Sometimes it’s hard not to join in those ‘my boyfriend is so stupid’ or ‘why did I ever get married?’ complain-fests that arise, but I make a point of not participating. Nothing spreads negativity faster than…negativity.
Isn’t it funny how much time we spend on ‘the chase?’ There are so many ways to find someone with whom you want to enter into a relationship. Dance lessons (fun, and good exercise!), the workplace (yikes…), the internet (I’ve seen it work!), you name it. Whatever way you go about it, it’s intriguing, it’s painful--it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Then you find the person you’ve been looking for. The person who also loves jalapeno bagels at breakfast, the only person you’ve met who knows the name of the lead singer of your favorite punk band from high school. You’ve found ‘the relationship.’ And as it turns out, it’s intriguing, painful--and an emotional rollercoaster. You’re faced with a choice: do you throw up your hands and say on to the next one? Or do you dig in and really get your hands (and heart) dirty—and make your relationship work?
Just for the sake of conversation, let’s start with a few tips on option two:
Embrace Each Other’s Interests
Ten years ago, I hated sports. Ten years ago, my husband hated horror movies and TV shows about ghost-hunting. I have had this argument with several friends, friends who think that a good relationship is based on finding someone who shares interests with them. I stand by the idea that it is better to find someone who can share an interest that is unknown to you! What fun my husband and I had when we were first dating; going to baseball games, we weren’t zoning out watching the game, we were completely involved with it, and with each other, as my husband explained to me why people were boo-ing and when not to ‘woo-hoo.’ And now I actually enjoy baseball. But you don’t have to fall in love with your partner’s interest to make this experiment worthwhile. My husband still hates horror movies, but on my birthday he watched a marathon of ghost-hunting shows with me AND went on a ghost hunt with me. That showed that he cared more about being with me and watching me truly enjoy something than he cared about having to engage in something he finds, at best, silly and, at worst, dead boring. Having these different interests keeps things exciting and gives you a chance to sacrifice a little time to take part in something that means a lot to your partner.
Get Away From Each Other
It’s a good idea to give each other space, a weekend away alone to visit a favorite friend, someone you knew when you were just ‘you,’ not ‘you and him.’ The old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder is one of the wiser things I’ve ever seen emblazoned across a coffee mug or an inspirational calendar. When you and your partner have gotten to the point that you can understand what he’s saying even when he’s brushing his teeth and you are basically interpreting grunts and tones, it might be time to get away and remember what you like about living, on your own, not just as part of this union, no matter how beautiful it is. Furthermore, allowing each other time alone and away demonstrates the single most important tenet of any successful relationship: TRUST.
Now, don’t you miss your sweetheart?
Get Away Together
Last November, with the holidays coming up, I looked around our cluttered home and, after watching several episodes of Hoarders, decided I really didn’t want anything for Christmas. No presents this year, honey. No, seriously. We didn’t need anything. Anything material, that is. What we really needed after a particularly busy summer attending weddings, each working several jobs, raising our three-year-old, was time away together. It was such an amazing ‘a-ha!’ moment: there we were, on the plane, sitting next to each other simply because we liked to, not because we were creating a human barrier between our son and cars on the road, talking to each other about all kinds of subjects, ranging in gravity from guilty pleasure movies to bucket lists. Talking to each other because we actually enjoy talking to each other, not because we had to figure out what shade of ‘natural’ to stain the fence. That’s a pretty awesome gift. Visit an old favorite haunt, from the early days of your relationship or, maybe better, go some place neither of you have ever been before, a new landscape to explore and discover together. Friends of mine who, on top of being a long-time couple, work together at the same desk-job, like to go places where they can push themselves to physical limits they don’t get to in everyday life. The look on my friend’s face when she described her accountant husband zip-lining through the forests of Northern California said it all. Suddenly, she was married to Superman again! She had almost forgotten!
After a getaway together, you will be more likely to:
Appreciate, Appreciate, Appreciate
Sometimes it’s hard not to join in those ‘my boyfriend is so stupid’ or ‘why did I ever get married?’ complain-fests that arise over cocktails or across paperwork at the office, but I make a point of not participating. Nothing spreads negativity faster than…negativity. And negativity is poison to a relationship. Poison in general, really. Instead, try bragging about your partner in front of him, go ahead! Embarrass him! That’s fun. In fact, brag about him when he’s not around. Looking for the positive keeps you in that joyful new relationship space. Sure, sometimes it might feel like you are searching for the positive, but kudos to you for making that effort, it pays off tenfold or more. And it goes both ways. In the wise words of The Beatles, “…the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
But it can’t all be a bed of roses.
Learn How To Fight
This might be the most important skill one can foster in any relationship. Because wherever there is a relationship, there is a connection which, by the laws of physics and everything else immutable, will encounter some kind of friction at some point. This can make or break said relationship, depending on how it is dealt with. The art of fighting is really the art of listening, the art of putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, the art of quelling the ego, staying calm, confident and approaching the conflict from the place of love that created the relationship, the connection (and therefore the friction!) in the first place. In simpler terms, it’s natural to want to defend yourself in a conflict, especially when the person to whom you are defending yourself is quite possibly the one person from whom you really want constant acceptance and harmony. It’s a good rule of thumb in an argument with your partner to allow yourself a little time between retorts, give yourself five seconds or so, enough of a break to imagine that somewhere in that bonehead’s point of view there is a tiny grain of sense. What is your opponent’s, er, I mean partner’s, motivation? Why are they acting this way, really, why? Knowing what they are trying to accomplish can swiftly diffuse your own anger and resentment. And, maybe the tallest order, try not to walk away in the middle of the conflict. Leaving a disagreement without closure can cause the wound to fester, rather than heal. In the world of screenwriting, the masters say there are no villains, just characters with different motivations.
Even Freddy Kruger wants to be loved.
And so does your partner, and, admit it, so do you. So, in the midst of the intriguing, painful, emotional rollercoaster of your relationship, it might be worth giving it a shot.