Saturday, 6 June 2015

Give and take

What's the formula for an enduring relation-ship? How come Jenny and I have stuck together for 34 years and not 34 days? What's the glue that keeps it all going? Well, I can think of one or two things.

1) Respect the need for privacy. If the other person prefers to dress/undress in private, or use the bathroom in private, or just be on their own for a while, why not? Total sharing at all times doesn't suit everyone.

2) Accept those idiosyncracies. We all have odd obsessions and habits - hoovering every ten minutes, or scraping out the marmalade jar, or leaving dirty clothes everywhere - and there's no point in trying to change them. That's how we are.

3) Sharing the domestic chores. If one person is doing the lion's share of the chores, and feeling increasingly resentful, it's a recipe for disaster. It has to be even stevens.

4) Maintain the romance. If all the romance has gone out of the relationship, it's dead in the water. There have to be things that keep you a bit starry eyed, a bit soppy, and hopelessly enamoured.

5) Mutual self-expression. It's all a charade if one person is totally doing their thing, while the other is permanently suppressing themself and being what the other wants them to be. You both need to grow.

6) Shared perspectives. Seeing everyday issues in a similar way is important. How clean you expect the house to be, what to spend your money on, how much socialising you like to do. Total incompatibilities can be fatal.

7) Loving each other's bodies. Even as we get older, and wrinklier, and saggier, we still love what we see. We don't hanker after something younger and fresher. Whatever we look like, it's just fine.

8) Communication.* Whatever's going on inside, let the other person know. Too much secrecy and holding-back, too much image-control, will strangle the relationship.

Or to put all that in a nutshell - plenty of give and take. Oh, and plenty of sweet nothings.

* This one thanks to Dave Martin (see comments)

19 comments:

Helen Devries said...

Plenty of give and take is right!
I sometimes think we are a bit like a pantomine horse, swapping places from time to time as seems appropriate but always together.

Dave Martin said...

All absolutely true Nick, and if I may just add one more to your list - communication. So many relationships fail because people don't talk to each other and keep things bottled up. If you can't be open, honest and talk about your feelings and problems, you're just building barriers that will ultimately destroy the relationship.

Nick said...

Helen: Yes, we're also a bit like a pantomime horse sometimes - tripping over each other and not quite sure where we're going. But somehow we make it through to the next day.

Dave: Indeed, communication. I think I'll add that to the list. Too much secrecy and holding-back and worrying about the other person's reaction will strangle the relationship in no time.

Grannymar said...

My list ...

1. Plenty of give & take.
2. Sharing.
3. Communication listening as well as talking.
4. Laughter - being able to laugh with and at each other.
5. Little unexpected surprises.

Cheerful Monk said...

Yes, long-term marriages --- over 50 years for us now and parallel play.

Nick said...

Grannymar: I thoroughly agree. Especially laughter. We're always giggling at something, we have a heap of private jokes that we trot out regularly. And yes, little unexpected surprises. Chocolates, traybakes, books, all sorts.

Jean: Parallel play is most important. Following your separate interests is invigorating. Living in each other's pockets easily gets stultifying.

John Gray said...

A sense of humour and the ability to go completely deaf help
Too

susie said...

Is that a cat disrespecting that woman's privacy? I can't tell.

Nick said...

John: A sense of humour is a vital lubricating agent. Going strategically deaf helps as well. I read somewhere that when Winston Churchill was bored with someone, he simply turned off his hearing aid.

Susie: Hard to say. The original pic didn't go down any farther so I have no answer. It could be an alien being from Planet Zog.

Bijoux said...

I agree with everything you wrote, but particularly numbers 2 and 6. It's hard for me to believe I've been in the same relationship for 31 years and still get excited when he walks through the door, but it is true.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I know, the number of years clocked up gets harder and harder to believe, doesn't it? Thirty four years, how the hell did we manage that? How come we didn't split up decades ago? It's a little miracle! And yes, I still get excited when Jenny walks through the door!

Rummuser said...

Urmeela and I were married for forty years and knew each other fairly well for eight years before that. I can agree to all that you have listed and one more very important aspect of our experience. My absences from the home on frequent business trips!

Nick said...

Ramana: Clearly absence made the heart grow fonder. Or at any rate it prevented you from coming to blows!

Jenny Woolf said...

I think most people in happy relationships cite mutual respect - which certainly includes give and take.

Nick said...

Jenny: Mutual respect is a good principle. And as you say, involves a bit of give and take.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Everyone in a long-term relationship thinks that they way they've done it is the secret to a long relationship. And yet, couples are different and life is far, far more complicated than that. In fact, the research on what keeps couples married is that more practical facts predict longevity in relationships - such as financial stability and being close in age. I'm not knocking what works for you, I just know from experience and my work, and from the studies I've red, that it isn't as straightforward as you'd like to think. It irritates the bejeebers out of me when people say things like "The secret to a good marriage is never go to bed angry," for instance, when some research has suggested it's better to sleep on it. The truth is, we all blunder through and respect plays a part but so does luck and a variety of other quite individualized factors.

Nick said...

Agent: You're probably right that every couple has their own recipe for staying together over time, and glib formulae are probably way off the mark. In fact I intended the list to refer to Jenny and me in particular, though I can see it comes across as a kind of generalised "this is how it's done" piece. And yes, luck plays a big part as well - even in the pure coincidence that brought us together in the first place.

Liz Hinds said...

Well said, Nick. It's about knowing the other's bad habits and loving him/her in spite of them.

Nick said...

Liz: Exactly. We all have weird habits, so how can someone else accept our habits if we don't accept theirs?