Can something that starts out wrong turn out right? (relationship wise)
January 29, 2013 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever had a relationship, that maybe not DTMFA worthy, started out pretty rocky but eventually turned in to something good and healthy? Details are appreciated.

I know that the common wisdom around here is that if a relationship starts out with a lot of problems, challenges and issues it's likely to fail. But I'm interested in hearing the opposite end of the story (if there is one). Have you had a relationship that started with an imbalanced level of passion, or interest, or large issues you needed to work through, that worked out? Are you still with that person? Was it worth it?
posted by mockpuppet to Human Relations (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Hrmmmn. "Imbalanced passion/interest" is very different than "larger issues you needed to work through". I think that the "bones" of the relationship have to be fairly solid from the get-go. However, in the first few years of my current relationship, we went through pretty much every shitty thing possible - depression, job loss, legal troubles, communication difficulties, child-rearing issues, blended-family issues, etc., etc., etc., CANCER!, etc. It worked out fine. But that was because, like I said, the bones of the relationship were good. If we hadn't been fairly sure about one another - AND fairly trusting - it would've collapsed like a poorly-made souffle.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:47 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

How young is this young relationship? Can't speak to Large Issues, but I have had things take a couple of months to really gel, and then be enjoyable for a while. Sometimes people are almost-but-not-quite on the same page starting out, but can get there in a little time, interest- and passion-wise.

I myself am a slow burner. It can sometimes take me a year to decide whether I even want to kiss a person. But if someone is really into me, and we're really compatible on the face of it, and I like him generally, I might go for it and then find myself finally truly warming up to him a couple months in.

(Single now, though, so obviously everything eventually turned to shit.)
posted by like_a_friend at 12:55 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it depends what the problems, challenges, and issues are.

For example, I once struck up an interesting conversation on OK Cupid that had a lot of trouble transitioning into an actual date. Finally, after far longer than I usually allow the "annoying first date rescheduling" runaround to go on, we met, it ended up being the closest thing I've ever experienced to Love At First Sight, and we dated for a year with virtually no other problems until things got rocky at the end. It was all totally worth it.

On the other extreme, I once had a very tempestuous early-dating relationship wherein every red flag in the book presented itself. Because I was young and stupid, I soldiered through being treated like shit by this person I was pretty thoroughly not compatible with. For three years. Every minute of which was Highly Dramatic. And also miserable. This was really the wrong thing to have done, and I should have DTMFA'd like three weeks in when the red flags and incompatibilities started to manifest themselves.

In the murky middle, I think it really depends what the issues are and whether those specific things are easy to work through or not. Imbalanced sex drives? Could work. Constant drama and arguments and petty bullshit and jealousy? Probably not worth the struggle.

I also find that mere chance can ruin relationships that might have righted themselves -- sometimes you see someone in a way that you probably shouldn't, or you're forced to confront something you're not ready for. And there's really no cure for it, no matter how great things could have been, if only.
posted by Sara C. at 12:55 PM on January 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

I agree- I think any relationship can get through the worst of the worst but you have to have a strong solid foundation of honestly, trust, communication and loyalty. Every relationship has challanges, the ones that survive are the ones in which both parties are fighting TOGETHER, not fighting against each other, trying to win an argument, trying to play games or have more control over the other.
posted by love2much at 12:58 PM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think the key factor between the good relationships I've seen that started out rocky and the bad relationships that started out rocky was the... rocks. Communication issues between two otherwise fundamentally loving people? Fine. Outside challenges that had to be worked through together? Fine. Mismatched interest in the first month or so? Fine.

Red flags of treating one another badly? Bad. Almost always bad. People CAN change, but not quickly or easily.
posted by ldthomps at 1:24 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

My relationship was bad (and occasionally very bad) for the first 1.5-2 years. It has since gotten much, much better.

One data point and I don't think it's at all representative, but there you have it.
posted by downing street memo at 1:47 PM on January 29, 2013

Have you had a relationship that started with an imbalanced level of passion, or interest, or large issues you needed to work through, that worked out? Are you still with that person? Was it worth it?

An "imbalanced level of passion" and a "larger issue" are two very very very different kettles of fish, depending on exactly how large that largeness is- like are we talking domestic violence or substance abuse issue? cause that would be a totally different story from "i'm not that into him" kinda thing.

