How to be happy in an imperfect relationship.
Here are a few ways my relationship is flawed.
1. I'm a cleaner person than C. That means 75% of the cleaning falls on me.
2. C can tell me something and a few minutes later, I'll have forgotten what he said.
3. I hate when he drives.
4. He hates that my hair falls out and gets everywhere.
5. I wish he was vegan.
6. He wishes I wouldn't wear his clothes all the time.
...well, you get my drift.
We've now lived together for 2 years. We've made it work for 2 years, despite being incompatible in more than a few ways. Has it always been easy? Nope. Have I ever regretted moving in with him? Never. Do I still love him? Absolutely.
Now, people may claim that one of the reasons we're still happy in our relationship because we haven't been together for 10, 12, 15 years. We also haven't been together through the death of loved ones, natural disasters or other harrowing experiences. That's a completely valid claim, and to that I say, "Yeah, you're right! But we have been through multiple changes in jobs, schooling, and being very very broke together. So there's that."
I've also noticed that quite a few of my friends and acquaintances seem to have very unstable relationships. These people rarely seem even content with their relationship. Instead, things always sound like they're a struggle. Drama, resentment, and strong emotions are always involved. We don't really have that. In fact, I'd say 95% of the time....we're happy. There is very little struggle.
So, why? Why are we happy in this relationship when our relationship has probably as many or more incompatibilities than any other couple.
Here's our secrets:
I can thank my ADHD for this but I still think it stands.
My short-term memory is....poor. My long-term memory consists of remembering big events and forgetting all of the stuff in between. After C and I have had a fight and resolved it, I literally forget about it. I don't bring it up again because I don't really remember what we were fighting about. C is the same way - he doesn't bring up past fights. This makes for a fairly resentment-free relationship.
If you can't forget about past issues as easily as we can, make a concerted effort to not bring up an issue ad nauseum. Once it's dealt with, let it go. Seriously. Whatever you need to do to get over it, do that. Talk it out with your therapist. Write it out in your journal. Give yourself a set amount of time to be angry about whatever, and then after that you're no longer allowed to be upset about it anymore.
Holding on to resentment will ultimately strangle a relationship slowly. So let it go.
2. Joke about the things that annoy the shit out of you.
What better way to make someone aware they are doing that thing that pisses you off than making a joke about it?
If C is doing something that I find annoying, I'll tell him he's "Pissin' me off!" in a loud and obnoxious, over-the-top tone. Guess what? He starts laughing but gets the drift. Everything doesn't have to be a long drawn out conversation. If you guys can joke about the little annoying AF things, you can deal with the issues without the fight. C will say, "Stop being a butthead!" in a certain tone if I'm doing something he doesn't want me to do. We have our little cues and that works for us.
Try it next time your SO is doing something that is frustrating. Make a joke about it or change your tone of voice when telling them you don't like that. Make them laugh while also giving them an idea about your boundaries.
3. Recognize your partner is a human too.
You are not in charge of your partner. You don't own them, they are not your slave, and even if they were, they'd probably screw things up and you'd be annoyed about that too.
So expect your partner to do things you don't like. Expect it and plan for it.
If you know they never put their socks in the hamper, then DONT EXPECT THEM TO PUT THEIR SOCKS IN THE HAMPER. Because they won't, and you'll be disappointed.
Here are the things I don't expect C to do from past experience:
1. Make the bed in the morning.
2. Clean the house up to my standard.
3. Go shopping with me for clothes or decor.
4. Want to go to protests or activism related activities.
5. Go on rollercoasters with me.
Does that mean he's a terrible guy and not a great match for me? No. It just means he's different from me. He's not an extension of me and he doesn't exist solely to please me (Thank God!). In a million other ways, he's fantastic. So when I'm disappointed about one thing, I have a ton of other positive things to draw on and that's what I do. I just shrug, think "Well, that's C," and go about doing whatever it is I need to do to satisfy that thing myself. That may mean doing a bit of extra cleaning after he's done, hanging out with a girlfriend that enjoys an activity I do also, or going to an event I enjoy alone. Whatever.
4. Be a team
If you're in a serious relationship, it should be you and your SO against the world. That means that you work together towards similar goals and under no circumstances do you do things to sabotage or hurt your teammate.
This brings safety and security into the relationship. Someone has your back, no matter what happens. Decisions are decided by both parties and there are no big surprises. There is mutual respect and reciprocity.
Being a team can be hard sometimes. Sometimes, you just want what's good for you and fuck what your SO wants. Unfortunately, if one person in the relationship is overly selfish in a relationship....everything will crumble. It cripples the relationship. The team should always come first.
Happiness comes from getting through life's hurdles together and with a smile on both of your faces.
5. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
I can be sensitive. Sometimes I take things the wrong way. Often, I jump to conclusions.
A great practice that has helped me in my relationship is just to give C the benefit of the doubt. I know that he loves me. I know that he cares for my well-being. So would someone who loves me say something to hurt me on purpose? No.
Sometimes things are said that are taken out of context or placed into a different context than they were intended. And that sucks and it hurts initially....but after thinking about it more, I usually come to the conclusion that it wasn't meant that way at all. When he said my butt looked big in those jeans, he meant it as a compliment. When he said the house was a mess, he meant the house in general....and that has nothing to do with my cleaning ability. When he made fun of my forgetfulness, he was trying to be funny.
You get it.
This is not to say you should stay with someone who is purposefully trying to hurt you or constantly belittles you. I would never suggest that. I'm just saying...if you have a great relationship otherwise, then give them a break when they say something that hurts a little bit. That's what happens when you're with someone a long time. They're bound to say something that will strike a nerve, and you can choose to either let it get to you (and create resentment), or simply let it go.
So, those are our little secrets. I guess they're not that little, are they? I think if you want to take anything away from this, it's just that you need to accept your partner for who they are. And that means accepting them for all the icky parts too. If your partner is 95% good, then hold on tight to who they are as a person, and let go of that 5% that pisses you off. Your relationship will be a lot happier for it. :)