When NASA launches a space vehicle, it uses about 90% of its fuel getting beyond the earth’s atmosphere. After it clears the pull of this gravitational force, considerably less fuel is required, allowing it to travel great distances expending much less energy. This principle also applies to relationships. The secondary stage (after you pass the delirium of infatuation) is where the real work begins. That work is about committed listening, letting go of control, practicing vulnerability, overcoming resistance to change, being honest, even in the face of fear, and focusing on your own work rather than trying to change your partner. Like mastering any other new skill, it takes a lot to hang in there and muddle through the demanding times.
The effort required is often great and the challenge can be daunting, so much so that many conclude that it’s not worth it or that they don’t have the stamina and perseverance to work forever at this level.
Relationships, we think, should not have to be this hard. Well, that’s true. They shouldn’t be relentlessly difficult, at least not on a permanent basis, otherwise who, other than someone with severe masochistic tendencies, would choose to live in a state of perpetual struggle. The bad news is that some degree of effort and distress is inevitable in most relationships. The good news is that it doesn’t have to last forever, and it is generally a temporary, not a permanent condition.