I don't think we have nearly enough information, but if it makes you feel better- I have known many couples were one of the pair was pursued for a while by the other before they mutually fell in love.
posted by Blisterlips at 1:57 PM on January 29, 2013

My boyfriend of six years (and my fiance of a week, yay!) and I had the worst first year. The worst. We were in very different places, emotions-wise and maturity-wise and approach-to-relationship-wise, and there was a lot of tension and a lot of weirdness and a lot of strange ships-in-the-night communication.

I think we got through it largely because of me — I'm glad for that because I love him and he loves me and where we are now is fantastic, but in hindsight, it was probably the wrong thing to do.

Here's what I brought to the table: (a) I was so, so into him that I simply would not let him not be with me; (b) I am a chronic over-communicator who unselfconsciously will say things like "I just said something very raw and honest to you and I feel vulnerable, so now I need you to compliment me and stroke my hair in order to soothe that rawness"; and (c) I am really good at emotionally compartmentalizing, and I packed all my negative feelings away and didn't address them until about two years later, when we had another rough year when it all came to the surface and he was baffled and then everyone went to therapy and now we're ridiculously happy and healthy and in love and (again yay!) about to get married.
posted by firstbest at 2:13 PM on January 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't know if my parents relationship qualifies but just a quick read through your question and I think it does. When they got together in the early 1980s, they were both poor, dramatic, and dad's mom hated my mother. My mom had a shit home life (courtesy of her crazy mother) and I think it had to have influenced her back then. I can't imagine that, lovely as she is, she was all that stable.

Now that I'm older sometimes mom will tell me stories about things dad did in the beginning and I tell her, "You're not ever allowed to tell me to DTMFA again because crap, dad was a dick!". Same goes for my dad's stories about mom. But now they're told all in good fun -- they were kids, they were growing up, and it wasn't easy. When mom got pregnant with me she up and moved without telling my father because she assumed he wouldn't be interested in a family. I mean, nothing about his life then said he could handle it. Anyway, he found her, they got married, stayed poor, dad battled a slight drug issue (which mom kicked him out for), and then finally he got it together. They struggled and saved and they fought. Oh lord, they fought! I remember that but the weird thing is I don't remember ever worrying, like most kids do, that mom and dad are gonna divorce because they're yelling the f-word at each other. I don't want to minimize the whole thing, I just mean to say that even when it was hard (and it was until I was 10 or so, maybe even older), we ALWAYS knew they loved each other immensely.

Now my parents are madly in love. They always have been, I see in the present day. They don't fight (I don't think they have in 15 years or more) and their relationship is what I hope for my own. I know my siblings agree with that, too.

I guess what I'm saying is yeah, it could happen. If I had been a friend to my mom or dad back then when they got together I probably would have rationally discouraged their marriage. But I would have been wrong to do so because if there ever were two soulmates, it's my parents.

Sidenote: My parents were never violent. They yelled and screamed and slammed doors but neither would ever touch the other in anger. NEVER. Dad never called mom names and she didn't call him names either. It wasn't about putting each other down, their fights, it was just the way they'd been raised to vent and they've grown out of that now that they have found a better way to deal. But I never felt, even when I was young, that they were out to wound the other.
posted by youandiandaflame at 2:22 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

My best relationship started really badly. I was friends with both him and his ex, they broke up, some time passed (not enough: I suck) and he and I started getting together. He lied to his ex about it, I said nothing, he resisted telling her we were together, I pretended it was his job so I wouldn't have to be the one telling her, and there was a lot of crap and drama and lying and anger and I really did a bad job and so did he. Then we were together for a long time and were pretty blissfully happy.

I will say that, ultimately, one of the reasons he and I broke up is that I just couldn't see myself making a lifelong commitment to him, and I think he way he handled the start of our relationship contributed to a sense I had about him that he wasn't fully adult or fully trustworthy in some important respect, but I'm not really sure. It's hard to tease the feelings apart. But while we were together, we were really really happy.
posted by prefpara at 2:31 PM on January 29, 2013

My question is: why would you want to persue something that's hard?

There are a bazillion people out there with whom you could have a wonderful relationship, why would you want to have to do all that work?

I'm here to tell you, when it's right, it's easy. So you lose a job, or have a health scare? The right person makes those things easier, not an excuse to have the relationship go into the ditch.

