25 Feb The Five-a-Day of Relationships – Ignoring them will turn yours from fun to functional
If you see people chain smoking, drinking heavily, taking bad drugs, eating unhealthily and never exercising, then after a few years of this, those same people tell you “I feel so unhealthy, I just don’t know why, I’m such a good and kind person, why is this happening to me? I guess that’s just the way it is sometimes”, wouldn’t you want to grab them, shake them violently and scream “IT’S NOT A GODDAMN MYSTERY. THESE HABITS OF YOURS ARE TERRIBLE, SO LAST YEAR AND JUST PLAIN STUPID. THE SAME THING WOULD HAPPEN TO ANYONE WHO REFUSES TO WAKE UP AND CHANGE THESE HABITS”.
Well this is exactly how I feel when I see couples who say “our relationship started so well, we were happy, couldn’t get enough of each other. Now, things are different, it’s not as exciting, the fun element is definitely not the same. In fact, I think we probably feel more relaxed and have more fun with others than with each other. Oh, well, I guess that’s just the way it is”; I really just want to grab them, shake them even more violently and scream at them that very same statement above. And here’s the saddest part, the majority of relationships turn dull not because the two partners don’t love each other, but because they are practicing terrible habits; habits that society labels as kind and smart.
When it comes to health, we raised enough awareness so at the very least, if someone wants to live unhealthily, they won’t be shocked if they develop any health issues. We have changed our healthy living awareness so much that no one finds it confusing if they hear that smoking is bad for you. This, of course, is wonderful news. What’s even more wonderful is that if you ask anyone to suggest the best time to share all this healthy living awareness, the answer will not be “Oh, let’s wait for about five or ten years. Let them smoke and do all the other stuff for a while and then when they fall apart, we’ll tell them “Oh, now I remember, I knew there was something I wanted to tell you ten years ago. These habits of yours, turns out they’re not that great”.
I’m 100% sure, that 100% of those reading this would agree that waiting ten years before raising awareness to bad habits is wrong. If so, then can someone tell me why, when it comes to relationships, we do exactly that? We actually say nothing to a couple that just started out, we let them muddle through alone making the best of it, and only when they fall apart do we give them some awareness. I would be very ok with this if 80% of long-term couples are happy, but the very opposite is true. It’s time we remove the stigma attached to getting relationship awareness early. It’s time we make going to relationship gyms a sign that things are going well and you want to keep it that way. It’s time we open relationship awareness centres everywhere just like we did with health gyms. It’s time we do this for the sake of the partners and, even more so, for the sake of their children. Children who have two fun friends as parents grow up to have exponentially less emotional baggage then those who have bored, dysfunctional or simply just functional parents who laugh with their friends far more than each other. This is very common knowledge in child Psychology. SO WHY DON’T WE MAKE IT COMMON KNOWLEDGE FOR ALL COUPLES, ESPECIALLY PRE KIDS?????
With that in mind, let’s begin to do just that. There are 5 basic habits that all couples can do to prevent their relationship from becoming part of the 80% stale majority:
- Kill the Mars vs Venus myth.
- Rescue love from the clutches of conformity.
- Abide by the hierarchy of happiness.
- Hop on the friendship train.
- Take off them rose tinted glasses.
Here’s what these habits means:
1. Kill the Mars vs Venus myth.
Nothing has caused more harm to relationship than that book. However, I hope that it was the very reason why neuroscientists, like Gena Rippon, doubled their efforts to finally put this myth to rest:
Women’s brains are not different to men’s.
Whatever a man can think, so can a women, and vice versa. Obviously there are physiological difference and also when it comes to giving birth, I hear there is a difference or two. However, when it comes to every emotional feeling or thought, all brains are identical at birth and then they are shaped and moulded according to their environment. I am not talking about nature vs nurture. I am talking about basic things such as can a man love and take care of a child? Can a woman drive a truck? Can a man be a nurse? Can a woman be a banker? Can a man knit? Can a woman play Rugby? Can a man cry? Can a woman be aggressive? I could go on but for your sake I won’t, I think you get the point.
