationship. But as time goes by, disagreements can create a downward spiral and partners often struggle to recover.
If you sometimes feel disheartened about your relationship, you’re not alone. This is a common struggle for many couples. If you feel at a loss to work things out or you blame your partner for your struggles, you’re not alone either. After the honeymoon period of a relationship, differences become more apparent and disagreements arise.
Why does this happen so much in our culture? Let’s dig in and find out.
1. Achieving true equality remains challenging
In the last 50 years, marriage was revolutionized. For the first time in history, many couples try to create intimate relationships based on equality rather than one person’s dominance over another. However, most individual relationships continue to be hierarchical: teacher/student; parent/child, boss/subordinate.
When people don’t have models for constructing an equal relationship, they tend to resort to the only tools they know. For example, they force one another to see things from one perspective or silently, but begrudgingly, avoid conflict. An equal relationship is hard and takes time. It requires consensus-building. Couples need to learn how to compromise, negotiate and problem-solving.
2. Strong anti-relationship forces in our culture
When the honeymoon period wanes, many people start to sense they can bail and seek out alternatives at any moment. This is also the first time in history when the survival of the family rests on the individual happiness of the couple.
The possibility of multiple alternatives creates the illusion that there someone else exists out there who could be a better fit. This illusion of choice erodes commitment. If we are constantly looking over our partner’s shoulder to see who else is out there, there is less energy left to invest in the relationship.
3. Higher expectations develop from extended social isolation
Recent generations experienced the loss of extended family networks within close proximity like no other time in history. Coupled with geographic mobility, people experience fewer and fewer relationships. The idea of a “tribe” has, for the most part, dissipated and more of the brunt of day-to-day life fall on each individual. This includes expectations that our partners will be our best friend, our best lover, and the best provider. We depend on our partners the majority of our social connections and relationship “fixes.”
4. Rising high-conflict and narcissistic personalities in modern urban societies
This is also a result of the loss of extended family networks, which diminishes personal behavioral role models. Geographic mobility and the availability of electronic devices erodes the “glue” that holds society together through meaningful relationships. It is possible to live alone and neither depend on anyone nor care about anyone. Lacking exposure to interdependence furthers fears, anxiety, rigidity, a lack of adaptation and self-centeredness.
5. Growing economic stress and time famine
In other parts of the world, labor is cheaper that in the US (i.e., Asia or Latin America) or there are policies supporting families with preschool subsidies or paid family leave (most of Western Europe).In the US, we lack both access to cheap labor and rational government policies to help families. This perpetuates a hyper “do-it-yourself” cultural mindset, which significantly increases pressure and stress. There is no time to complete tasks in a given week and no money to hire help. When there is money or time famine, people tend to blame each other for these immense challenges.
One thing you can do now is realize you are not alone in this cultural context. We each have a role to play to engage in the difficult conversations that can break these negative trends and You may discover new and constructive ways of dealing with these issues without blaming yourself or your partner.