Category Archives: relationships

Here You Go…

I was talking to my mom the other night, and despite her general odd way of saying things she has been around a while, and has done and seen quite a bit, so for the most part (and I hate to admit this) she is usually right.

My mother has always had this strange fascination with how relationships work, or better stated, don’t work, despite the fact that, to my knowledge, she has never been with anyone except my dad.

As she was once again discussing her favorite subject, she began by reiterating some of the main causes that ruin relationships. I will share a bit of her wisdom on marriage (a lot of which took me years to figure out myself).

If you happen to be with a particularly needy person it is a good idea not to allow them to think you will spend every waking (and sleeping) moment with them. They will be sorely disappointed when you don’t, and a lot of fights could have been averted if you had made it clear from the beginning that that is just not your thing.

Pick your battles. The other person will be flawed, they will do things to annoy you, they won’t have all the traits you desire, and you will just have to accept some of these things as they are, because you have the same faults.

It is always a bad idea to give the other person full access to your bank account. Especially if you make more than them.

Your friends are not their friends, and vice versa. Should you break up, the divide will be clear, at least among good friends. The acquaintances may stagger both sides.

Pets are important. They are not accessories. If they don’t like cats, or are allergic to cats, and you have fifty of them, it will be a problem. (Although if you have fifty cats it is most likely already a problem).

If your significant other controls you, it is because you are allowing it.

Relationships are sometimes like harems. It comes and goes, but as long as you are the favorite, the others aren’t of consequence. My mother used a different example which I don’t remember in its entirety, but I will share a similar one from the Wife of Bath (my own translation): allowing another to light their candle from your lantern will not diminish your own light. Make of this what you will. Even though I have heard this sentiment from her on numerous occasions, I cannot tell you how it makes me feel. I don’t know.

If the other person is abusing you, accepting their apology is most likely an acceptance for the abuse to continue. Because it probably will. And they will keep apologizing for it.

Jewelry does not make things better. It only makes you temporarily forget. Also, keep the jewelry. Don’t be stupid and give it back, or throw it at them. If whatever they have done merits jewelry, then you have earned it. I would like to add that the same goes for men, except from my experience men mostly receive intangible or short lived gifts (i.e. amazing dinner), to which the second part of this rule does not apply. However, if it comes between throwing your dinner at her, or eating it, I would suggest the latter – there is never a reason to waste good food.

It doesn’t matter how much time you spend together, if it is always at home, even home-bodies will get bored. Maybe it is just me, but there is something very special about going out with your significant other. It doesn’t matter how many years you have married, the process is the thing.

You did not marry a psychic (unless, of course, you did, in which case disregard this point). Verbally expressing your wants and needs makes everything more clear, for you and them. They may or may not be able to fix whatever problem you are having. They may or may not be willing to fix whatever problem you are having. But now you know where you stand.

Not all of these apply to everyone, and not everyone will believe all or any of this makes sense. But hopefully at least some of this will help someone.

The Avenue

It is Sunday morning, and I’am walking up Columbus Avenue. Couples are coming at me on all sides. They fill the street from building line to pavement edge. Some are clasped together looking raptly into each other’s faces; some are holding hands, their eyes restless, window-shopping; some walk side by side, stony faced, carefully not touching. I have the sudden conviction that half these people will, in a few months, be walking with someone else now walking on the avenue as one half of another couple. Eventually that arrangement will terminate as well, and each man and each woman will once again be staring out the window of a room empty of companionship. This is a population in a permanent state of intermittent attachment. Inevitably, the silent apartment lies in wait. 

Who could ever have dreamed there would be so many of us floating around, those of us between thirty-five and fifty-five who live alone. Thirty years of politics in the street opened a door that became a floodgate, and we have poured through in our monumental numbers, in possession of the most educated discontent in history. Yet, we seem puzzled, most of us, about how we go here, confused and wanting relief from the condition. We roam the crowded streets, in naked expectation of the last-minute reprieve. 

-Vivian Gornick

I was reading Vivian’s work, this particular excerpt she included in another piece, originally part of a different work that she has not yet published, and admits may not. Once the delusional years of youth drain away, is this everyone’s fate? Is this what awaits? At some point in your life you come to the realization of who you are, separate from any sort of role you are supposed to fulfill. You can only fail so many times at fulfilling these roles until you must admit your own inability, and then you have to understand that it is not so much an inability, but an unwillingness, deep seated, that makes it impossible to continue ignorantly participating in your own loss of self.

But what do you do with this new knowledge? So now you know what you want, and who you are. And you don’t want to be foisted into another’s expectations of who you should be. And you have to wonder, which was better? The bliss in ignorance, or this new-found facet of self? In recognizing yourself you can no longer ignore the flaws, the fact that at any given point you can boast more baggage than an international airport on Christmas eve, your own selfish desires that simultaneously include and have nothing to do with another person, and the fact that you don’t want to be lonely, but you want to be left alone. Yeah, just *try* making sense of all that.

Others around you have also come to know themselves. I think it happens to most people eventually. But they haven’t the slightest clue what to do with this either. So you have a multitude of people understanding themselves while trying to live parallel lives with someone else, not necessarily fulfilling roles, but existing together, pleasantly. That is the ideal, not reality. The idea of having to be something to someone else is too ingrained, and these parallel lives begin to converge, too much for comfort.

I don’t mean there should not be compromise, because even the most superficial friendships demand a certain level of it. Yes, compromise is a prerequisite, and healthy in and of itself. But how much of yourself are you supposed to give up? I don’t necessarily think there is an answer to this, and it differs, relying on the idea of picking your battles. There might not be a universal answer, but each person has their own answer. The problem is for two people with complementary answers to actually find each other.

How often does that actually happen?

Not A Process

I am still reading the book that is basically the equivalent of a female bildungsroman, and as the main character reflects on her early twenties, she recounts how she met a man at a bar in Manhattan, dated him for two weeks, and essentially spent the next six years pining for him. While I hope this is not what I have to look forward to for the next six years, I came to the same conclusion she had at the end of the chapter.

Yes, the man I can’t stop thinking about was(is) wonderful, fun, intelligent, attractive and special, but what made him even more so was that, if I think about it, he was the first man I had ever really dated. Until meeting him there was always a sense of a quest, every relationship had a goal, and end product to diligently work towards, meticulously guiding the entire process. And it did become a process.

But this was different. I was able to enjoy time with him and not run home afterwards to plan our wedding while coming up with names for our future children. Our times together weren’t stepping stones to anything else. This doesn’t mean these times weren’t precursors for more, more time, more everything, but also, more of the same. I wasn’t dating to get married. I wasn’t dating to have children. I was able to enjoy being with him for the sake of it, and it was unbelievably relaxing. Almost as if before then I didn’t even know such a thing could exist. You mean people do this?

Whenever I thought of us in the future, it was simply an extension of the here and now, a prolonging of what was without definite expectations, except that it would continue to be. Well, I was wrong on the latter, but the overall sense of easy continuity was liberating.

And now that I have had this wonderful revelation, I can return to my previously scheduled pining.