I was talking with someone in a session this week about his relationship and he told me how a friend told him that there are a lot of people in happy relationships out there. It got us talking about what it means to be in a happy relationship. He is struggling in his relationship right now, but he still feels like he and his partner are best friends and that they love and care for each other.

They got into a fight recently and didn’t make up right away like they usually do, so he was feeling especially withdrawn and negative about the relationship. I told him that I’ve been with my wife for over 15 years and how I have been there many times when we’ve gotten into fights where I became withdrawn and questioned the relationship.

It’s only after doing that countless times that that has subsided. That was comforting for him to hear. He’s afraid of becoming like his parents, of being in a relationship where he stays with someone for the wrong reasons. We all know people in relationships like that. It’s quite common.

I would never think of calling our relationship simply a happy relationship. There is a lot of happiness in the relationship, but we are not always happy. I would call it a solid relationship, a deeply loving and respectful relationship, a committed relationship, but like any relationship, there are always things that we need to work on and there are times when it’s not happy.

What’s most important is to always keep making space for the relationship, not to take it for granted, or to assume that things will just work themselves out on their own.

He asked me if I thought that I would’ve been as motivated to work on the relationship in those times if we didn’t have kids. That’s a really good question, a really tough question. I’m pretty certain that I would have, but we’ve been through a lot together, a lot that could have broken us.

Our son, Eric, was born less than three years after we got married. We no longer had the luxury of just walking away when times got tough, although there were times when we both wanted to.

Eric, turned 13 yesterday. I made a slideshow of his life to watch together. We were so young and naïve when he was born. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Since Eric was born, we have lived on three different continents and four different cities. Amongst other things, when I look at Eric, I see the reflection of everything we have been through as a family and my relationship with Deb.

Making that slideshow and celebrating his 13th birthday has caused me to pause and reflect and open my heart to the good and the bad experiences that have led us to where we are now.

If I am sure of anything in this world, it is how much I adore this boy and how utterly privileged I feel to witness and be a part of his development. He is a beautiful human being, whose existence gives me faith in the future of humanity.

David B. Younger, Ph.D. is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

Originally published at www.loveafterkids.com