Love Rules: Work on your relationship
Cliche # 5: Work hard at your relationship
This is my penultimate blog. I know! I know! In the last few weeks, I’ve thought so intensively about love, and I don’t know if I’ve said it all. I’ll try and get it all into one piece…
1) Ask an older couple what’s the secret of staying together, they often say: “Well… it does take a lot of work.” This is not inspiring to the middle-aged romantic. “Yup!” we think. “That’s what I need: more work!” The implication is that you must sit down and speak difficult truths. I disagree. I don’t think most relationships need work. Most of them need play.
2) We often read articles designed to improve us. “I know all this,” we decide. “I’m fine… But my partner needs a lot of work.” We pin the article on the fridge like an unpaid bill. We hint, we recommend books, we act like we’re some kind of freakish life coach, who’s there, all the time. And yet I know only one definite rule about loving your partner: accept them. Give them love. Your love will flourish like a great lazy oak.
3) But there is much to threaten it. Every time we turn on the TV, we see celebrities who are sexier, happier than us. Every time we check our e-mails, we are contacted by Olga, who describes herself as a “nice girl who like to chat”. We want to contact her. (“Dear Olga, if you’re a nice girl who like to chat, I suggest you learn English, and put some clothes on: you look like a whore!”). The trouble with most relationships is that everyone is too busy, and too skint, to have fun. Turn off the computer. Walk away from the TV. Go to bed. You may find someone waiting for you. Yes, they may be Googling about holidays.
4) Opposites attract, they say. But I don’t think you’re attracted to your opposite. You’re attracted to someone sexy, then you resent everything they do differently. It must be specially hard, if the eHarmony computer has arranged your perfect match. You’ll get a few months of that drunken first love, and then suddenly you’ll find they don’t empty the bin, and you’ll think: “Nooooo!!! You were supposed to be perfect!” Don’t expect harmony, I say. Expect difficulties, but expect those difficulties are there to teach. When you find a problem, think: now… why is this good? My wife is brisk: I’ve learned to be succinct. She likes manners: I’ve had to learn some. Is that such a sacrifice?
5) The marriage contract has a lot to say about sharing your body, and your worldly goods: the trouble is it says nothing about bath times. Who’s supposed to do them? And whose job is it to find a plumber? In a modern couple, usually one person does a few jobs; the other does everything else, and they’re furious. But in most cases both partners are doing the same amount. (No, really, ladies, tests have been done. OK we fudged the results so that football watching counts as Research.) The point is… you won’t feel love till you stop keeping score. Give your love, I say. Give it with wild generous passion! You’ll be surprised how much you get in return.
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