Next week, we will be celebrating our 15 year anniversary.
15 years. Wow.
That may not seem like long for some people but to 2 people who are somewhat phobic of commitment, I think it’s quite a feat. 15 years ago, I wasn’t someone who wanted a relationship. I didn’t feel any need to be in a relationship. I liked my personal space and had my own objectives, plans and things that I just didn’t want to have to share with anyone. Then, Lois came into my life. Totally not planned. I was getting ready to head off to law school and had no intention of letting one little relationship interrupt my plans.
As we’ve had some major life events occur, we’ve been very aware of our ups and downs and don’t take anything for granted, especially when it seems like so many of our friends/family have gone through break-ups and divorces during that time.
I used to think love was a simple thing. I used to think it was easy and blissful, that you never questioned your love or solidarity. I thought couples that have been together for decades just have unwavering deep-seeded love that nothing can test. I thought that if a conflict or incompatibility arose, the relationship wasn’t meant to be and it was over. I have learned a few things about relationships that I was totally unaware of when I was 23. And some of these things may be common sense to everyone, but I DIDN’T KNOW THESE THINGS:
- Love conquers all. It’s not LOVE that gets you through all of those challenges, it’s LOVE that helps you focus on the real problems, solutions and gives you the patience to see them through. Love isn’t a magical thing that cures all, it’s the magical thing that helps YOU MAKE THE CHOICES on how to keep it together. And I can still learn a lot about love. Enough said. It’s a dynamic scenario. Nothing is fixed. Roles can change, people can change, the world changes and you always can learn something new about your partner, your family and your relationships.
- Meant to be = Easy is a crock. I thought that “if it’s meant to be, you won’t have to work at it”. So, that’s not true. I guess I’ve learned that everything requires the ability to grow and see differently. We don’t always see eye-to-eye but we argue and disagree from time-to-time. I don’t think we ever “fight” and we definitely don’t level personal or hurtful things at each other – I’m surprised at how many married couples I know that do attack very below the belt. I’m not sure I could deal with that.
- Communication. This goes hand in hand with the “working through the hard times” thing. I guess I thought when I was frustrated in a relationship or wasn’t on the same page, I just figured it was over and I’d move on. Apparently, this communication thing can really resolve a ton of those little things that are really nothings (that you made into big somethings before you learned how to communicate). And then, during and after the communication, we worked on those things together and animosity and apathy were forgotten.
- Compatibility. I thought that to be compatible, you had to enjoy the same things. I love to travel, love golf, love skiing and winter sports, love the beach and kayaking, etc. Lois hates the beach and feels like salty, sea air is dirty (not the essence of life that I think it is). She will never ski and doesn’t understand why anyone would want to do something outside on a mountain in 0 degree weather. She will never understand why anyone loves golf. I drink, she doesn’t. But it’s the differences in the way we do things and the hobbies/activities we like that allows us to ham-and-egg it with our kids. Plus, there’s no jealousy or animosity when we do our own things without the other person, because the other person actually doesn’t want to participate anyway!
- Envy/Jealousy. Everyone LOVES Lois. It can be hard to watch someone get more attention, do better at things, receive more compliments, etc. When it’s your partner, you can be supportive at first, but ongoing praise heaped onto your partner and not you COULD create feelings of frustration. I have a partner that is often complimented, over and over and over again. Lois is so sweet, she’s so wonderful, she’s such a great cook, she’s such a hard worker, she’s so easy to get along with, she’s so blah blah blah blah. In law school, I joked that my friends were only my friends because they wanted to see Lois (and her cooking) on the weekends. There were very small and fleeting moments when this bothered me. But it usually only bothered me when I was in a cranky or fixed mindset. Otherwise, I’ve accepted that she’s pretty damn awesome and I know how damn lucky I am.
- Romance. My wife is not romantic. At all. We have this love and desire for the romance we see in the movies. I think it’s easy to want to be constantly wooed, forever. Lo doesn’t believe in bringing home flowers or chocolate or preparing a bubble bath with candles. Flowers are a waste of money, we don’t need the chocolate in the house and she’s not into baths. But I’ve realized that I don’t NEED those things to feel loved. In her mind, bringing me home coffee creamer, surprising me with getting my car an oil change or other practical things are expressions of how much she cares about me rather than flowers. Maybe every now and then when I do feel like I need a little bit more romance than that, I may need to COMMUNICATE (See #3)
- Time, attention and Sunday Mornings. We all need a little individual attention. As parents who work different schedules, it’s not easy to have real time to talk to each other when we’re not home together much to begin with, let alone the time that is sucked up my the care and attention you are giving the children. Since Lois can work nights or late days, and practically every weekend day, it’s not easy to find the quiet, peaceful time to chat. Lately, it’s been every other Sunday morning. She works at 4 am some Sundays, but others she doesn’t go in until noon (wahoo!). Those Sundays are when we have coffee in bed, a kid comes in and hangs now and again and we get to talk about the week, future plans, how our friends are doing, etc. It’s a time where we’re not thinking about how messy the house is, how many things we need to be doing, etc. we are having coffee and being attentive to each other. What a concept.
- Games. Testing and games are more common in relationships than I realized. And now I know it’s silly and not necessary. What I mean by this is those moments when you may feel a little unloved or you haven’t had sex in a while, so you withdraw and act aloof to test your partner on how in tune they are to your needs. It’s the “if you really loved me, you’d know what I’m unhappy about and you’d fix it” mentality. I may (cough) have done this in the course of the relationship and realize that going back to COMMUNICATION (See #3) is far more helpful than this testing thing.
- Talk. We talk about everything. I try not to bore her with work stuff or every single thought that comes into my head. But my friends should know that any secrets you tell me, I will tell Lo (unless you specifically tell me not to – which still only lasts for a day or two).
- Judgment and Baggage. Everyone comes in with baggage. Everyone. Sometimes, it’s ex-partners, kids, family issues (in-laws, *cough*), tragedy, emotional issues, etc. or maybe even just being a newbie to a mature relationship. Real compassion is being able to see the person through that baggage, accept the baggage, forego judgment on the baggage, and let your partner do the same.
[NOTE: The concept of BLAME could be a #11, but I think 1 and 2 can go hand in hand when talking about blame. When things aren’t going well, it may be easy to blame your partner, but we also have a tendency to blame LOVE itself – i.e. “I guess our LOVE wasn’t strong enough to get through this” – instead of looking at the solutions or choices we may be unwilling to consider.]
I’m developing and growing in every part of my life. I acknowledge that. I don’t know all and can’t tell others how to live in their own relationships. But I feel like I’ve had some epiphanies here and there that I do want to share, hoping it helps or reminds someone of their own challenges – the challenges that are
I have also learned that some people are just not meant to be together. The mindsets, the differences, the attitudes aren’t dynamic and they won’t ever find long-term compatibility. That happens. A lot. It doesn’t mean you are a failure, it means that the relationship of 2 fluid and changing human beings just wasn’t going to survive the long term even with all of the work and communication in the world.
I hope we are a couple that does survive the odds and when we are having those little challenges (or big ones), we can turn to the things we’ve learned so far, remind ourselves of the real true compassion we have for each other and persevere…continuing to develop together. And, for us, we always have to keep our sense of humor.