The answer to all those questions is without a doubt ‘yes’. The difference lies in the level. So some men cry more than others, some women can be more aggressive than others, and so on. This is all well and good and again pretty much common knowledge. However, when it comes to relationships, we seem to be very ok starting sentences with “typical man….” or “typical woman….”. “Of course he forgot to take the rubbish out, typical man, cant multi task”. “Of course I didn’t hear what she said, she’s a typical woman, she can talk for England”. This is a) absolutely not true, and b) extremely damaging. These are society’s safety nets put in place years ago so that incompatibles accept their lot, blame this incompatibility on gender rather than personality type, and stick together for the greater good of the tribe, village, community, …etc.
I’m happy to say that this is not working. Separation is high and on the rise; the silently accepting their unhappy lot and plodding along represents a majority that is also on the rise. The solution is staring us in the face: Never again start sentences with ‘typical man’ or ‘typical woman’. There is no such thing. From now on, I want you to change the start of such sentences to
“Some people ….”
“Some people are more emotional than others”
“Some people are better organisers than others”
“Some people talk more than others”.
If you want a partner, find one thinks your level is fun, and not just on date one, but year four (more on time in point 5). And while we’re at it, let’s ban this myth’s younger and even more annoying sibling: “opposites attract”. No they f*****g don’t.
The title of that awful book should be renamed to: If you’re from Mars, find a Martian”.
2. Rescue love from the clutches of conformity.
Can we please always remind ourselves what the problem is: Most relationships get dull. I will repeat this as many times as necessary to ensure no one starts regurgitating the same old crap we’ve been fed for the last 40 years or so. Before we repeat something, let’s please remind ourselves what the problem is, and furthermore, that to solve anything that has an 80% failure rate, we need to be open to an alternative view.
With that in mind, Love is not being careful, it’s being carefree. Love is not duty, it’s pleasure. Love is not seriousness, its laughter. Love is not fear, it’s freedom. Love is not political correctness, it’s the very opposite.
Political correctness is a veil that we place on our true beliefs so that we communicate with strangers, work colleagues, neighbours, lawyers, bosses, staff, bus drivers, bakers, dentists, tourists, hotel staff, and school teachers without causing offence. This veil is necessary in order to minimise social conflict and maximise societal tolerance. However, if we want to get closer to people, removing this veil so that we can see the true self is compulsory. We may not remove ALL of it. But the person with whom we can remove the most and still keep our interaction fun and full of reciprocal joyful acceptance becomes a close, if not best friend. Our nicknames for such a person is Fatso, Big Nose and Motor Mouth. Why? Because it’s personal, its about something you two shared, its not an off the shelf generic term. This is why using generic names for your partner like babes or darling does not really mean you have love. If you are not willing to remove this veil, the interaction becomes boring, taxing and pretentious. We have to be able to share all mobile phone content, or at least more with our partner than with anyone else. Otherwise, you’re faking love. We can do this for a short while only because it’s hard work to stay on your toes for a long time. Being on our toes and having a fun long term cohabitation cannot coexist.
Therefore if you want to measure if you have Love, then ask yourself do you have what it takes to keep long term cohabitation fun? And for you to answer that, the gauges you need to look at are laughter, pleasure and freedom of expression; NOT respect, responsibility and caring. The latter three are part and parcel, it would be as if we are saying for someone to be an athlete, you need to be able to breathe. This is correct, but there is so much more to being an athlete than just being able to breathe, many people can breathe, that doesn’t make them athletes. Looking at say respect and ignoring laughter is wrong, dangerous and basically selling out.
Ask yourself: has time made fun, laughter and freedom of expression increase or decrease? If it has made it decrease, do not fall for that fallacy that this is normal, that it always does post the honeymoon period. This isn’t the case for about 20% of couples. For about 20% of couples, time has made them realise how lucky they are. Their freedom of expression has increased. If they are fantasising over some Hollywood star or a friend or colleague, they share these thoughts openly and the reaction is laughter, a hug and a cheeky smile. Because when it comes to Love, fearless honesty is a prerequisite. But not honesty as you know it.
