Monday: Relationships and Love: And So on, and So Forth

Today is our 7th anniversary. Officially, if you do like some people do and count only the “wedding” anniversary, then it’s actually tomorrow, and it’s our second anniversary.

We agreed to get married basically on our fifth anniversary, because we hated the idea of changing the date. We have enough dates to keep up with, and this way we can keep counting the years of our togetherness.

Of course, that means that this week’s “Relationships and Love” post is required to be cheesier and more sentimental than it might otherwise be, because she might read this and she’ll expect that from me.

At this point in reading this post, if I’m not glancing over her shoulder, she’ll be looking around to elbow me and tell me I’m more sentimental than she is.The truth is that, like many individuals thrust by life, love, or lust into a partnership with another individual, we vary greatly on the levels of sentimentality we exhibit. I insisted that we had to write our own vows (although I wrote  most of both of ours, I swear she wrote her own paragraph or two). Neither of us really cares about saving every movie ticket or receipt from the dates we have been to over the years. I dig cheesy romantic glbt movies (as long as they aren’t terrible indie films), and Jamie is generally bored with romantic comedies. But we do both get a little smiley when we see another lesbian couple out and about. We share a secret smile. If we see a dad kiss his son or call him by an endearment, we exchange knowing glances. Family makes us sentimental.

I highly recommend getting around children. If you don’t want to raise your own family, as a mentor of mine named Bev Sallee Ophoff will tell you, adopt some (permanently, or borrow someone else’s kids for a while). There’s a refreshing, invigorating energy for life that even a lot of teenagers have that growing up and getting into the working world drains out of us. Young kids are cutely, annoyingly romantic. But, if you have your own kids, you have to develop a balance. Lots of people have kids very early on in their relationship, and I’ve known many couples who had kids because they thought it would mend a downward spiral. Eighteen or so years later, after their whole world has been focused on who their children are becoming, they look at each other and realize they don’t know their spouse. And so many middle-aged divorces occur.

How does that happen? We marry (or court and permacuddle, or become partners with, or whatever you want to call it) someone because we have things in common, because we love how they make us feel, because they complete us, right? People change, and that’s not a bad thing. But for a couple to grow together, they have to have scheduled alone time–with each other, and with some social styles even with themselves. Jamie and I have family time on Sundays–we take the baby out and go hiking or do something adventurous. On Fridays, though, the night is ours. We get a babysitter, preferably outside the house so we can come home and hide out for a while if we want. No talking about the baby is the rule. This is time for you as a couple to keep your relationship alive, and centered around the spark you have together. Even if you have older kids, or no kids, this is still a must. Many couples move in together, stay together a few years, then they get lazy and stop courting. When asked how they were still together after 65 years, one man revealed his secret to Darren Hardy. He said that he had never stopped courting his wife–even after 65 years, he still brought her flowers. Neil Gaiman and Barbra Streisand said it best when they sang about a relationship on the rocks. “You don’t bring me flowers/you don’t say that you need me.”
Since the baby has come along, we have even frequently had to schedule our intimate moments. You might scoff–what’s the point in sex if it isn’t spontaneous? Well, if you have to build up your interest/vitality/libido again after a baby has been tapdancing on your self image for 9+ months, plus all the hormonal madness and schedule changes, you need to schedule intimate time. I recommend picking one night a week (outside of date night, probably) that you expect to do some sexy cuddling. Get into the habit before the baby is born, if you’re expecting. A few weeks in the habit will help tremendously.

I find as I grow older and read more about others’ success, and the most synchronous relationships available for modeling after, I realize that an attitude of gratefulness is the greatest asset in an intimate coexistence. While I can’t brag that I am an expert–I have a short temper and a predisposition to assume the negative in a situation–our lives certainly go more smoothly when I remember to thank Jamie every day for some little thing I have noticed that makes me appreciate her. I love that she always makes sure I get inside OK when she drops me off for work (in case my key fob is failing, which has happened). I love that she does her best to keep our whirlwind lives from destroying our house daily. I love that she sends me text messages throughout the day with pictures, videos, and notes to keep me apprised of our daughter’s antics. But if I don’t tell her I love those things, she doesn’t know I need her to keep it up, to be my lifeline of love and hope in a screaming, phone ringing, angry driver world. And if both of you are working, it’s even more important, because you’re both surrounded by the dregs of negativity. When you come home and unload all that sludge on your partner, it’s no wonder they don’t feel like snuggling with Armus from Star Trek:NG.

Of course, being mean or being nice or romantic or flirtatious or or or… That’s all habit. I recommend that, if you have a smart phone, you program your calendar to alert you a few times a day. Mine tells me to tell Jamie I love her at 9, tell her something nice about her at noon, and kiss her at 3 (when I would be getting home from work). We make a point to kiss goodbye every morning at 5:30 when I’m leaving for work. Sometimes I still forget. But when I don’t, it certainly makes for more pleasant conversation when I get home.

It may be cliché, but just think–what if the last thing they hear you say each day isn’t “I love you?” Don’t let them dream of anyone but you–plant the seed.

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