Scrolling through social media these days, or even re-watching Disney movies, you’d be forgiven for thinking there is such thing as a perfect relationship.
Whether it’s your friends sharing appreciation posts for their significant other, an influencer posting about romantic date nights or holidays, or an animated character finding their perfect mate and happily ever after, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone’s relationship is better than yours. And that you might in fact be missing out on a perfect relationship.
So, aside from these outside sources only showing us the highlights, why else do we have this idea of an ideal love story? According to Melbourne-based relationship expert and mediator Anne-Marie Cade, the idea is based on one period of a relationship.
“When people talk of a ‘perfect relationship’, they are more focused on the start of dating, when a person will do everything possible to satisfy and make the other person happy, but, as time goes on and we get more comfortable with our partners, it’s less likely that we do this all the time,” she says.
Cade says aspiring to attain a perfect relationship is unrealistic given that she doesn’t think it’s possible for two people to agree on everything. “As humans, we have different hopes and dreams and ideals,” she says.
‘What makes for a ‘happy and satisfied relationship’ is the ability to understand the other’s perspective, reach an understanding as to each other’s expectations and work together to gain a better understanding of each other so there’s less disappointment due to unmet expectations.”
In other words, rather than a perfect relationship, what we should be striving for is a healthy one, which has good communication and in which each partner has a sense of curiosity to always keep learning and doing better.
In addition to a good understanding, Cade says when creating a healthy relationship, couples should strive for compromise, not making assumptions, but rather asking open ended questions.
“Also, an understanding that you can’t control the other party and that you can only control what you do,” she says. “Learning to respond rather than react is important, too. Both people talk about issues together. Coming up with possible solutions by sticking to the subject and avoiding insults. Working together to identify new solutions.”
Cade also says healthy relationships involve honesty, trust and respect. “It’s important that partners respect each other’s independence and can make their own decisions without fear,” she says. “Also, ensuring a healthy sexual relationship.”
Kimberley Lee, a counsellor and therapist who specialises in dating and being single, adds that a happy couple is made from individuals who are content within themselves an bring this sense of self – and maintain it – to the partnership.
“A happy couple is a relationship that can support and hold space for each other to feel and express all feelings, not just the happy ones.”
She defines a happy couple as two individuals who have made a conscious choice to come together and continue to actively choose to be with one another every day.
So, again, while there’s no point in trying for a perfect relationship, you should be aiming for one that’s happy and satisfied. And, contrary to the easy-breezy approach social media and films might lead you to believe, creating that kind of partnership does in fact take work.