I had a recent conversation with a co-worker about relationships a subject that we all can assert we know everything about and probably know what is best for everyone except ourselves. Because, hey, let's be honest. It's easier to think you can analyze another person's romantic situation since you're not the one emotionally invested in it (or are you?).
We started discussing various aspects about what makes a relationship work. What do we, as individuals need to do. No situational assessment here. Simply what does a person need to be aware of to make romance more than a fling?
Here's my personal down and dirty opinion.
This Other Person is a Unique Individual:
All those adorable little quirks that you used to fawn over and think were so adorable are about to turn into gargantuan annoyances. No longer will those stray Mountain Dew cans collecting underneath the patio chair become something you roll your eyes at with an “Oh you…” and a wave of your finger in jest. They become a glaring bad habit that begins to scratch at your calves with needle-like claws. Forgetting to clean the cat box, again, becomes tedious. As the odious smells screeches for your attention like a cold fan belt on a winter morning that announces to all your neighbors, “I’m off to work at 6AM! Sorry for the wake up call!” you realize that - holy crap! - you are forever committed to this bad habit.
And you better realize how damn lucky you are. (Just a head’s up: That’s how you are supposed to feel. If you don’t then some serious re-evaluation needs to occur before you strut down that aisle.) If this is the person you truly are willing to commit to then that means accepting each and every albatross about to be strung around your neck.
It means realizing that you will be putting up with their horrible taste in television shows (a new reason to start reading again during those nights when they monopolize the TV with another documentary about mysteries of space or re-runs of Stark Trek: Deep Space Nine). Get ready for the fact that they may not be able to fathom your love of Bravo’s nightly trash-programming and Doctor Who. Accept that they may never fully grasp your obsession with royal biographies and NPR or understand why mayonnaise really does belong on everything sandwich.
Brace yourself that this person’s likes and dislikes may evolve with time. No one is static; frozen in a perpetual state of sameness. They will find new jobs, new hobbies, new friends, new ideas and outlooks. This is all normal – indeed it’s possible that the fundamentals of this person may shift. Yet people are like renovated buildings – the façade may change with new paint and appearances; the supports may shift, come down, and be rebuilt, yet the foundation of that building always remains unchanged.
Your job is to help keep that building in shape. Support it, give it a new touch of paint here and there, and perhaps show it off a bit. In return you get a warm place to live and be happy.
You Are Responsible:
I recall once that a friend was going on about her most recent failed relationship while sitting at my table sobbing into a rather large glass of wine (as people are often wont to do after relationships fail). She detailed her history with evil men whom had seemed wonderful at first before revealing themselves to be soul rendering bastards intent on sucking all light from the mortal plane. This one did this, this one did that, and that one who knows what I was thinking she said over and over. After far too much woe is me and this being the umpteenth time in a year that we had had this boo-hoo fest I decided to get brutally honest. (Out of love, of course.)
I asked her if she knew what all of her relationships had in common. She said she didn’t. “You,” I replied.
Yes. You. You are entirely responsible for your relationship.
No one is making you do this dance. You elected to bind yourself to another human being. That means being kind, sincere, and as loving as possible. And, yes, you should expect the same in return. You need to learn to work around each other's foibles and faults and focus on the inherenet good that they embody.
I, for example, am a giant stress ball; a Gordian knot of frustration and anxiety. Luckily, 99% of the time Fiance has the right words and approach to cut through the rope of it all. Heck, his approach has even helped me come to a point where I can easily calm myself down. Most times, at least.
The other 1% of the time the first and only thing I want to do in a situation is verbally disembowel every person I see. At times, Fiance knows just to leave the room because I’m a furious and rather tempermental landmine that will explode his fragile human meats and organs across the walls with frightening tirade given the chance.
And the thing about loved ones is that you know they are there and, because they love you, they might take it.
Notice the word “might.”
Being a punching bag is not part of any relationship. It is not the other person’s job to take your shit.
So, take a deep breath, suck it up, and go take a walk. Or go do whatever you need to do to get your house in order. Calmly explain what you need from that person in a rational way and they might overlook the fact that you kicked the rice cooker because god damn it screw that stupid rice cooker right in the face because you’re angry and need to curl up in a ball and cry it out.
