There is a formula when it comes to the landscape of a relationship. Though it has changed over the ages the combination stays the same. Interest, courting, and if all goes well a final commitment. But what really happens after the happily ever after has scrolled by and the couple has to face the reality of everyday life?
The portrayal of a happily married couple in a realistic light is always a struggle. If you ask a dozen couples to tell you what makes their relationship work they will all have different answers. The reason why it is so hard to get an accurate portrayal is that every relationship is its own beast. But when it comes to writing a long-term relationship there are some aspects you can include to help lend to the realistic portrayal of your characters.
Relationships are Hard Work – No matter how perfect a couple seems on the outside, the every day up and down is hard work. The idea that if a relationship is meant to be it will just work is a myth. To keep a relationship going you need to have devotion to that other person, devotion to the relationship itself, and constant communication.
Fights will Happen on a Realistic Scale – A long-term relationship did not get there by accident. Unless there is some kind of underlying issue that has been brewing for years they have been together, the fights will be a realistic level without constant ultimatums. Couples fight, it happens naturally and is expected.
Intimacy will Come and Go – This does not mean that there is no longer attraction or care between the couple. But life gets in the way of being physical and if that is the fuel that keeps your relationship going it will peter out quickly. So balancing a couple with both intimacy and a lack thereof is more realistic.
Ultimatums are Rare – The ‘I want a divorce’ or other extreme statements within a fight or a conversation are incredibly rare. While, yes, it happens in relationships when they are reaching a very low point, pulling that card all the time is exceedingly rare.
Routine and Cohesion are Necessary – Everyday routine and a cohesive mindset is a necessity when it comes to handling life. There will need to be an understanding of a mutual goal along with being okay with handling the monotony that is every day.
Tropes to watch out for and stay away from
The ‘Fight me’ Couple – Couples who are constantly fighting all of the time take away from the story. It exhausts the couple realistically and exhausts the reader to read it.
The Yo-Yo Couple – Trying to tear a couple apart by minor miscommunications or odd instances that could result in a ‘major fight’ that would end the relationship is in the end, incredibly unrealistic. Most couples prefer to hammer through large issues or miscommunications instead of just walk away in a childish huff.
The ‘No Longer Interested’ Couple – Unless this is somehow an essential part to the narrative, making a couple who have been together for a significant time show absolutely no affection or outward care towards one another is another unrealistic and overused trope when writing long-term relationship couples.
The ‘Midlife Crisis’ Couple – This couple somehow went from happy and great to waking up one day wanting to hike to Canada to ‘spice up’ their lives. It is a non-sensical escalation. Yes, sometimes a couple needs help but they tend to be a lot more realistic than deciding to do something so reckless and idiotic. Does this happen? Not often. And it is a bit of an overused trope.
The ‘Two Bodies One Mind’ Couple – Couples are two individual people that came together to start a life. The idea that a couple is SO in love that they have to do every single thing together is a very unrealistic trope. Couples need friends, space, and time alone. Most long-term relationships do not last through this clinginess so writing it like this does not really sell as realistic.
The ‘Together but Not Really’ Couple – The ‘we have been together for ten years but we won’t really commit that this is it’ relationship is not a realistic way to write a couple. Yes, it happens, but they don’t usually last. One of both parties usually get tired of the situation and walk away.
No matter how you want to write your couples, make sure to take into account the many cogs of the machine that is a relationship. Ask questions of those couples you do know or do your research to find realistic relationships that can help you more accurately portray long-term couples in your stories.