I’ve been married for almost 10 years now, and looking back at the beginning of my marriage is very much like reminiscing about my childhood or adolescence. Sure there is a bit of heart-warming nostalgia, but mostly it was hard, and I’m glad I’m past those lessons. Life has never been better than it is now. My husband and I have learned how to hear and see one another more than we ever have, and to offer one another more genuine acceptance, love, trust and affirmation than we have ever been able. We argue just as much (we’re really different and he can be a huge pain), but our conversations are more meaningful. We still complain about many of the same things, but laugh more often and have more fun together. We are frequently irritated with one another, but more deeply in love than we have ever been, which is saying a lot. It is a beautiful time.

This is of course a zoomed-out perspective. The in-the-moment experience of life with my beloved man is not all bliss and contentment. The reality of long term relationships is that they actively challenge us as human beings. This reality can feel like a roller coaster of highs and lows, or for many pairs, just a long stretch of lows and lowers. Been there.

Search Google for statistics on happiness within long-term relationships and the numbers are rather depressing. Despite the tempting conclusion that this is because we all suck to be in relationship with, I think a more likely reality is that we are still learning how to be in a partnership. Many of us are grappling with the question of whether we even want to be in a long-term partnership.

Up until very recently, it felt like the only choice a human being had as they matured was to join with another person and then reproduce. Our evolving consciousness has given us the opportunity to pause and consider this assumption. Many individuals prefer to live without a mate, or to stick with short term relationships. For these human beings, such relationships do not feel meaningless or inconsequential. Ideally, the individuals involved treasure their closeness for a time, and then at some point one or both realize that they feel ready to part ways, fondly appreciating the experience and growth they provided one another. I am not one of these people. My nature is very suited for a soul-mate, life-mate type of situation, and I found mine. And I love him, and I’m keeping him.

What I would like to propose is that neither type of human described, nor the variation I didn’t touch on, is better or worse than any other. What is important, is to know ourselves. Once we know ourselves we can behave in ways that truly align with our values. For those, who like me, crave the constancy of a life-mate, the rollercoaster of life with that mate can easily start to feel really freaking monotonous or just plain infuriating. And most of us are great at noticing when we are in this mental space. Behaviors that generally accompany this zone include complaining to others about our partner, avoiding or nagging our partner on a daily basis, and generally seeing everything our partner does as a symptom of their overall badness. This is a gross state in which to walk through life. It is far from the playful spirit with which we are seeking to encounter our days. So I urge you, if you are unhappy in your relationship, do something about it. Is it an opportunity for growth that you want to invest in, or is it time to part ways with a grateful spirit? Life-partner types: Since leaving isn’t your preference, solve the problem. Not sure what the problem is? Can’t talk to one another about it? Can’t avoid arguing and making things worse? Don’t want to solve the problem because you feel like it’s his/her problem? Please get help.

There are countless resources available for mates looking to increase intimacy or improve their partnership, and a few of them are amazing. For starters, John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute, who intentionally build on a significant body of relationship research as well as professional and personal experince to guide families. You can find a professional trained in their methods, do a retreat or workshop hosted by them, or choose another learning format they offer that works for you. For development related to sexual intimacy I offer the fabulous, Esther Perel , who also has a menu of resources for couples to choose from as they attempt to navigate what can feel like a heart wrenching struggle. As always, if you want to chat or need help finding some resources specific to your situation, don’t hesitate to reach out at mrsalexnorton@gmail.com. Happy humaning together!

A Note for Parents: Parenting is hard work and I have tremendous empathy for families trying hard to do their best for one another. So, I say this with the utmost compassion, love, and respect. If you are not taking care of yourself and your relationships you are NOT parenting well. Period. Becoming small and insignificant, ignoring your needs and the needs of your mate under the pretense of “being a good parent” is selfish and irresponsible. There is nothing to admire about a parent who is playing martyr. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and start taking care of yourself. Strong people and great parents are those who reach out for support and make use of their resources. There is help and there is a solution. Reach out for it.❤️❤️❤️