Movies, fairy tales and other stories often end on a "happily ever after" note when it comes to love and relationships. But during this traditionally popular month for weddings, some experts suggest a more realistic goal might be in order.
How about "evolving ever after"?
Junice and Rock Rockman are Central Texas life and relationship coaches certified by an International Coaching Federation-accredited program. They say evolving is what keeps couples happy during the inevitable ups and downs of a relationship and life in general.
They also say those ups and downs are not to be feared or avoided.
"The love and the commitment have to go beyond an emotional feeling," Junice says. "Just like there's winter, spring, summer, fall, [there are] different phases or seasons in a relationship. It may feel a little bit like winter. I may feel a little isolated, a little cold and a little distant, but it doesn't mean that will be forever. If you're in it for the long haul, you may want to wait and have some conversations around how you've changed and what's important to you."
The Rockmans say those difficult periods are opportunities for learning, growth and perhaps, ultimately, more satisfaction.
'There are some couples that part ways when they get to that resistance point," Rock says. "If they could find a way to work through it, they'll have a stronger relationship on the other side."
Listen to KUT's interview with the Rockmans for more on bringing healthy and realistic expectations to relationships old and new.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Rock Rockman: I think it takes evolving to remain happy because I don't think you're just at one moment like – OK, now we're happily ever after. We don't have any issues; we don’t have any problems. ... You constantly have to evolve and learn how to work through all those situations.
KUT: What if that evolution leads people to realize, “Oh wait, maybe we're not compatible or maybe you've evolved into a person who does things or believes things that I'm not compatible with?”
Junice Rockman: I think that happens probably more often than not. You know, we all have a certain list of musts. It may be an unwritten list, but there are things that we expect in life. There are standards that we have. The rules we play by. And what's important to you in one phase of your life - 10 years later can be very different than other phases. What you're looking for can be very different.
To make the relationship work it’s important to give those phases – if you do feel that you've grown apart – give it some time. It's OK. I think that the love and the commitment have to go beyond an emotional feeling. Just like there's winter, spring, summer, fall, [there are] different phases or seasons in a relationship. It may feel a little bit like winter. I may feel a little isolated, a little cold and a little distant, but it doesn't mean that will be forever. If you're in it for the long haul, you may want to wait and have some conversations around how you've changed and what's important to you.
And the other side of that is it is OK to give yourself permission to admit or acknowledge in a really healthy way that I think we have grown apart and maybe I should release you or let you go so that someone could love you better or that you could be in a relationship that is more connected.
KUT: Isn't some tension and conflict good for a relationship – to get some things out in the open and air them? If two people are always like “this is great and we're so happy” that seems a little unnatural and unhealthy.
Rock Rockman: I agree. I always give this example of what I call resistance as it relates to, for example, exercising. It doesn't feel good when you go to the gym. You lift weights and you run on a treadmill. You do not feel good afterward, but the end result is a better body, stronger arms, larger muscles. That's the same thing in a relationship. There are some couples that part ways when they get to that resistance point. If they could find a way to work through it, they'll have a stronger relationship on the other side.
Junice Rockman: And a lot of times adversity or the resistance that we have – it's meant to build us, not break us. But we look at it as a breaking point that we can't recover from because we don't really understand a proper expectation. So, I do think it's important to have those kinds of conversations as couples. ... When you're on a flight [and] there's turbulence, you buckle up. You don't jump off.
KUT: How do you know if someone is a good match and a good partner for you?
Rock Rockman: People have a hard time trusting their gut, and a lot of times when you get into situations you kind of know if something is right or wrong for you, but you just don't trust it. So, I think that's kind of a first step is just trusting that in our gut this really feels right to me. And then the other part is: Do your life goals and your visions and what you believe the world is supposed to be – do those line up in some sort of way? Raising children and having a family – do those things kind of connect?
Junice Rockman: And it may not be true for every couple, but when you're with that person it's almost like being with yourself. What I mean by that is that you're so comfortable you don't feel like you have to put on any sort of air or mask. We tend to perform a little bit more around other people, but when we are with that person you feel almost at one with yourself.
You know sometimes we think about soulmates and things like that. And I really think that we don't just attract what we want; we attract who we are. And so as you're evolving and changing, what you draw to you is going to change. Even within your relationship – you can be 10 years in, 15 years in, 20 years in – if you're still changing ... that person will respond magnetically and you'll pull out a higher version of their self as well, because you've showed up differently.
KUT: I think there's still a real pressure for people to find a partner, to be in a couple, to have a special person. How can people feel comfortable and happy when that's not the situation that they're in?
Rock Rockman: I think it's a special place to be when you're single and you’re allowing yourself to be alone for a while. You can really learn a lot about yourself. You can grow a lot. You can read a lot. You don't have someone else that is pulling your time away. There are some people in relationships that wish they can have that personal time to themselves.
Junice Rockman: None of us were born on this planet to please other people. That's not what we're here for. And so, give yourself permission to live a life that is defined by what brings you joy and what feels authentic and organic for you; it doesn't have to be a cookie cutter.
KUT: For people who are in a couple, what's wrong with saying, “You know what I need? I need a couple of days, so I'm going to take a little trip or I'm gonna go?” I think people kind of think that means something's wrong. That's a red flag. But can that be a healthy thing to do?
Rock Rockman: I think it's absolutely necessary to have some individual time to yourself because you can get lost in the mix of your life, in the mix of being around so many people. The best way to get back grounded to who you truly are is to spend a little bit of time with yourself. I think you have to have confidence in a relationship that it's OK. The relationship is OK if this person wants to steal away for a few days or a few hours. When you fill your own cup, you can then pour into others.
Junice Rockman: Yeah, you can give them the overflow.