Remember back in the day when you and partner were crazy in love, and you just couldn't wait to start your life together? You just couldn't get enough of each other. You thought your partner was the greatest thing to come along since sliced bread, and you knew you were just made for one another. Your head would swim with all sorts of romantic notions of how life was going to be so perfect once you made a commitment to be together forever, and started your home. So in love, so happy. Forever, and ever.
I'm sure you remember the fantasy of how perfect your relationship, your life, was going to be. You thought you knew your partner better than you knew yourself. You always had fun together, and you agreed about everything. Every day was going to be blissful, and full of passion and romance just because the two of you were together. I suppose magic elves did the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the bill paying, the budgeting, and grocery shopping. I believe the elves also put gas in the car, ran all the errands, did all the yard work, scooped the litter box and took the dog out. Neither of you would ever be too tired, or too busy for sex. Which, by the way, would always be exciting and sizzling hot. Your partner didn't ever leave their socks on the floor, or hang the toilet paper the wrong way. They didn't snore, or hog the covers. And though you knew they had to come from somewhere, they surely didn't have a life outside of you, or before you, complete with parents, and siblings, and friends, relationships past.
You never had that fantasy? Okay, so maybe I exaggerated just a bit. I mean surely no one is naive enough to think relationships are all good times and no bad. But, I think most of us do enter our committed relationships a bit blinded by love, and still viewing our partners through rose colored glasses. We don't think about how the everyday pressures of life will impact our relationship. But anyone whose been in a long a term relationship knows, eventually the honeymoon will end, and you'll begin to see each other in a whole new light. You start to see the socks on the floor and the colony of wash cloths that grows on the bathroom counter. But you are sure, that in time, you can train your partner, mold them to your will. Over the years you will try many tactics to win the "proper way to hang the toilet paper" war. Little do we realize that the little things we battle over when we first move in together, are more than likely going to be the same things we bicker about 20 years later.
When Betty Please and I moved in together, I never imagined I'd become so uptight about socks. I don't understand why it is so hard to grab your socks up off the floor and put them in the laundry basket the next time you're headed that way, and she doesn't understand what's the big deal if the socks hang out on the floor for a while longer. It is something we will never see eye to eye on. After 13 years of living together, I have come to realize we are engaged in a sock cold war that will likely last our lifetime. The thing that's funny about the sock war, is that it's such a little thing, and yet we can't work though it to solve the problem. Of course, that would require that we both see it as a problem. Somehow in our years together we've survived real relationship stressors like money, sex, in-laws, job changes, grad school, house buying, seven year itch, grieving the loss of grandparents, and depression and anxiety, but socks, no we just can't get past the sock issue.
So just how is it we can get through the hard stuff in life, but we can't tear down the wall in the sock war? I guess I sort of answered that earlier when I said we both have to see the socks as a problem, and we don't. But, when the real hard stuff in life comes along, we both recognize that there is a problem, and we put aside our sock differences and focus our efforts as team to work out a plan to get us through. And I do believe that to have a successful relationship, you must think of yourselves as a team.
Working as team with Betty Please has never been difficult. We have so much in common, in the sense of goals, views, attitudes, morals, and similar upbringings, that we are usually coming from the same place and of one mind when it comes to solving a problem. And if we ever do disagree on how to handle a problem, we talk out an agreeable compromise. We both trust that we are each working in the best interest of team us, so compromise is never difficult to reach. In order to get to a good compromise you must have good communication.
Most any relationship advice you read will tell you communication is key if you want to have a successful long lasting relationship, and I'd have to agree. Good communication is important. You really can't get through the tough times with out good communication, even if hurts a little at the time. You've got to let each other know what's going on. You may possess some rare gift of mind reading, but the rest of us are not clairvoyant. Don't not talk about things because it's hard, and you don't want to deal with it. I know it's easy to avoid talking about things, I'm certainly guilty of that myself, but don't wait until a problem reaches critical mass before you address it with your partner. I suggest setting up a regular time when the two of you can sit down together and have a team meeting at which time you can discuss money, division of choirs, kids, schedules, life, your in-laws, worries, your sex life, or whatever. Don't wait until one party is so dissatisfied by something that it turns into a fight. Also, it's important to remember that half of good communication is listening. Really listening. Not half listening while you formulate a response. And sometimes listening is just about wanting to be heard and understood, not about problem solving.
Along with communication, staying connected as a couple is very important to surviving the hard times of a relationship. Of course losing connection as couple can also be a cause of hard times in a relationship. But when times get tough, we have tendency to withdraw and maybe hold back from our partners. Well I say, when times get tough, go out on a date. If money is tight, and maybe that's the cause of your woes, plan a date night in. Just make sure you do something fun together. Make each other laugh. Reminisce about the good times you've had together and remind yourselves why fell in love with each other. In good times and in tough times, don't underestimate the importance of a regular date night. Also, life gets busy, but don't let sex become your last priority. It is important not only to maintaining connectedness, but also for your physical and psychological well being. Schedule it if you have to. Make date night, date night.
Our life certainly turned out nothing like the fantasy I had in mind. I mean, where are the magical elves who do the housework and such, and what happened to all the hot sex we'd never be too tired for. Throughout the 16 years of our relationship, Betty Please and I have worked through a hard time or two. I don't really remember much of the hard times, how we got through them, or ever thinking that our relationship wouldn't survive it. I always knew we'd survive whatever because we had each other, and I knew she was as committed to team us as I was. I guess that's why when I think about hard times in a relationship, all I can think about is the sock cold war. The conflict we can never resolve, but don't lose any affection over.
I've always lived by the philosophy that you only get as much out of a relationship as what you put into it. Every day I put all I can into it, even on the days when I'm not feeling it. In fact, those are the days when it's important to give to the most. But anyway, I'm always looking for new tips and inspiring words. Here are few that I've found.
thepracticalpastorswife, who blogs at The Practical Guide for Pastors' Wives wrote these tips passed to her from her father
THE SIX MOST IMPORTANT WORDS
"I admit I made a mistake."
THE FIVE MORE IMPORTANT WORDS
"You did a good job."
THE FOUR MOST IMPORTANT WORDS
"What is your opinion?"
THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT WORDS
"If you please ..." (Although Ken would've said "as you wish," since he was a Princess Bride fan.)
THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT WORDS
THE ONE MOST IMPORTANT WORD
Kristy who blogs at She Just Walks Around With It writes
Being Passive-Aggressive is destructive to you, to your partner, and to your relationship. It is also dishonest. It is your job, as a grown-up, to say yes when you mean yes and to say no when you mean no. If you aren't sure how you feel, it's not your partner's job to figure it out.
This piece of advice just made me laugh, not because it's not true, but because when I asked BP how she thought we got through the hard stuff in our relationship, she said "passive aggressive use of socks."
Chelsi who blogs at Girls Are Strange pretty much sums up how I feel about relationships in general. If you don't pick the right person to begin with, it will never work.
My advice: You can love someone to death, but that doesn't mean you like them, or that they like you. So, date someone you like. Someone who likes you back. Someone who makes you really good mix tapes. And, someone whose baby you wouldn't mind having should your birth control decide to stop working. That's the best I got.
For other resources check out:
10 Tips for a Good Relationship
10 Tips to improve your relationship with your spouse NOW
10 Tips Using Feng Shui for Love
What about you, what tips do you have getting through hard parts of relationships?
Zoe is a BlogHer Contributing Editor (Life-GLBT). She also blogs her everyday life at gaymo.
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