Society’s definition of honesty is this: “if you tell your partner something, make sure it’s true so you don’t get in trouble”
Genuine Love’s definition of honesty is this: “whatever is on your mind, share it without fear. If your partner is the one with whom you can share the most, and if this leads to fun, laughter and acceptance more than it does with anyone else, then you have love. Otherwise, you just have a comfortable illusion of love that can only be sustained by faking, pretending, suppressing and editing your true self.”
3. Abide by the hierarchy of happiness.
I have said this in many posts and talks and YouTube videos so please forgive me if you’ve heard it before. Many people think that they need a partner so that they don’t end up lonely. Therefore they convince themselves by saying things like ‘my partner isn’t that bad, do I really want to keep waiting?’ They will travel down that well trodden path that leads to a life where on the outside they portray a picture of a committed couple, but their hearts are very much not in agreement on the inside.
The hierarchy of happiness is this:
First: At the top is to be with someone that time keeps on proving to be your number one partner for laughter, pleasure and freedom of expression.
Second: Just below is to be single.
Third: And way way way way down in third is where you find the bored 80% majority. Those who are with someone that clearly cannot be described using the description given at the top.
If there is only one thing that my daughters remember out of all the soap box monologues I made them go through, it is to never ever swap second for third.
4. Hop on the friendship train.
What this really means is that a partner must first be a friend, then become a close friend, a best friend and only then can they be considered for the role of partner; you cannot skip stops. If you have three, two or even just one person with whom you can laugh with and share things with more freely than you do with your partner, then you two are not ready to commit long term. You may ask this: what if I don’t find any of my close friends attractive and I don’t find any of my attractive friends close? All this means is that you haven’t yet found your compatible partner. So, have fun, enjoy being on the second step of the hierarchy of happiness (point 3 above), which is so very close to the first, and don’t sell yourself to the dark side and end up in the third.
5. Take off them rose tinted glasses.
Ever since coupling began in our cave days, the time line for having children has been the same. It takes about three years for man to find woman, woman to get pregnant, woman to give birth and for child to learn to fend for itself. If the parents separate during these three years, the survival chances of that child are pretty much non-existent. This means that the children of those that had the tendency to tolerate each other for about three years are the ones that survived and therefore so did that tendency. What the above confirms is that Rose Tinted Glasses are not a myth.
This is why you may meet someone who sucks the last remnants of their drink through a straw until they start making that slurping noise and to begin with, you were thinking “oh how quirky and cute, I love it when I see someone so passionate about food waste”. Three years later, you may want to rip their head off every time they do that. The truth about how you really feel about certain habits or traits is even more clearly exposed when you have children. If you see your child mimic your partners annoying trait, you will make that child endure the most common of home life scenery: the nonstop bickering of parents. This, more than anything, damages children’s self worth and they carry such scars into adulthood.
Therefore, we need to incorporate the element of time into our compatibility gauging. Do not make any long-term decisions before you take off your rose tinted glasses. For humans, this is about three years. The way to gauge is this:
- Every now and then (at the very least, once a year), have a relationship check.
- You can do this in a gym or by yourself just by measuring those three most important of gauges: fun, laughter, and freedom of expression.
- If their direction is on the up, great. Continue as you are.
- If it’s on the way down, pause. Do not further commit.
- The reason it is on the way down is one of two: either you two are not compatible; or you are not following the first four recommendations of this Five-a-Day list.
- Go through and apply the first 4 of this five-a-day list. If you do get the fun back, genuinely, not just because you don’t want to be alone or you don’t want to lose half your house or hurt the kids, then continue to be together. If you don’t get the fun back, it means you need to go back a step or two on the friendship line. You are in effect like a boxer punching above his weight. Not every friendship is compatible enough to become a fun-filled cohabitation. You maybe great at seeing each other once a week, but not great at sharing bathrooms.
- Repeat at least once a year.
And there you have it, your relationship five-a-day. I hope you follow them and end up enhancing your happiness. Let us make everyone belong to the first or the second category on the hierarchy of happiness, and let us get rid of all those in level three.