At some point in almost any relationship, most people will find occasion to ask the question, “What’s wrong?” I don’t mean the spontaneous reaction to your loved one wincing in pain from a minor bump or paper cut. I mean the pleading question, “What’s wrong?” after a heated argument followed by intense silence—or “What’s wrong?” where you might be afraid of the answer.
Often the response to the serious question, “What’s wrong?” is “Nothing.” Nothing—meaning something—you just don’t know what that something is. This is tragically common. Something is wrong—and it stays wrong because neither of you have an explanation for what it is.
The reason many couples can’t figure out what is wrong with their relationship is because they haven’t figured out what is supposed to be right. I am not necessarily talking about a moral right and wrong. I am referring to the things that make a relationship feel right, whole, and fulfilling. When those features are missing, the relationship feels off and incomplete—something’s wrong. Therein lies the problem in many relationships. If couples don’t know what the essential elements of a relationship are, how will they know when they are missing?
In an ideal world, when you buy a new car, everything works. It runs perfectly. People aren’t like new cars. They are more like used cars. They try to look shiny and new during the dating and courtship process but then hidden defects begin to appear sometime after they say I do. So, besides never dating someone wearing a plaid jacket, how do you avoid getting a lemon?
There are tricks to buying a good used car—just like finding the right partner. It’s ok if you are attracted to a certain color, make, or model—that’s half the fun—but then it’s time to kick the tires, so to speak.
My father knows how to buy used cars. He is good at it because he knows how a car is supposed to work. He checks dozens of items before he even drives it. He then listens to the engine, the transmission, the unusual squeaks, and even the radio. The difference between a good used car and a great one isn’t what’s wrong with each car, it’s what is right, solid, and functioning perfectly. Knowing how everything is supposed to look, feel, and sound makes all the difference.
Like buying a used car—knowing the essential traits or attributes for a happy successful relationship makes it easier to spot possible problems with a potential partner. It also helps those who are already in a relationship to be more maintenance minded. They regularly change the oil, check the engine, and rotate the tires in their relationship. They also keep it clean, inside and out. Cars and relationships are so much more fun when everything is maintained properly and runs right. It also dramatically reduces the necessity for the question, “What’s wrong?”