Posted on January 16th, 2020
One comfort of being in an ongoing relationship is eventually coming to know your partner. When you have been together long enough, you will have gone beyond many of your fantasies about the person you are with and feel you really know them. You know their habits, the ways they usually think and feel, the ways you can depend on them and the ways you can’t. You know how much they will work with you toward mutual ends, and the ways they will be unavailable. Good and bad, your relationship is stable, reliable.
Sometimes you can settle into feeling the secure attachment of your relationship enough to begin experiencing the relationship almost as a thing, something whose existence is relatively fixed from day to day, a possession like a house or a chair. You can put it in a corner and just know it’s there. Maybe it will get dusty if you don’t clean it, but otherwise you’re good to go.
Over time, you turn your attention to other areas of your life, work or children or friendships or hobbies or Netflix. Even when you keep talking to each other, these other parts of your life are what you talk about, not who you are in relationship to each other. That becomes taken for granted.
This is the beginning of the end of your relationship.
The problem with relying on your relationship as a given is that relationships don’t actually exist that way. A relationship isn’t something you have, it’s something you do. Its existence as a living experience in your life depends entirely on the attention you give it. Neglect it enough and it slips away into an empty form, a relationship in name only.
What is needed to change this aren’t large gestures but everyday attentions to each other. The grand vacation which is supposed to restart relationship often works, but only while you’re on it. What works better are ongoing daily attentions which build the experience of each of you working to keep the relationship alive. Conversations about yourselves and your lives, not monologues but dialogues, can build the feeling that you matter to each other. Date nights, doing things together you both enjoy, and small attentions—texts and notes and thoughtful little gifts—also help build relationship.
Relationship isn’t any one of these things; it’s the ongoing experience of them happening with each other every day.
A big part of relationship is ongoing learning about each other. As time passes in a relationship, it’s tempting to feel that you have reached the stage where there is not much more to know about each other. Even when this is partly true, the actual living person before you is someone who is and always will be changing.
Because we are all always changing, relationships are always getting stronger or weaker, closer or more distant, more intimate or disconnected. For this reason, connecting needs to be an ongoing occurrence. Relationships, like bread, need to be made fresh every day.
Posted in Marriage and Couples