All relationships will be buffetted by outside problems, that's life. What you don't want is internal problems. Internal problems mean the foundation of the relationship isn't sound, and it may work for a long time (too long) but it won't be strong, or safe or fun.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:44 PM on January 29, 2013 [10 favorites]

To try and answer your question (without the specifics), it did not work out as much as I wanted it to.

I recently dated a guy whom i had a great physical chemistry with. 80% of our interaction was sexual so that could be the imbalanced level of passion there, but we were both equally physically attracted to each other. We both have decent paying jobs and are responsible adults (i'm 27, he's 31).

I dated him for 2.5 months (known him as an aquaintance for 3 years). During the 3 years, I could see nothing major that was wrong with him. However, I ended things based on these observations once I got to know him more 1) he is not direct/ he holds back/ poor communication 2) he doesn't keep small promises and 3) he loves to party and lies to me about going to the parties. Once I found out he lied, I ended it.

I consider those three points "large issues" in any human interactions as they are signs of someone who is untrustworthy. Large issues within the foundation will surely cause the structure to crumble.
posted by Likeashadow at 3:26 PM on January 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oooh, and another thing, he pursued me during the time that my long term relationship was ending and once I left my ex, I went out with him. You can say we started out quite "wrong," and he was not able to get himself back on the right track.
posted by Likeashadow at 3:34 PM on January 29, 2013

My relationship started with a lot of really crappy experiences: issues with his ex, poor communication, lack of consideration and defensiveness on his part, etc.

It's waaaay better now. Jury's still out on where things will go, but it's 1000x better. I'm really happy with him and him with me.

Things that helped us (I think):

- Commitment. We were really, really into each other and got super-committed early. I think we worked out a lot of early dating stuff while in the relationship instead of before it.

- We started working on a project together and it's brought us a lot closer and made us learn how to accommodate each other.

- Everytime we spend a couple of weeks apart for work reasons, we get closer when we come back together, appreciate each other more, and just feel more comfortable.
posted by 3491again at 4:32 PM on January 29, 2013

Um, sorta?

I was in a relationship with an interest imbalance at the start -- once my infatuation died down, we established a comfortable and casual relationship and dated for a few years... and then I dumped him because it stopped working for me. Nothing dramatic or anything, but I would say that looking back it wasn't really a "good and healthy" relationship because I was settling on various levels. Once I accepted that I was settling, I couldn't continue, but I lived in denial for a while because, gosh, nothing seemed really "wrong."

I don't know if I'd do it again.
posted by sm1tten at 4:47 PM on January 29, 2013

I think healthy boundaries are important if it's an issue of one or both partners having issues affecting the relationship from the outside. But there's definitely a way that you can love people without wanting to save them from their flaws, and a way to love them with their flaws.

If on the other hand it's an issue of the personal chemistry between two people and how they clash, I think communication and understanding can be learned too. It just might be a tough road if you decide to stay with it.

Upon re-reading your post, I think the "imbalanced passion and interest" might be one of the tougher obstacles in the long run. If two people are really in it, there's a lot that you can work through if you care and you get the right help. If only one person is really in it, I think it usually results in a lot of suffering.
posted by mermily at 5:18 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

My parents also had a very very rough relationship up until about 10 years ago. However, they were violent with each other at times and my sisters and I witnessed a lot of it. I can't speak to everything about it because for whatever reason, they pretend like none of it happened and even deny it when it's brought up. Now they have the most solid and undeniable love for each other I have ever seen, possibly because I saw what they went through for each other. In June they will be married 30 years. They rarely have arguments and almost never even raise their voices to each other. I also have my own experience in the works, I guess. My boyfriend and I started out pretty rocky also, no violence ever, but a lot of miscommunication and weirdness for almost 2 years. I was more than ready for a serious relationship, and he was not even close. There were many many conversations or arguments about staying together and a couple of short seperations where we both saw other people. We ended up deciding that we loved each other enough to try and works things out and are in the process of it now. I am working on my trust issuses and he is learning to be a good boyfriend, not easy but so far very much worth it. Maybe it's me hoping for what happened with my parents? I don't know but so far it's working out pretty well. I think it really depends on how far you and the other person are willing to go to be together.
posted by hairspray and heartstrings at 7:20 PM on January 29, 2013

Think of it this way...does sh!t (like actual sh!t) ever turn into something glorious? No...That is the answer.
posted by Autumn89 at 11:12 AM on February 13, 2013

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