So, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Or as some call it, Singles Awareness Day, or The Day Before Chocolate Goes On Sale. Even so, with a Hallmark holiday that stresses the importance of purchasing candy, jewelry, and other random red and pink items for “that special someone” in your life, I’ve never been a big fan of this holiday, regardless of my relationship status. I once broke up with a girl on Valentine’s Day because I didn’t feel like lying to myself, or to her, about the relationship that was, for whatever reason, still called a relationship. On the flip side, I’ve executed some grand gestures on Valentine’s Day as well. Either way, this year’s heart-shaped pizza day was the first one I’ve been single for in about seven years (maybe longer if I’m errant in my timeline recollection about a short-lived relationship in there somewhere), and I have to say it has probably been my favorite one…ever. Through all the commercials and retail decorations and Facebook posts about love and relationships, I decided it was finally time to get some things out there in the blog-o-sphere that have been rolling around in my head for quite some time.
I broke new ground in my last serious relationship. I should be more specific. I learned a lot of things, but one particular concept opened new mental and emotional territories on the map of romantic relationship landscapes. There are two lies and one law that I know, at least for me, should be taken into consideration when partnering with someone for the long haul. I say “for the long haul,” because rules of engagement (pun intended) for casual dating (a softer term for what some may call a whoring or partying phase) can be different, but I’m writing from the angle of long-term relationships. Now that may also vary from couple to couple: some focus on marriage, others are fine with domestic partnerships or civil unions, and some are just different. But what I’m thinking of is a long-term partnership with a beginning of leaping off together at some point and hoping you grow old together and fill your adventure book like Carl and Ellie.
Two lies and a law. Or more specifically, two LIEs and one LAW. Yes, I’m referring to acronyms as I’ve been known to do in this blog.
- LIE #1: Loving is easy.
- LIE #2: Love isn’t enough.
- The LAW: Logistics and Work.
Now, if I haven’t lost you after the first LIE, thank you, but when I’ve talked about this before to a few others, I got scoffed at rather quickly and their own bitterness came out, regardless of their relationship status. So, I say again, if you’re still reading this after the first LIE, thank you.
LIE #1: Loving is easy.
It is. It really is. Loving a partner, a child, a parent, a sibling, a fur baby, a coworker, it doesn’t matter, it’s easy. But, I’ll keep the focus on a partnered, romantic relationship (and keep myself from having to include examples in every context). When you really love someone, the expressions and declarations of love are easy. How you listen, how you look at them, how you do things you don’t normally do, just because you know it makes them feel better. What you share and how communicate with each other often feels natural, even if the relationship is still young (but you’re past the honeymoon phase).
I’m a proponent of the 5 Love Languages, and I know that I receive love primarily with Physical Touch with my secondary as Words of Affirmation. I know this about myself. I’ve brought up these languages with just about every girlfriend in the last…oh, seven years, and occasionally it helps, but in the long run, it has become a point of contention. There are things I know I need in a relationship (just like there are things I know I can’t deal with or be around), and I try to be up front about them and essentially say, “Hi. Here’s a quick reference guide on how I relationship.” The conversations are obviously much longer and in-depth, but what’s important is that I try to be upfront and honest about how I believe myself to operate.
LIE #2: Love isn’t enough.
Yes, I just said love isn’t enough. If contractions are confusing…Love is NOT enough. And I believe that to the same degree as LIE #1. To be get right to it, as much as I love Moulin Rouge and the Elephant Medley, love is NOT all you need. Love may very well be a many splendored thing, but it definitely isn’t enough to create, cultivate, and sustain a healthy, long-term relationship. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a part of me that calls refers to myself as a hopeless romantic, but I’m not so flighty that my head is in the clouds. Here’s the deal, I can’t pay bills with love. I can’t buy groceries with love. And that rock that you say doesn’t have to be crazy big, but part of you still wants a princess cut 1.5 carat stone on a white gold with four diamonds on each side along the band, and maybe you’re ok with the solitaire on the yellow gold band, but either way, I can’t walk into a jewelry store and tell the salesperson, I love my girlfriend and want her to be my fiancee, can I have that ring right there? So, yeah, that’s what I mean when I say love isn’t enough. Love isn’t everything because I don’t want to ever live in a cardboard box with you. I want to be able to help provide for our family (whatever that means that we decide and create together because we effectively communicate).
This is where the LAW comes in…
Logistics and Work.
This part most people get. It’s a lot of work. It’s literally a labor of (for?) love. But I regard this as a separate pillar in the hall of relationships, and that’s why I believe LIE #1. Logistics are easy…or, simple. They’re straightforward and task-oriented. Work is also literally actionable. The LAW comes into play to see if and how the spark develops into a brightly burning flame. This is where you learn about how each of you work, individually and together. Where you learn if you really work together, can work together, or even mutually want to work together. It isn’t about 50/50, it’s about 100/100, and although you may lean on each other, or even carry each other at times, there should be an equal effort/contribution from both sides in the overall journey as partners. (See previous blog HERE.)
Here’s an example with all of the ingredients burritoed together:
You meet someone. You just click. Like you’ve known them forever and for whatever reason it took you both this long to meet. Many times, that’s the “easy” part. LIE #1, check. Once you’re past the initial stages and your feet have landed on the ground again you approach LIE #2 and you work through your partnered approach to the LAW. Coordinating work/school schedules, balancing new relationship life and friends/family life. Moving in together, planning trips, building IKEA furniture, these are all highly indicative of what could come of the future. Does your partner expect you to do everything? Are you selfish? Do you communicate with each other…effectively? What do you share with each other? What do you share with ONLY your partner? How is your relationship different from your relationships with your best friends/family?
Just because LIE #1 is satisfied doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically make it in the long run. There are always plenty of variables: timing, distance, where each of you are in your lives, what gets unearthed from your mind’s basement, and what challenges do you want to face together?
Accepting that LIE #2 is where the adulting comes in.
The LAW is where you prove to yourself and each other that adulting is easier with a teammate that shares common goals with you.
Now, I fully accept and own the irony that is my very sharing of this “advice” (if you can even call it that) with my own track record, but I share because it’s what’s in my head, and if it helps me put things in perspective, it very well may help someone else.
So that’s me for today. Don’t break the LAW and have fun LIEing with each other!