Finding love isn’t easy. Flirting, dating, love-making, moving in together, and then inviting friends to celebrate your union sounds like a simple route, but is it? There are plenty of ways to get it wrong. Here’s how to avoid them.
If in doubt, speak up
What did you mean by that? Five words usually only heard during an argument. However, if they are used less pejoratively they can reduce misunderstandings, and may even prevent arguments in the first place. Both men and women share basic human characteristics; one being a tendency to make assumptions, and another that they can listen to only one conversation at a time. Put these together and chaos will ensue! Your partner is constantly processing and making assumptions about what you say and do, as well as having a conversation inside their own head about what you’re saying. It causes them to miss whatever else you might be saying and so it’s little wonder that he or she makes up ‘stuff’! Instead of inventing and imagining, just ask a better question instead. The worst that can happen is finding out that this person isn’t for you – but isn’t it better to find out earlier rather than later?
Don’t assume that the ‘whiz-bang’ and ‘fireworks’ will last
At the start of a romantic relationship, men have a surge of hormones normally associated with women (oestrogen being the most obvious). This surge causes him to be more caring than usual. However, it will wear off. At the same time, a woman may feel a surge of hormones that are more usually associated with men (such as testosterone). She may become – how can I say this delicately? – perhaps more ‘frisky’ than usual! Sadly, that too will diminish, and when all that chemistry wears off it can feel like the other person has ‘changed’. The fact is, they have. They’ve changed back to the person they were before all those evolutionary-biological responses kicked in. The thing is, it’s natural and normal, so be prepared for it.
Be honest about what irritates you
Most people really struggle to say with any clarity what it is they really want from their life-partner. They may be able to place a supermarket order, choose from a menu and pick a holiday, but when it comes to being clear about what kind of relationship they want, most people find it hard to say what they mean. Try it. Casually ask what your partner wants from the relationship and see what you get. More often than not, she or he will either be defensive, talk in platitudes, make light of the question, divert attention to something else, or in some other way not tell you. However, just ask what irritates them and in most cases they’ll tell you! It’s easier to say what we don’t want than what we do want.
Everyone can remember something that either irritates, frustrates, or ‘pushes their buttons’. These memories make it easier to talk about because they are real, as opposed to some kind of relationship nirvana they may actually not have experienced yet. Once asked, it’s natural they return the favour and ask you. Therefore, you get to tell them what they should avoid doing without having to experience it first. However, if they don’t return the favour, it pretty much speaks for itself – so expect to be irritated. If they go on to do what you’ve specifically asked them not to do, then know where you stand. You have the choice to either put up or shut up, but at least you get to know early doors.
Be clear about what kind of life you want to live
Town or country, one child or a hockey team, career or lifestyle… the choices go on. They are serious issues that deserve to be aired, but all too often don’t show up until a choice has to be made. The choices don’t need to all be about the big stuff either. How about: To shower every day or not? Dogs, cats or no pets at all? To eat at the table or on the lap? The list goes on. The small stuff will become as important as anything if it becomes a wedge between you. All relationships develop cracks, that’s only natural, but if a wedge finds its way into one it’ll push the crack wider and wider until a small problem becomes huge. All you need to do is be genuinely curious. These are things you need to know, so start asking. Find out, and when the cracks come they’ll heal themselves.
Be brave enough to put your relationship ‘through its paces’
Most of us aren’t brilliant communicators. We often find it difficult to say what we mean in a way that doesn’t send a new partner running for the hills. That’s why it’s a genius idea to hire someone to lead conversations that neither of you two will have on your own. In the story of Jenni and Albert (featured in WTF Just Happened?), they used someone with a religious background, but anyone with the skill to know what to ask will do. Every couple faces difficult times – it comes with the relationship territory – but no one has to face them for real for the first time. They can figure out in advance what matters most to each of them, what kind of approach will work best for them, and even work out what to do if their actual plans turn into a proverbial box of snot. Being prepared is a smart thing to be, so once you’ve made the decision to take the plunge then be smart and do your prep.
Avoid acting first and asking for permission later
Of course there will always be times when one of you must make a decision on behalf of you both, but those times are the exception rather than the rule. Making the mistake of believing you speak for the two of you is the downfall of squillions of otherwise potentially healthy relationships. The reason being that it carries a message every time you do it; a message about who is really in charge of the relationship, a message about how much you value the opinion of the other, a message about whose interests are being put first, a message about trust, and a message about what being in a loving relationship means to you – which almost inevitably by then is not going to be what it means to your partner.
And don’t be fooled by fake forgiveness! When someone faces the harsh reality that their partner has taken it upon themselves to make a decision for them, they tend to find it easier to pretend to let it go rather than dealing with it right there and then. Forgiveness? Don’t believe it – you haven’t really been forgiven, but you have started the clock ticking on an inevitable countdown to the painful end of a relationship. Unless, of course, you realise what a moose you’ve been and do something to fix it.
Ask yourself what it is you actually ‘like’ about your partner
People often talk about their life partner being their best friend. Actually that’s nonsense, you don’t want your lover to be your best friend. You want your actual best friend to be your best friend – a person you can count on, who has no stake in your relationship other than to be the best friend they can be, and who knows that you will do the same for them. Your lover and life-partner are in a relationship of delicate balance; it’s a dynamic dance to the ever shifting beat of life in which both of you move with each other in an attempt to make the whole thing as fabulous as it can be.
Of course, you must be friends because without actually liking each other you are not going to keep that dance together when the going gets tough. Friends become friends when they recognise they share similar values, beliefs, views on life, or something else that causes them to enjoy spending time with each other and value each other’s opinions. Friends may argue, may disagree, and sometimes may question if they still want to stay friends. Yet, if the friendship was well founded they get over temporary setbacks and move on. Loving each other isn’t going to be enough; you can fancy the pants off someone you don’t really like, you can be flattered into having a dance or two by someone you think you ought to like (but don’t really) and you can easily fall into the trap of assuming that because someone told you they love you, that they like you too. Don’t be so certain. Make sure you really do like each other before tying the knot.