This past weekend I watched a British film called I Give It a Year which centered on a subject I’ve been pondering a lot lately: why some marriages/relationships last while others don’t. A common theme I’ve come across in this regard is that real life ruins romance, that the nitty-gritty grind of daily life leaves even the most passionate relationships tasting stale after a couple of years. The movie dealt with this very topic (quite good by the way, if you appreciate British humor).
Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I’m no relationship genius . . . I don’t suppose anyone is really, but least of all someone under thirty. But I have been with my husband for over a decade (married three years at the end of this month) & I can honestly say that our relationship has only gotten better over the years.
Sure, real life has changed our relationship over time, but we haven’t lost our passion because the foundation of our relationship (our friendship) has only grown stronger over time. For example, yes, my husband doesn’t bring me flowers quite as often as he used to . . . But he doesn’t work at a florist anymore either! And he still buys them for me on special occasions or even randomly when he knows I’ve had a bad day & just need a happy surprise to make me feel special. (This happened recently when I woke up with a headache & broke the blender & he knew that I was upset by this turn of events.) More importantly we both still take the time to do the simple little day-to-day things that show each other we really care & are invested in this relationship.
Living together does indeed open up a whole new can of worms so to speak. For example, yes, my husband leaves empty toilet paper rolls in the bathroom all the time, & yes, there is a part of me that wants to scream “How hard is it to just change the roll?!” But then I remember that I do little things that annoy him too . . . And he doesn’t scream at me about those things because we both have the presence of mind to realize that life is far too short to get angry over things that are of no real consequence. So instead of getting angry, we just laugh, roll our eyes, & move on with life. To us this is just the logical way to handle the everyday frustrations of life.
This is not to say we don’t have arguments . . . And, yes, they are usually in the car because we are both very strong-willed & proud & think we’re always right about everything (I’m kidding . . . sort of), especially directions! And, yes, there are definitely times when stress from work spills over into our relationship. But when that happens we call each other out on it & we work to fix it quickly. Furthermore, we’ve always had a “no holds barred” policy in which we can say anything & everything to each other. Perhaps this means we say “mean things” to each other more often than we “should,” but it also means there is never an opportunity for resentment or bitterness to arise between us. To put it simply, I don’t expect him to read my mind, nor does he expect that of me. If something is bothering us, we don’t mince words; we just say it. As my husband recently stated “If you can’t tell your partner to buzz off every once in a while, what kind of relationship is that?” I heartily agree. The important thing is that you get over it quickly & that the underlying anger/frustration isn’t allowed to fester & build into an explosion.
Certainly real life can make romance a bit more “work.” Sometimes my husband & I go days without having any real time together, especially since I work night shift & thus we can literally go days without even seeing each other sometimes . . . But instead of resenting each other for this, we allow the time apart to help us appreciate our time together all the more. And we make the best of the time we do have. We prioritize spending quality time together, knowing that nothing in our lives is more important than our relationship with each other. We take care of each other in various ways, not so much because either of us is incapable of doing things for ourselves but because we realize that life is better together, & thus we take care of each other out of mutual love & affection. We do not view each other as filling certain “roles,” rather we view each other as intellectual equals in a romantic friendship (otherwise known as marriage), each of us having unique but complementing traits. Because we have such a comfort zone together, yes, sometimes we do become the worst version of ourselves around each other . . . But we also see the best version of each other a lot of times too. And the best times are definitely worth all of the worst times.
I guess what I’m trying to say is we never went into our relationship (& thus our marriage, which is really just an extension of the relationship we had prior to marriage) with any fairy tale ideas. Marriage isn’t a fairy tale because LIFE isn’t a fairy tale. It never has been; it never will be. Real life is mundane, stressful, & sometimes even dull. But it’s also full of beauty, joy, & meaning if we look for it in the right places. As someone who grew up watching Disney fairy tales over & over & over, amazingly enough I’ve always had the foresight to understand that no relationship is ever perfect. Everyone fights at times. I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: if I can’t fight (I prefer the term argue actually) passionately with someone, I probably can’t do anything else passionately with them either.
[As an aside, I also think a lot of people have an unrealistic idea of what romance actually is. A lot of people seem to confuse attraction, lust, or passing interest with romance when true romance is so much more. Furthermore, I’ll be so bold as to say that romance isn’t having the proverbial butterflies in your stomach. Real romantic relationships are built around a solid friendship, & real happiness is found with that person who makes you feel comfortable & “at home” when everyone else makes you feel nervous, afraid, or worse yet bored. To me this is just logical & makes perfect sense but apparently it’s a bit more complicated because a lot of the world obviously hasn’t figured it out.]
I hope I haven’t come across as self-righteous or as if I think I have the perfect marriage. I’m just trying to make sense of what I see in the world & to share a message of hope that real life doesn’t have to ruin romance. I know a lot of people say my generation is clueless when it comes to relationships & that we don’t know how to handle marriage, but I want to prove those people wrong. (And I like to think I’m off to a pretty good start.)
From the things I’ve observed in life thus far, I’ve deduced that a lot of people go into relationships & then marriage with the idea that everything is going to be perfect. When real life creeps up on them & they realize that reality isn’t matching up with the fairy tale they imagined, suddenly they think they’ve failed. I don’t know who or what is to blame for this phenomenon . . . I’m sure movies & TV feed into this scenario somehow. But even as a kid I knew that the things I saw on TV weren’t real. As adults we need to grow up & realize that real life is the nitty-gritty day-to-day grind & there’s no reason why that should spoil our fun. I’m not at all suggesting anyone settle for someone with whom they don’t share real passion in all aspects of a mature relationship. What I am saying is that real passion doesn’t have to be worn down by every-day life.
This is why I’m a huge proponent of living together before marriage because it allows you the opportunity to experience day-to-day life together. In so doing, you can figure out whether seeing each other at both your best & worst, with all of the bad habits & general grossness that encompass everyday life, ruins the romance or whether it only makes it grow stronger. (On the other hand I do not encourage rushing into moving in with a new significant other. I am only talking about serious, long-term, committed relationships.) It’s been my experience that when you have the basic ingredients for a sound relationship, a solid friendship combined with physical/romantic attraction, the daily grind of life will not ruin the romance at all. It will only grease the wheels.
**As an afterthought, I should disclose that my husband & I do not have kids yet so I have no idea how that tremendous variable will affect our marriage someday. I can only hope that if we approach our relationship in the same logical but loving way we have for years now that the romance will continue to blossom despite the challenges that I know children can bring into a relationship.
***Here’s a great article that I believe explains what the ultimate relationship should look like. Notice I said ULTIMATE, not perfect. I believe if you have the qualities listed here, the romance & passion will NOT die over time; they will only grow stronger. http://jamesmsama.com/2014/07/09/10-qualities-of-the-ultimate-relationship/
Truly lovely post, and spot on. I will say that kids does change the dynamics, but I think as long as you stick to the basic philosophy you’ve already discovered works (being friends and not sweating the small stuff and doing kind things for each other), then married life will continue to get better. 🙂
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Thanks for the encouraging words.