A pie chart? Really? This may seems superficial and a waste of time. But I assure you it’s not. When I was in my 20s I believed that a happy, good relationship was perfect and that you never had any problems. When I was in my 30’s I believed that all relationships were screwed up and frought with pain and suffering. I was wrong on both accounts. Being in a happy relationship and witnessing the plotline of two more healthy happy relationships (my mother’s and my brother’s) I now see that a good, healthy relationship looks more like this (see pie chart!) If I break it down, overall, the main chunk of our relationship has been happiness. And that includes peace, laughter, getting along, working together, sharing positive time and so on. The blue section represents absolute passion– that time in a relationship when you are just head over heels in love and can’t think of anything else but the object of your affection. As a love addict, I was either in this phase or I was breaking up (or wishing to break up). There was no in between. As you can see, it doesn’t take up a very large percentage of the pie chart. In fact, as the years go by, it will most likely shrink!
Then you have the green section for arguments and disputes. And trust me, D and I have had our fair share. We argue about sensitivites mostly. Someone has hurt someone else’s feelings. Or maybe we argue about parenting styles (I am a firmer disciplinarian and he is far more laissez faire). Mostly, our arguments arise when we are tired or not feeling well or we’ve had too much caffeine or not enough. But the important thing here is twofold: what are we arguing about and what percent of the time are we arguing. The percentage is obviously low. But here’s what we’re NOT arguing about: money, love, sex, loyality issues, lying, cheating, avoiding, and so on. None of those things are present in our lives and so, we argue less.
Lastly, I added a section for “feelings of doubt and misery” because, believe it or not, I went through those feelings a tiny bit at the beginning of our relationship (normal when you first meet someone and are unsure, or still getting over an ex) and then again when we got a puppy. Yeah, I know. How can you feel mysery with a puppy??? But the truth is, we got a puppy for the wrong reasons. I didn’t want one (too busy, I work from home, all the burden would be on me, etc.) but D really wanted one. So…I agreed to make him happy (always a bad idea!). From day one, my mood changed. Up until that point I LOVED my life, and suddenly, I felt overwhelmed with mysery. When I tried to tell D that I wanted to get rid of the dog, he said no. That I would adapt and get used to it. I gave it a few more weeks, but I only got worse. I cried EVERY DAY, and what’s more, I started to blame him for not believing that this pet was causing me so much pain. To make a long story short, eventually he saw that it was making me upset and hurting our relationship and so, we found another home for the dog (one close by, where we can still visit). But during that period, a lot of what I had experienced as bliss and happiness went out the window. If the dog had stayed, I often wonder if I would have! Was it that bad??? At the time, it was.
What’s important is knowing that there are times in every couples lives where challenges come up–much bigger than a puppy– and depending on how healthy the relationship is, how good the communication is, that will determine how well the two can get through the difficult time. Sometimes, couple can’t. Sometimes, problems arise that become so big that the relationship cannot outlive the problem (having an affair is a good example).
At any rate, let this pie chart be a good example of a healthy relationship. And make your own pie chart. What does it look like? How chunky is the section of happiness versus the section for arguments and disputes? How big is the section for “mysery”? This is a great way to evaluate the health of your relationship and put things in perspective.