It might all work out and make you the better person for it. Imagine that…
This other person whom you have willingly attached yourself to will have blow-ups of their own. Unlike how you thought of them in that honeymoon phase of dating when you thought this individual might be some sort of lost golden deity, your star crossed THE ONE who could do no wrong, this person is flawed. This person will make mistakes. This person will have grand fuck ups. This person will sometimes piss you off.
Deal. Be kind. Be understanding. Don’t just listen, but be sure to hear them and what their problems are. Sometimes listening is all that is required of you. Not your opinions, ideas, or judgments. Just your silence as a sounding board so they can get it out.
This does not mean they have permission to turn psycho banshee and shriek at you willy-nilly. Sometimes, though, it happens. You’re each entitled to the occasional meltdown. Part of being in a relationship is throwing on that hazmat suit and doing your best to keep your blissful environment orderly, contained, and left better than it was before.
Now, this isn’t to say that you should become an old screen door to get banged up and disregarded. There are relationships where it really is the other person being a asshole. If the other person is a cheater, liar, is disrespectful, abusive, negligent or just a general cad then good riddance. Remember, what you get out of a relationship has to benefit you (just not ONLY you). If you aren’t getting that then ship off from that dock and set sail.
Screw that person.
But you are responsible. Staying in a bad relationship is your responsibility and choice. You can’t sit around and hope to change this person (see previous paragraphs).
Figure Out What You Need:
Do you absolutely have to have a dog/house/baby/world travel/a date with Lucy Lawless/whatever major thing that can greatly alter the course of Your Life Together? You better be sure that this person must absolutely have that thing out of life, too. Resentment is arsenic to relationships. It’s the ground up glass added to your relationship’s food that makes it sicker and sicker until it suddenly ruptures in a bloody heap on the floor.
No amount of perfection can cover up the fact that this person might not be able to fulfill what you need from life. So sit down and figure out what’s more important: the NEED, if, in fact, it even is a need; or your relationship? You don’t want to be twenty years down the line when that ground up glass hits the kidneys and you devour the person alive in a fit of rage because they never wanted to move to the county leaving you feeling empty and you just can’t take this anymore and RAAAAAAAGHHHBLE!??!?!?!
You Are Only Human:
Sorry to break it you. On the other hand, so is your partner. That makes things easier.
The point is is that you need to love each other unconditionally.
There’s far more to it than just this. There’s keeping the fire alive in the bedroom; if it’s been a while and you’re tired from a long day of work then remember how damn sexy that significant other is and find that last bit of energy to put the spurs to him or her. There’s taking out the trash and who’s turn it is to do the laundry. Finances and who splits what and who makes more and talking about these things because what keeps a relationship alive is talking about these uncomfortable topics that you normally aren’t supposed to talk about.
The best I can suggest is you just do that. Talk.
Talk it over while making a meal or eating a meal. Food makes us happy and it’s a nice mediator between people and topics. Chewing gives you pause, scent offers reflection, and taste allows you to hold your tongue just in case. It’s also a momet to just sit and reflect on why you’re going through all of this. It’s because this person is amazing to you. They are the salt to your pepper, the oil to your vinegar, the cheese to your cracker.
Speaking of cheese, we sometimes do talking at the table with a bottle of champagne and a few cheeses to match. It's something special, a cheese board that's a little bit extra. It gives us a chance to reflect on just how damn lucky we are to have each other. It's also a rather wonderful cheese board for celebrating with friends.
Champagne and sparkling wines, regardless of how sweet or dry they are, love fatty cheeses. Particularly the following:
- Bloomy rind cheeses like Brie or Camembert have a nice yeasty young flavor that compliments the similar profiles of bubbly spirits.
- Triple creams like Epoisses and Red Hawk have fat to cut through the crystal clear alcohol and the alcohol can cleanse away the fat from the milk - a perfect balancing match.
- Truffles and Bubbles? Can it get any better than that? The flavors of truffles pair wonderfully with sparkling wines, particularly Prosecco and Brut. Plus, there's something so wonderfully decadent about such a pairing.
- Mild blues like Buttermilk Blue or Cashel that have intensely creamy flavors and minimal salting offer a slightly pungent bite that isn't put off by the alcohol. It is, admittedly, a more tenuous pairing. Only go for this one if you truly love spiky blues to begin with as the sugar in the wine will make the cheese taste more piquant.