“Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!”
“Seven Secrets of Successful Couples Revealed.”
Get in line at the checkout of any store and these headlines pop out at you, challenging you to pick it up off the rack and add it to the cart full of stuff you probably don’t actually need. You thought you were happy with your relationship, but maybe those “successful couples” know something you don’t.
We’re cultivated from birth, in our culture of consumerism and vanity, to always look for the next best thing. Nothing is ever supposed to be good enough. There’s always a better version around the corner. And there are magazines, commercials, and all other forms of marketing there in the background whispering, always whispering, that you’re probably not as happy as you should be. With yourself, with your thighs, with your food, with your children, with your relationships; you don’t even realize it but as a woman everything about you is under a slow, steady, never-ending merchandising attack.
Stop at the magazine rack the next time you‘re at your local bookstore and note the difference in headlines. Ironically, the Men’s Magazines and the Women’s Magazines might feature a beautiful woman on the cover, but for completely different reasons. When was the last time you saw a Men’s Magazine that said “10 Sex Moves that Will Blow her Mind and Bind her Heart”? The sexism of the media and advertising has been much debated over the years but all you really have to do is walk through a store and pay attention to what lines the aisles; the differences between how things are labeled for men and women.
Women: Your wrinkles, laugh lines, cellulite, graying hair, dull uneven skin, lifeless or limp tresses, saggy arms (boobs, thighs, butt, whatever) are all HORRIBLE. You will hate yourself forever if you don’t fix them. Your children are not smart/cute/advanced/gifted/spoiled/organic/indulged/enlightened/etc.. enough and will grow up to be gang banging serial puppy murderers if you don’t catch up. Your relationship is NOT happy! You’re deluding yourself if you think it is.
Men: You need to increase your physical and sexual performance, take this supplement. Look at this half naked model on the cover; she likes puppies and her turnoffs are drama, carbs, and puffy-beer bellied men. You should work out more. You should also eat lots of meat, drink lots of beer, watch lots of sports, and be practically chained to your grill.
Yes, that was a very sexist view of the marketing strategies aimed at women and men and it represents just the two extreme sides but really… walk through a store and really look around. If you’re not offended, then I applaud you. Eventually, we’ll go into depth about the garbage that bombards women from the day they’re born and makes them so neurotic, but that day is not today.
Today I want to focus on relationships. Now, you might ask why I lead in to this subject the way I did and there are a couple of reasons for that.
1.) American culture presents relationships and the associated value of said relationships differently to men and women.
2.) Men and Women have been trained to view relationships differently.
3.) There’s a good chance that something is sabotaging your relationship and you don’t even realize it.
4.) It’s my blog and I can lead in to a topic any way I want. So Nyeh!
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way:
We’ve all be taught to look for the fairy tale. True, all consuming, match made in heaven, they lived happily ever after, love. The pieces will fall together perfectly and it will seem almost effortless. Even when you fight it will be (relatively) easily resolved. “I’m Sorry” always heals all wounds.
Wow! What a load of CRAP! You might find your perfect match and it might feel like that – for a little while. But all relationships eventually require work. They will not always be perfect. You will argue. You will fight. “I’m sorry” sometimes won’t count for shit.
Now we can move on to the real heart of the relationship issue:
Women learn early that a relationship is essentially required in order for her to be complete. Men, however, are taught to be complete on their own. This isn’t anything new and really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. But for some reason, I’m fairly sure I can hear the indignation of the women reading this right now.
“I don’t need a man to complete me!!!”
And you’re right. You don’t.
But, chances are, you’re still acting and thinking like you do. See, a woman secure in herself and her relationships reads that and thinks “That doesn’t apply to me.” She gives a little shrug and moves on to a different blog. She doesn’t get upset or defensive. She also doesn’t buy magazines because they have such enticing articles as”2012 – your astrological predictions for lasting love”.
If it makes you feel any better, I’m with you. I still get defensive; just not as often as I used to.
The more aware you are of yourself and your surroundings (including the little landmines that try to sabotage your relationship and self-esteem) the more you’ll be able to be like the confident woman who read that and clicked the little “x” on their browsers thinking “Wow, what a completely ridiculous thing to say. That blog totally doesn’t apply to me.”
The more aware you are, the more you’ll challenge the way you view things. Why do you think your wrinkles are ugly? Why do you think your cellulite makes you less attractive? Why do you think the stretch marks you gained while creating life are hideous? Where did you get the idea that you have to wait for someone to sweep you off your feet? Who do you think has the perfect life and why do you think so? How much airbrushing do you think that model needed?
