Who doesn’t love a happy ending in fairy tales? After overcoming many obstacles and dramatic fight with the villains, we know that the two protagonists deserve to live happily ever after, hence the story usually ends with a magnificent wedding. However, reality is far from being a classic fairy tale. For most people, a wedding isn’t the final scene in their story; on the contrary, it is rather the beginning of a lifetime of hard work.

Just like life itself, there are various stages in a relationship that every couple has to go through. From the initial stage of infatuation when everything is rainbows and butterflies, to the understanding stage when you start to learn and accept your spouse’s flaws. After months (or even years) of adapting, lucky couples then will reach the phase of mature love when the relationship has already lasted for a long time and both partners are fully committed to each other.

A long-term relationship or marriage is something that many adult couples are looking for. A common belief in society says that a stable relationship equals comfort and therefore results in a sense of safety. However, a long-term relationship surely has its own challenges.

“The most common challenges that mature couples face are boredom, troubled commitment, and obstructed communication. Every couple is different and cannot be generalized. However, being bored with everyday routines is very understandable as humans naturally crave variety in their lives, so no need to freak out if you are in the early stage of that phase,” Chitra Ananda, S.Psi, M.Psi, a private psychologist told NOW! Jakarta in a recent interview.

According to Chitra, it is very normal to feel a little stiff in your relationship at some point, but the issue can lead to disastrous problems if overlooked. And even though many may think that The Beatles’s song title ‘All you need is love’ sounds a bit utopian today, it will be easier to rekindle the romance after years of union when your relationship’s foundation is strongly based on love.

“Mutual respect of course plays an important role in any relationship, especially marriage,” Chitra continued. “Unfortunately in many cases, when the marriage is troubled, couples tend to blame each other for the disharmony in the relationship and become disrespectful of each other’s feelings which is very dangerous. We must have the will to understand our spouse’s feelings. Be truthful to yourself and discuss about how you feel with your partner with an appreciative approach.”

Break Free from the Monotony
Sometimes, a habitual routine in daily life can create efficiency; we have things to figure out and we don’t need to worry about unnecessary surprises. But like two sides of a coin, routine can also be our enemy if we let it take over our whole lives, and that is how the boredom starts to creep in.

“Feeling stuck in monotony can invite other negative feelings like resentment and discontentment. If it’s being ignored, there will come a point when we start questioning our relationship and eventually lead to conflict,” Chitra explained. “The best way to break free from that boredom is to start exploring a new world that you and your spouse have never visited before. Get out of your comfort zone, plan a holiday to somewhere new and challenging, reminisce the thrill when the two of you just met and fell in love and remind yourself why you’ve invested so much time and energy in this relationship. If your partner has a hobby that you don’t find interesting, try to be a part of it once in a while so you can see him from a different perspective.”

To give space to each other for some ‘me time’ is also important, not only because we sometimes appreciate someone’s presence more when they are away, but ‘me time’ encourages us to take time out from the chaos around us which can help us to get to know ourselves better. In more serious cases though, boredom can lead to disloyalty between partners. If you find yourself engage in forbidden affair with someone else, then it’s time to reflect upon your relationship to find out how you really feel about your partner.

“To be attracted to somebody outside of our marriage is actually normal, the real question is whether you want to pursue it or not. There are many reasons that encourage infidelity in a relationship, be it because of tormenting boredom, lack of affection and intimacy in your primary relationship, lack of respect at home, or maybe because you’re simply curious and want to experience something new,” Chitra said. “Whatever the reason, before you risk your marriage or relationship, take a look back of your journey together with your partner, ask yourself what went wrong in your relationship, and most importantly, ask yourself what you really want in the future. And after that, no matter how painful it may be, be honest to your partner about it.”

The bottom line is that there will always be challenges in any relationship. And although problems in a long-term relationship or marriage can be rather complicated, the key to cope with them is through honesty and communication. Find out together about the main problems, and if your issue is related to other persons, do not include them in your discussion as it has to be about you and your partner alone. If you and your partner cannot find a solution, then it is time to invite a neutral third party as mediator. This mediator can be anyone who is not related to you and your partner to avoid bias, and if you think professional help is what is needed to save your marriage, to consult a marriage counselor is a good idea.

“Marriage is not an easy feat, it takes hard work, compromise and patience to make it work. Beyond that, marriage is a constant struggle to find the right rhythm to live a happy life together with your spouse; it is a struggle to conquer your own ego in order to accomplish your life goals together,” Chitra said. “When things get difficult, remind yourself that you are not alone in this, always discuss your problems with your partner with an open mind so you can make the best decision for you and your loved one.”