I know I grew up lucky, in some (ahem, many) ways. Many of my friend’s parents were divorced, and they moved between two separate homes. My parents were together. Perhaps even luckier for me, my parents were happy to be together. Parental yelling matches, dad on the couch or threats to leave are all unfamiliar stereotypes to me.
Perhaps it is because my childhood home was so happy that I find relationships and relationship advice to be such an interesting subject.
I also got married young. In fact, I fell in love young. I’ve been with Ben since I was 16 and got married when I was 23. Young for my generation in both experiences.
Now, as many of my readers will know I am in three unique relationships and navigating life with five romantic relationships under one roof. Each of us values strength, stability and functionality in our relationships and we work hard to build our relationships around these values and our personal needs.
It must be a combination of all these factors that makes me feel entitled to provide some form of unsolicited relationship advice.
But you know that feeling when you see people struggling with something that comes naturally to you, and you just want to help and provide your knowledge and see if you can make their struggle less, their day easier? Yeah that happens to me a lot.
What the Advice Columns Miss About Fighting
I’ve seen all kinds of advice columns reassure their readers that fighting is normal. There’s a couple thoughts I want to unpack here, so bear with me.
Let’s remember for a second that normal doesn’t mean necessary. It might not be all doom and gloom for your relationship if you argue from time to time but if you don’t fight at all, that’s okay too. (I’m assuming you don’t fight because you aren’t disagreeing; please don’t bottle it all up just to say you don’t fight. Remember, it can be normal!)
But then don’t the relationship columns also tend to tell us that if we’re fighting about “the big things”, like money, children or lifestyle, we should run for it because there’s no way to build a relationship when you can’t agree on the foundational aspects of a life together?
So, do we fight and stay because it’s normal or fight and run for it because we want different foundations for our life together?
Go ahead and argue, but not about the big stuff.
If you were a fly on our wall and you could catch us in a rare moment when we’re feeling off-kilter, you know what it would be about?
Yeah, you read that right. Like is it okay to have fries with dinner? Should my husband have brought home the bag of chips I requested or should he have said no because he knows I’m trying to lose weight?
Or can the meal plan be changed, and can anybody spontaneously stop at a store and pick up something that wasn’t on the grocery list?
What’s healthy enough for our healthy lifestyle goals and what’s healthy but not healthy enough?
How do we handle cravings?
We decided to have talks about what getting serious together meant fairly early on. We didn’t want to come out and fight off all the negativity just to find out we couldn’t really build a life together if we wanted to.
Let me be clear: When we talk about money, children (how many to have, how to raise them, etc), our lifestyle (financially, where we will live, what is important and what we don’t need, etc.) we all agree. In fact, we agree easily. There are certainly some compromises but they were all easy to make.
So if you’re asking me (which you didn’t, but you read this far so I’ve got something going for me.), let yourself argue when you’ve got a bone to pick but if you’re not laughing at how silly a bone it was to get worked up over once all is said and done, that’s when you should worry about the fighting.
They say never stop dating, but more realistically, never stop infusing your relationship with the little, every day things that bring you joy.
Okay so “never stop dating” has a ring to it and saying it my way is a mouthful. But hear me out.
I’ve been with Ben for seven years. I don’t want to go to dinner and pretend that he doesn’t know anything about me so we can “date”. But you know what does happen at the beginning of a relationship and should be carried forward?
Finding little ways to brighten each others day. It’s bringing home tea from Tim’s when he knows I haven’t left the house today and could use a pick me up. It’s surprising me with something he saw and bought just because it made him think of me.
It’s different than dating – I think it’s more like showing how successful he was at dating me by showing how well he knows me now.
It’s spoiling each other from time to time. About a week ago Ben offered to pay for my manicure knowing that dinner out would mess with my diet but still wanting to make me feel spoiled.
It’s knowing when he needs time to be an introvert and not burdening him with extensive conversation and crowded situations.
So by all means, keep dating. Recognize that as humans we grow and change so there’s aways new ways we can “get to know each other”…. but as the years go by go beyond “still dating” and make it about knowing and appreciating each other.
Okay just One More Thing…
Hey you’ve read pretty far in to this bit of unsolicited advice – I appreciate that!
This one’s important: Know the difference between joking and teasing. It’s trickier than you think but here’s the key:
It isn’t up to you.
It’s up to whoever is at the other end. For example if you’re making a joke about something your partner doesn’t laugh about (take me and my weight, for example) you’re just teasing and it probably isn’t fun for your partner.
Stick to things your partner can laugh about too. For me – I laugh at my own sense of style because I have enough confidence in it to take a joke from time to time. You kind of have to when you decide to dye your hair blue. So it’s fun for everyone.
Don’t be the person who leaves your partner feeling sad, self conscious or bad about themselves/something about them. Even if you don’t get why they’re so sensitive about something, respect it. As your partner you should be relied on for that.
Well thanks for reading – what are the things you wish you could shout from the roof tops when it comes to relationships?