Every relationship has its fair share of complications. The following 10 are ORANGE columnist Danielle Haberly's take on what she considers the most common relationship worries.
Column by Danielle Haberly
The beginning of our relationship is when we are most worried about our looks. To attract a mate, we have to look appealing. Everyone has a different taste and preference when it comes to finding a romantic suitor, but there are a few specific things we worry about most. As women, we worry about our hair — is it dirty? Is it frizzy? Do our bangs swoop over our left eye just right?
We also worry about our makeup. If my eyeliner is too heavy, will he think I’m a slut? If I’m not wearing makeup at all, will he still think I’m pretty? Acne, weight and clothes are worries a lot of girls — and guys — have, but how we look is only superficial. I worry more about whether or not my looks will draw in people who don’t care about my personality. My advice to you is to worry less about the exterior and have a deeper appreciation for the interior. If looks matter more to your partner than charisma, then your relationship is probably crap.
Once our brains move past aesthetics, we start to evaluate our partner’s overall demeanor. We worry about sounding smart and cultured. I worry about how I act around his friends and family. Do they think I’m good for him? We also worry about what our friends and family will think of them.
When alcohol is involved, I worry about drinking too much and saying or doing something embarrassing or hurtful. I think these are valid worries. It’s important to act the way you want people to know you, but also to stay true to yourself. Don’t be self-conscious; as the relationship grows, this will be less of an issue. At some point, they will almost know you better than you know yourself.
Cheating is one of the most gnawing worries we all have at some point in our relationship. We worry about their exes popping up into our lives out of nowhere. Even in the most devoted partnerships, the underlying fear of infidelity can reside.
Betrayal isn’t just cheating. We worry if our partner is lying to us. If you are knee-deep in your relationship, you might worry about whether they are doing what they are supposed to and making good decisions while you aren’t with them. Are they being responsible? Did they wake up on time for class? Are they abiding by the law? To combat this worry, trust is everything. If we don’t have it, the relationship will become hostile and unhealthy.
Money is the number one reason for divorce among married couples. I’ve always told myself that money didn’t matter in a relationship, but after being my ex’s sugar mama for three years, I decided that maybe it did. In our twenties, we are dating to figure out who we want to spend the rest of our lives with. You don’t want to be the only one in the relationship with an income.
I work hard and believe that it takes dedication, and maybe a little bloodshed, to build a life without the need for food stamps. I need to know that my man will be able to put food on the table for us and our potential children. Money is important, but let me just say that I would be equally happy living in a teepee, as I would in a mansion overlooking Beverly Hills.
5. Health and Safety
As young adults, I think we worry less about our lover dying or getting cancer than older married couples. But do you ever worry about them getting hurt in an accident? My man lives six hours away. I worry about him getting into an accident on the drive to see me. If they haven’t texted or called you back when they said they would, you worry if maybe they were attacked or something bad happened. This is a rational fear to have and probably won’t ever go away. Be concerned for their safety, but don't be paranoid.
Ah, sex. Yes, this can bring about some of our most intimate worries. Is what I’m doing working for them? There are many things that could go wrong and be potentially embarrassing during sex. Being naked in front of someone you want, for the first time, can be terrifying. I say don’t worry about technique or stamina. If they are the right match, most of the time it will just flow naturally. If not, they should care enough about you to talk through the problems and work out the kinks.
Sex is incredibly important in a mature relationship. It’s something the two of you share exclusively. It can create a deeper bond than almost anything else can. But maybe you don’t worry about the bang. Is sex the only thing holding your relationship together? Don’t use nookie as a crutch. There is more to a relationship than the physical encounters.
Fighting in a relationship happens. It's normal. We can't possibly agree with everything our partner says and does, but it's how we fight that's important. Some of my friends scream and yell profanity when engaged in a disagreement. I must admit, I'm guilty of raising my voice once or twice, but swearing at each other is unacceptable. I don't care about cursing in conversation, as long as it's in an appropriate setting, but calling your girlfriend a pathetic slut (or anything similar vice versa) is damn near unforgiveable.
I've talked about verbal abuse in a past column. Whether it is mutual or one-sided, criticizing and threatening is form of abuse. Conflict should be handled in a peaceful, understanding way. Be respectful, because when the fight is over, the echoing insults and emotional damage remains.
8. The Future
We all like to live in the moment, but the future is imminent. When building a relationship, we ought to be able to mentally picture what it will look like in 10 years. Does he plan ahead like I do? Is he a saver or a spender? Are our religious beliefs and morals alike? My ex always told me he wanted to live on an island like the guy on Cast Away to escape the government. Without similar future goals, our relationship fizzled out when I went to college. In high school, it's OK to date a conspiracy theorist that doesn't believe in bank accounts. Now, the most important criteria I have for a man is that he thinks about the future like I do.
We also worry that in the future, we won't feel the same connection anymore. In the back of our minds, there is that unnerving realization that people evolve and, sometimes, not at the same time or in the same way. Our hope is that, as a couple, we will change at the same rate going the same direction in life. When that doesn’t happen, the relationship crumbles.
"I love you," is one of the most powerful phrases you can say in a relationship. We all worry about whether we feel real love or lust. If you think you love them, when do you say it? When is too early? What do you do if they say it first and you're not ready? Don't say it if you're not sure. You may want to utter the expression because you feel bad, but there is nothing worse than just repeating it back without meaning it. Love is more than just wanting to be with the person. Love is consuming. When you love someone, you won't be able to stop yourself from blurting it out in a moment of pure joy.
10. Breaking Up
If marriage or happy-ever-after aren't down the road, a reasonable conclusion is a breakup. There are a bunch of things that happen after a breakup: rage, grief, the I'm-better-off-without-him/her stage, and then you move on. I worry more about what will happen socially. If you've been in the relationship over a year, his/her friends are your friends. When we breakup, who gets who in the "divorce?" Also, you may have had a bar or restaurant you frequented together. Now, after the split, you can't go there anymore because you might run into him or his friends. Breakups are messy. Be strong, mature and take the high road if drama ensues.
In the relationship, their worries become our worries. Save your nerves by talking to your significant other about these qualms. Effective communication is key and can ease the mind. Don't worry, be happy!
Next week: Do long distance relationships really work?