Jenny Block works it! (Relationships, that is)

_jennyblock_book_stephgrant_web-10I used to cringe when I heard people say that relationships take work. “How on earth could they say that?” I wondered. “If it takes work, you must be doing it wrong.”

Work is hard. Work is unpleasant. Work is something that no one wants to do. Except that’s not always true. When we love our work, when we find our work interesting, challenging and rewarding, when we know it results in good, work can be the most fulfilling and empowering and even energizing thing in the world. The same goes for relationships.

Relationships do take work. But if it’s work you want to do, then you’re in the right relationship. Of course, that means the reverse is true as well.

Humans are pack animals, but they also relish doing things their way. So coupling can be as desirable as it can be challenging. The whole “when two become one” thing is crazy talk. And, to my mind, that is the root of the entire problem.

If we think of being in a couple as becoming whole by joining with another person, then it would be alarming to discover this coupling thing required any work. “If I’m morphing into my whole self by joining this other person, why is it so damn hard?”

Well, that’s an easy one — because that’s not a thing. Two people do not become one. They can’t. They don’t. They shouldn’t. Being a couple is about complementing one another, not completing each other. That movie really did a number on all of us. You know the one I mean.

Being with another human isn’t easy. We all have our own ways of doing things, our own preferences and proclivities, our own baggage. But like anything that you really want, really love, are really committed to, the work is delicious no matter how hard it is. In fact, often times, the greater the challenge, the sweeter the reward.

Whenever I have to make a decision, my dad always says the same thing to me to help me land on the choice that’s right for me. “Pretend it’s Monday morning. You’re just starting to wake up. You haven’t even opened your eyes yet. What do you want to be waking up to? What makes you happy to get out of bed?”

I think that’s the perfect way to look at your relationship. Not, “Is it perfect?” but, “Do I want this? Does being with this person make me want to do what it takes to build a strong relationship with this person?” Once you can answer yes to that question, then you’re truly saying yes to the relationship, to the right relationship for you. And now the work begins.

But it’s work we choose because it’s the love we want. And if there’s one thing that’s true of nearly every human, it’s that we are happiest when we feel as if we are acting of our own volition, making our own choices, and being true to ourselves.

Being in a relationship takes work. But love is its own reward. When you’ve found the right person, you’ll know because your relationship will pass my dad’s test. I feel it every morning when I know there’s no one else I’d rather be waking up to and no one else with whom I’d rather be doing the hard work of loving someone really hard.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 11, 2017.