Being in a relationship is incredibly difficult because no matter how many books and articles so-called “relationship experts” write, there is no definitive guide that can accurately dictate how two individuals should operate as a couple.

There is no roadmap that can guide two adults to a place of relationship or marital bliss because every romance is different and each person has their own individualistic idea of what bliss truly looks like. Essentially, we (as couples) are on our own when it comes to walking in love and curating a loving, union, which can present some very difficult and troubling questions.

But perhaps the one internal question that haunts us each the most is, “Can we work through this?”

The main reason I personally hate the #RelationshipGoals hashtag is that it puts our collective attention and importance more on the happy times, despite the fact that surviving the rocky moments is the key to cultivating a lasting relationship.

While it’s cool to praise couples who work out together, travel together, and look nice on Instagram together, real #RelationshipGoals should embody the skills that many couples DON’T have like dispute resolution, maintaining effective communication even when you’re mad at each other, and having the ability to compromise when needed. But far too often, we view relationships through the prism of how great we want things to be as opposed to how we handle the not-so-great times. We never establish a standard for what constitutes effort versus labor, and that’s what keeps many of us trapped in dysfunction.

To understand effort is to understand growth and reconciliation. Putting effort into a relationship is about servicing everything about your love that is in need of patchwork. It’s about getting your communication level back to what it once was. It’s about regaining the spark in the bedroom, so things are just as sexy as they once were. It’s about rediscovering the genuine friendship that bridged your initial path to love.

On the other hand, to understand labor is to understand overexertion and the colloquial definition of insanity. Laboring is about attempting to fix everything that is irreparably broken in your relationship, in hopes of getting your union to a point where it never actually was at in the first place. It’s about trying to make a perpetually abusive mate change their ways for the better, when they’ve never been that way with you before. It’s about attempting to make an unfaithful person transform into a loyal person, when they’ve never been singularly focused on you before. It’s about taking everything that’s wrong with your significant other and attempting to fix them single-handedly, in a desperate attempt to salvage your relationship.

This is as clear of a delineation as one can possibly make. Of course, we all have different ideas of what we consider worth fighting for, but we do each understand the difference between fixing the good things that need work and exerting ourselves to change bad things into a “good thing” that’s never existed.

It’s important that we establish this clear distinction because far too many people are finding themselves trapped in situations of their own making, standing in an imaginary cell, paralyzed with a mutual fear of action and inaction. While I, nor anyone else, can provide you with your own roadmap to relationship nirvana, I am more than comfortable with reminding you about the dangers of investing your entire soul in someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.