Perfect long-term relationships do exist, but they look nothing like what we think “perfect” is.
Drs John and Julie Gottman are not your ordinary celebrity couple. In fact, if you never researched the topic of relationships, there’s a good chance you don’t know who they are. Which is a shame, because they are probably the perfect role-model of an ideal relationship.
Apart from working with couples and researching romantic relationships for decades, they have been a couple for more than 30 years. So they know a thing or two about having the perfect long-term relationship.
And guess what?
Perfect does not mean they have no conflicts or arguments.
But it means both of them make an effort to guarantee their relationship works.
I will reveal their personal formula to optimize their relationship later in this article.
The search for the perfect relationship.
A few days ago, a friend of mine told me he stopped believing great relationships exist.
His 25-year-relationship ended five years ago. During most of his relationship years, he considered it to be a good, satisfying one. Toward the end of it, though, he realized that what he thought was a happy relationship was actually a miserable one.
Once it fell apart, he looked at other relationships all around him. Family, friends — they all seemed to have a great relationship on the surface. But when he started digging deeper, reconnecting with friends as a single person, all of them revealed that they are struggling with their own relationships, too.
As for me, I also see lots of miserable relationships around me.
Not just among my family and friends. Writing about relationships and sex brought many people, acquaintances and strangers alike, to share their relationship hurdles with me. Naturally, the ones who reach out to me are those on the sad side of the spectrum.
Sometimes even I question the existence of the perfect relationship.
But I do not despair. Apparently, those relationships that work well these days, are better than those that worked well a few decades ago.
My last relationship was close enough to being perfect, and I am hoping the next one would be even perfect-er.
First, though, I should clarify what a perfect relationship actually is.
The perfect relationship: what it is not.
At times, especially while we are going through a sour experience with our partner, we think we are the worst couple in the world. It seems like other couples are happy by default. We might start telling ourselves that our current crisis is evidence that our relationship is doomed.
Partially, this is because we have a distorted perception of what a relationship should look like.
Many of us grew up with parents who had less-than-ideal dynamics, and only a few of us were ever exposed to a relationship that works well for both partners.
Often, since we haven’t seen a real relationship that thrives for years on end, we are left with a distorted notion of what a perfect relationship might be.
And we see perfection is where it is not.
- “…And they lived happily ever after. The END”.
This would have been the perfect relationship provided it was real. But it is not. This fairytale ending is reserved for fairytales and Hollywood flicks.
- Social media happy couples’ snaps.
These capture the happiest moments of a couple. They look really happy in these photos. You would rarely, if ever, come across the photos that show the angry moments. The disharmony. The disappointments. The miscommunications. Social media show-off photographs don’t reveal the entire spectrum of the relationship, but we tend to look at the images and feel jealous, thinking that they have it much better than what we have.
Happy moments are not an indicator of a happy relationship. We should not rely on these to provide us with the perfect relationship model.
Interestingly, unhappy moments are not an indicator of an unhappy relationship, either.
The perfect relationship: what it is.
From looking at the couples around me, there are only a few that I see which I can honestly say are great. I would define these as perfect — even if they have some bad phases.
The perfect relationship is not immune to life’s ups and downs. It has beautiful moments alongside frustrating ones.
If anything, it’s the difficult moments that define a perfect relationship.
It’s easy to feel connected and loving to your partner when everything is smooth. It’s how you relate to each other when things go pear-shaped that determines if your relationship is truly amazing.
In the perfect relationship, the attitude you have toward each other when you feel all lovey-dovey prevails even in the midst of conflicts.
The perfect couple works together as a team to resolve conflict. Partners accept each other’s differences and understand each other’s needs. Issues don’t blow beyond proportions. If they can’t manage to work things out by themselves, they seek help — professional help. After all, winning teams need a coach to lead them to victory.
A short-term perfect relationship experience.
I recently had a practice run of being in a perfect relationship.
Although for a few reasons we were not suitable for each other, the relationship itself was as smooth as a baby’s butt.
It’s not that we never had any disagreements — it’s just that disagreements never escalated into fights.
Issues were dealt with, not swept out of sight, but they were always brought up with care, respect, and caution.
We didn’t break up because we stopped liking each other or because there was an unresolved matter. We broke up because our long-term relationship goal was quite different. And we broke up without any sort of friction whatsoever. Only sadness for the ending of a beautiful thing.
A good relationship can become perfect.
If you are in a good relationship, generally speaking, you can make it better. You can create the perfect relationship when your starting point is one of mutual respect and genuine care for each other.
At times, it’s the turbulent period of time that propels a relationship into greatness. If both partners choose healing over quitting, and they take the journey to grow together, there’s a chance for their relationship to evolve into being perfect. When couples learn the tools to repair their fractures in harmony, they can avoid the next rupture from occurring.
If you want to transform your current relationship into a perfect one, you will need to invest in learning about relationships. There is no way around it. And it will definitely help if your partner joins your learning journey at some stage or another.
Sex and the perfect relationship.
I read tons of information about creating the perfect relationship. And I notice that many articles, books and experts don’t mention sex.
It is still taboo and people rather just not mention the topic.
But here’s the deal.
Couples with a genuinely satisfying sex life are rarely unhappy in their relationship.
Which means it has to be part of the equation.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The personal tip of the experts.
I started this article telling you about Drs John and Julie Gottman.
In a recent podcast I listened to, they were interviewed together and shared one thing they do to make their relationship thrive.
They always make sure they have some quality time — and plenty of it — together.
In recent years they are taking an annual honeymoon: 10 days holiday every year, in which they talk about their relationship.
The time they take for themselves is dedicated to talking about the issues that matter to them as a couple.
They don’t leave it for chance or for a crisis to float things to the surface.
Which is a more romantic version of the practical short-term marriage contract as described here.
They actively prioritize time together to examine and perfect their relationship.
And if this is what the people who know more about relationships than most anyone else in the world do, perhaps we should do something similar in our relationships.
I am determined to do it in my next relationship, which I hope will turn out to be as perfect as any relationship can be.