Hold ‘em or Fold ‘em: Knowing When You Can Survive Relationship Problems, and When You Can’t

As our name implies, we are interested in figuring out what the glue is that holds relationships together. Just as important as the glue, is how to get through the hard stuff. This is why every Glue interview includes a section on obstacles, where we ask the hard questions about how couples find their way through tough times.

It’s human nature to assume that “happy couples” simply got “lucky” and have it easy, but Glue couples teach us that relationships sometimes demand hard work, even when you think you found your soul mate.

One of the questions I like to ask is how to know when it’s time to throw in the towel vs. when to strap in and get through the obstacles and relationship problems together. Most Glue couples speak to this question from experience, and in fact have thought about leaving the relationship at one time or another. We have yet to crack this code, but couples have talked about how to survive everything—ranging from alcoholism to losing a child.

One of my favorite lines that sums up this idea comes from Tommy. He says, “I can’t overstate it, relationships are not perfect, and if you go into it with the sense of ‘It’s going to be fairytale land, or this is my soul mate, nothing can ever be difficult here’- that’s a terribly difficult thing to come into a relationship with that idea.”

Finding your soul mate doesn’t necessarily mean “happily ever after.” When Charley & Donna got together, a friend of theirs said, “He’s been looking for you so long he didn’t realize that when you showed up you weren’t going to be perfect” and that Donna “Wasn’t the ideal person he had been creating in his head.”

Donna & Charley realized there was no such thing as the imaginary ideal person, but you can still be right for each other.
Donna & Charley realized there was no such thing as the imaginary ideal person, but you can still be right for each other.

Sometimes living with your soul mate isn’t all a blissful experience. As Tommy & Kia point out, every relationship goes through cycles, and sometimes you are really connected, and sometimes you aren’t. You have to recognize when you are not connected and consciously make the effort to come back together. Kia says, “When you feel yourself going in that distant phase, make that conscious choice to turn around and face your partner again.”

There is no simple formula for sticking together. If there were some kind of algorithm that said “X amount of struggles and Y person must equal Z in order to stay together” there wouldn’t be any need for Global Glue, or any relationship advice. But the world doesn’t work that way, and it is good that it doesn’t. It would rob life of its essential mysteries. The important thing is to maintain open communication, evaluate your feelings honestly, and avoid getting trapped by either preconceived and unrealistic notions of perfection or the whims and passing angers of any given moment. If we could only crack the code of how you know when you have found a partner who is worth it– worth the work that every relationship demands.

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