Ever wondered if you're coupled up with the wrong person? There's a major reason why you probably are, writes sex expert Nadia Bokody.
A few weeks after my boyfriend moved in, I arrived home to a half-empty apartment.
The side of the closet his work shirts hung in was but a few barren coat hangers. The obnoxiously large bottle of Lynx body wash that had once occupied my shower caddy had vanished, and there was a handwritten note on the kitchen counter.
"I love you, but I can't do this anymore. You need to get some help," it read.
Help? What on earth was he talking about?
I began calling people who knew him, frantic for answers as to his odd, precipitous disappearance.
In my head at least, things had been good. Great, even.
A few hours later, when I tracked him down at the pub, sombrely nursing a beer, I learned his experience of our relationship had not been as prodigious.
"You have a problem and you don't want to admit it. I tried to convince you to go to therapy, but you won't do it. You left me no other option," he wept quietly into his drink.
It wasn't the first time a partner had asked me to go to therapy, but it was the first incidence of one actually leaving me over my refusal to attend — let alone confront a mental illness I was still entrenched in denial about.
If my friends and family hadn't made a big deal out of it, surely my so-called problem couldn't be that bad. Surely, my boyfriend should be able to overlook my tendency to fly into sporadic, hysterical rages where I often hurled objects across the room, and love me as I was.
As it turns out, my understanding of what love looked like was defective, much like the one most of us are operating from.
Every year, around a quarter of a million Aussies make our relationships legally binding in an elaborate spectacle in front of loved ones, despite the fact our partners will inevitably make very big deals out of problems we've quite convinced ourselves aren't really problems at all. As a result, almost 50 per cent of them will be divorced in less than a decade.
Unfortunately, there's no elective or textbook module in school on love. The yardstick we base our romantic relationships off is the only working example we have to go from: our parents.
If you're lucky, you were raised in a home with parents who modelled perfect, healthy relationship behaviours and boundaries. And if you're like most people, you grew up in a home with two people who were doing the best they could with the little preparation they had on how to make a lifelong commitment work, and frequently buggered it up.
Consequently, you probably married the wrong person. In fact, it's far more likely you coupled up with someone who, at least in part, allows you to relive some of the dysfunction you inevitably witnessed in your parents' relationship, than someone who perfectly – in the words of Jerry Maguire – completes you.
The good news is, Hollywood rom-coms lied to you. There is no such thing as a perfect partner. I'd argue the entire concept of a soulmate is BS, and one that sets us up for huge romantic disappointment.
Here's the thing your parents and friends are never going to tell you: you've got issues.
This is not a dig, or an attempt to assuage my guilt over my own shortcomings (of which there are many); it's a universal truth. None of us are perfect. We all have emotional baggage, irritating idiosyncrasies, and at least a couple of skeletons in the closet.
Unfortunately, your parents don't have the heart to point out your personal failures, and your friends – God love them – honestly aren't interested. They're largely hanging out with you to have a beer and a laugh, and not be burdened with tasks like calling attention to the fact you chew your food offensively and have a sense of humour that'd be best locked away with your Mummy issues.
This makes it all the more jarring then, when our partners bring these issues to light. No one else had anything to say about your tendency to project your childhood disappointment onto others, until now. How cruel and merciless then, of the person who's supposed to love you unconditionally, to bring this up.
Many of the perceived hardships of making a long-term relationship work are born out of this very idea. We exhaust hours arguing, and often call it quits over, the very things everyone else in our lives is astutely aware of, but will never tell us.
Which may explain why my first instinct when my boyfriend pointed out my own closetful of skeletons, was incredulity. How could he throw away everything we'd built over something so seemingly insignificant, no one else in my life had ever bothered to note it?
Determined to prove him wrong, I enrolled in therapy. Once the therapist saw how unproblematic I obviously was, I'd be excused from further attendance, at which point, I could assert what an asshole my boyfriend had been to leave me.
That was two years ago now. Today, my boyfriend and I are back together, sharing a home.
I wasn't excused from therapy. I went on to complete an intensive year-long treatment program that quite literally saved my life.
My partner doesn't love me for my flaws. He challenges me on them more tenaciously than I often have the humility to accept. And I in turn, gently push him into the murky waters of his own issues, and impel him to tackle them.
It sounds awfully cliché to say, but in truth, we've made each other better people. Not because either of us is a perfect, or some mystical other half destined to complete the other, but because in many ways, we're wrong for each other, in all the right ways.