Do you get sucked into those online articles about what makes relationships work, how you can improve your relationship, or ‘the four things every successful relationship must have’?
I’m afraid I do, and they always leave me feeling defeated, because generally I can’t identify with any of them.
I suppose I’m drawn to them for some sort of reassurance, to check I’m doing something right in my life, (even though sometimes it feels harder than it should), and that we’re on the right course.
But he never sends me flowers impulsively, I never get a heart-shaped Brazilian to surprise him and we rarely admit how much we love each other.
I was shamed the other day when one such article asked how often you show your partner gratitude, and I couldn’t think of one nice, unselfish thing I’ve done for the old man in the past five years. It pains me to admit it, but when it comes to rash demonstrations of love, the old man is better at them than me – probably just his way of making me feel even more inadequate.
But it’s easier for him. He’s always been more tactile – a bit of a groper, if truth be told.
Do you ever look at your friends or other couples and wonder how they work together? It’s impossible from the outside to define why some relationships work and others don’t and my personal belief is that it’s dangerous to over-think them. There are so many uncontrollable factors that can trigger a relationship breakdown, such as timing, upbringing, the changes that come with age, as well as changes to our personal circumstances and goals.
I’m far from a ‘smug married’ – our friends will all vouch for the fact that the old man and I have teetered on the edge of a marital volcano since he stammered out the words ‘I do,’all those decades ago.
Nevertheless: here’s my guide to how we endure our crazy marriage:
Equality, and not being a doormat – and that is aimed at both sexes. Unbelievably, many women’s magazines still continue to propagate the idea that women need to make their men feel loved, appreciated and superior, in order to keep them. Apparently, we need to rub their ego with butter and reaffirm their status as the hunter – even when we contribute to fifty percent of the relationship.
‘BULLSHIT!’ I say.
Don’t get me wrong, ‘door-matting’ is not about giving up work to raise your children, or doing the lion’s share of the cooking. But it IS about not arguing your point when you feel strongly about it, doing most of the chores because it’s easier, or allowing your partner to demonstrate his/her lack of respect for you. Door matting is when you don’t feel worthy or equal in your partnership, and do nothing about it.
Spending Time Together – I’m lucky because the old man is my best drinking partner. While many of my girlfriends, (like me), are beginning to lose their tolerance for more than a couple of glasses of wine due to the savageness of the ageing process, the old man has upped his intake, and we have our most heated and interesting discussions when we drink together. Other than drinking, we have very little in common and as I’m never going back out on a golf course and the old man would rather stick needles in his testicles than go to a writer’s festival, a mutual appreciation for good food may become our future hobby, once I completely resign myself to having no waist.
Intimacy – every psychologist will tell you that ‘touching’ is important. I’m naturally crap at it, but the old man is a pro when it comes to pawing – to the point that he irritates the fuck out of me sometimes, a feeling I can only explain by comparing his behaviour to that moment you hear a fly in your bedroom in the middle of the night. But secretly I kind of love it.
We’re far from traditional cuddlers – we can’t get physically further apart from each other in the bed due to excess body heat issues, (Note to self: avoid reading any article about what your sleep position says about your relationship), but he’s an impulsive, cuddler – the type that will try to grab at me in the kitchen, (usually when I’m carrying something hot), and then wonders why he gets swatted.
Arguing – we are the worst bickerers. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s unavoidable when you put an over-proud, opinionated bitch and an arrogant, over-opinionated asshole together. Kurt has been a contributing catalyst over the past few years, too. Fortunately, our spats are hot air for the most part; sparks and smoke that we can put out ourselves without calling 000, and we rarely go to sleep on an argument.
That is, unless he hasn’t admitted he’s wrong, obviously.
I see arguing as being honest, and if your relationship is strong enough to sustain it, I see nothing wrong with it.
Humor and laughing together – The ability to laugh when things are good and laugh when things are bad is ‘a must’ for marital survival in my book, and the old man and I excel in this area. Being able to laugh at each other is important too. I’m very good at laughing at the old man. He’s learning how to laugh at himself. He knows NEVER to laugh at me.
Wanting Your Marriage To Work – Neither of us went into this marriage with the aspiration that it had to work out. I came from divorced parents, so I assumed our marriage wouldn’t last, but we both agree now that the alternative and the effort involved in finding someone new, is a terrifying prospect – made more appalling by the embarrassment of having to get naked in front of a stranger.
I’ve always been a fervent believer in the ‘grass being greener’ philosophy of life. In past relationships I’ve been blindside by that lush, fertile, greener grass and now know that few relationships maintain that vivid colour of the early years; hence the need for real depth, respect and commitment.
There has to be a meeting of minds.
But no marriage is perfect, either – sometimes I’m appalled at the level of inane conversation we can waste our breath on these days about domesticity and the cost of food.
Giving Each Other Space – Doing your own thing, having your own interests and friends, chasing personal goals and living a life independent of your relationship keeps our relationship fresh.
Furthermore, our separate lives give us something to talk about on date night.