We might wish for an ideal relationship, where our partner anticipates all our desires, keeps the passion burning indefinitely, fulfills all our needs before we even realize them, showers us with attention and unconditional love, is always there for us, gives us just enough space, genuinely agrees with our opinions, shares the same values, has the same approach to parenting, knows exactly what to say to make us feel good and says it at the right time, is great with our kids, families and friends, is good-looking, charming, considerate and appreciative. We might wish for it but it would be unreasonable to expect that such a person actually existed. Besides, after a while, being with such a great-all-over person would get pretty darn annoying, making our little flaws seem huge in comparison. Resentment would build, intensified by the recognition that there is really nothing to resent except for our partner's perfection.
Once they leave the initial stage of relationship (period that is as close to the ideal as it gets), real couples have to face quite a different scenario. We realize that if we are to be together, there are many things to be negotiated. Many of these can be solved by peaceful discussions, but many conflicts provoke hurt, anger, defensiveness, aggressive feelings, bitterness and other strong emotions. In a long-term relationship, it is nearly impossible to avoid negative feelings, misunderstanding and conflict. Some people solve it by eluding all relationships beyond the limit of the initial infatuation and their evasive maneuvers result in a perpetual chain of short-term courtships, where passion is imperative but real intimacy and commitment are missing. Others give it a sincere try but eventually give up because the same conflicts go unresolved for years and the couple turns in circles, slipping into an old inefficient pattern every time they start arguing about an important issue. Yet others learn how to communicate and solve conflicts efficiently, which helps them to experience the beauty of mutual understanding, fulfillment and deep intimacy.
Conflicts might be inevitable in a long-term relationship, but destructive fights that lead nowhere, except for hurt, defensiveness, disappointment and resentment, can certainly be avoided. Negative, even aggressive feelings can be vented and resolved in a constructive argument before they bottle up and start spoiling the positive aspects of the relationship. A healthy relationship has room for an open confrontation and constructive criticism. If the couple fights constructively, the arguing becomes less frequent, and communication becomes more effective. The relationship becomes a ground for personal growth. The partners get past their defensiveness and start to work out their inner conflicts, to heal old wounds, get over their insecurities; simply put, they evolve as individuals and as a couple.