You’ll challenge yourself so much, in fact, that you could end up viewing everything in your life differently. But you have to be willing to ask and answer the hard questions. You have to give up your current mindset (” This is wrong with me”) and adopt a new one (“this is right with me”).
In all relationships (friends, lovers, family, etc…) each person brings something to the table and needs something in return. Both parties come with baggage, surprises, and scars. But they also come with unique views and, hopefully, characteristics that can help you achieve a better personhood. See, a good partner won’t complete you (sorry, Jerry Maguire fans) but it should assist you in your personal evolvement. It should be something that you can grow with, something that gives you room to be yourself, helps you feel secure to become the person you’re supposed to be, and provides support, encouragement, and love in times of setbacks or frustration. Just don’t expect it to always be perfect. Because, there is no such thing as perfect.
I’m not going to give you a list of the top ten things you should do to make your relationship better.
But I will tell you what I’ve observed Happy couples doing. I say happy as opposed to successful because… how do you judge success in a relationship? Longevity? A couple can be miserable but stay together for 60 years. So… let’s go with happy.
1.) They respect each other: They might tease, joke, or play around. But they have a mutual respect for each other’s feelings, opinions, and input.
2.) They feel secure together: I think that a small degree of jealousy can be a good thing. You should feel protective of your relationship and partner because it holds high value to you. But at the same time, you should feel that your partner is as dedicated to your relationship as you are. You should feel completely secure in yourself and how your partner feels about you.
3.) They’re open, honest, and accepting with each other: They have nothing to hide from each other, so nothing is hidden. They wouldn’t think twice about saying “Hon, there’s an email from my sister on my account with the address, would you mind printing it out while I finish getting ready?” They know how each other feel, they express their feelings without fear, and they’re not afraid to have detailed billing on their joint cell phone account. Usually, if someone acts like they have something to hide it’s because they’re hiding something.
4.) They still say please and thank you to each other: In other words, they don’t take it for granted when their partner does something for them.
5.) They’re still affectionate towards each other: even when the super passionate period cools off. Small touches, protective gestures, and loving body language are the little physical I love you’s that show in a happy couple.
6.) They make decisions as a couple and keep each other informed: This goes hand in hand with respect. No one person has the full power to make all the decisions and no critical information is ever held back.
7.) They have similar interests, opinions and hobbies, but they are not attached at the hip. They’re as comfortable doing their own thing as they are doing things together.
8.) They’re both willing to work when things get difficult: It’s never a one sided relationship. No one wins, no one loses. They both win when they work things out.
9.) The good is more valuable than the bad: These people place more value on the good times than they dwell on the bad times. The good things they share are worth more to them or are enough to make the bad times easier to get through/work out. They can go through a stretch of hell, when everything looks bleak, and it seems to last forever. But, no matter how bad it gets, they work through it together without forgetting how they feel about one another.
10.) They mean it when they say “I’m sorry” and they understand that forgiveness doesn’t come with a time-table. Little things are forgiven with a kiss while large ones are forgiven through mutual effort and willingness to forgive.
I’m sure there are many nuances to these happy relationships that I’ve missed. But those seem to be the common; underlying themes to every couple I know who is truly happy.
The world, your friends, the media, without even trying, is going to try to sabotage your happiness. So I guess the only thing I’d add to this list is that when you feel angry, or hurt, or upset, or unhappy in your relationship; that you ask yourself “why” you feel that way and then answer honestly. Is it a “toilet seat” issue? (the equivalent of being angry because you sat down on the cold, porcelain rim of the toilet or almost fell in – in other words, something you should let go of.)
Is it something that needs to be thought about further? Is it something that needs to be discussed?
You might learn something about yourself, what you expect/need from a relationship, and, at the very least, why you respond to things the way you do.
Do not let the media, society, your family, or even this blog tell you how to be happy. Question yourself and what you think you know. Next time you’re in a grocery line and you’re thinking you want to pick up a magazine, get the one with the collection of 30 minute meals. It’s less likely to make you dislike your body, your home, and your relationship.
And keep in mind that I’m divorced and currently single. So I probably know absolutely nothing about the actual practice of building a solid, lasting relationship. I can only try to interpret what I see, be happy with who I am, and try to implement it when I find a partner I feel is worth it (and me).
Oh, and I avoid magazines that have headlines that say “Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!. Really? 10 tricks to a strong relationship? Something about that just doesn’t sit right with me.