The rich journey to creating an emotionally intimate life starts with the honeymoon stage. You know it. It’s all fizzing dopamine and serotonin, and every love strategy and love language is thrown at it.
There’s mad sparks.
Everyone is so accommodating and love is in the air.
Then it settles into the power move. Who has the power, who makes the decisions. who puts the rubbish out, who does the dishwasher. Who changes the sheets, who cooks Sunday breakfast, who walks the dog last thing at night.
Next—buckle up—it moves into actual life and becomes about how you navigate disagreements. (The interesting thing about that is 70 per cent of disagreements in long term relationships are based on personality differences—you’re never going to resolve them.)
It becomes how do you recognise your differences, then navigate them in a way that is cool and sees you treat each other with dignity and respect, and helps both of you grow and be your best.
You are going to get to conflict.
To not get to conflict and have everything passive and smooth and quiet and to be proud of that is its own dysfunction. The best part is when once something settles a little bit. Then you start learning to go deeper.
At the start, everything is significant. When it becomes mundane, what becomes significant can make or break you.
My suggestion with relationships? Take care of the basics.
I have put petrol in my car three times in 28 years. I do not know where the petrol cap is in my current car. I remember one day saying to JP, ‘I am low on petrol—what the fuck?’ and he burst out laughing and took care of it.
I say this with pride and wonder and love, but also to set some standards about what is possible with doing the little things that set the pattern of your relationship.
You work out your whole schedule of logistics. I know less about what is in the house in terms of cleaning or cooking equipment—apparently we have something called an oven—than JP. I keep turning up to make the bed and it’s done. He puts the little teddy at the end of the cushions; he knows I love punk teddy.
If he is away he organises someone to put out the bins. I am just not into that and not particularly good at that. The thought of me ever nagging him about what needs doing, I can’t even imagine what that looks like.
I’m good at renovating and sorting out major spring cleans, the big picture domestic stuff. We both have healthy boundaries and ways of cherishing each other.
Relationships should be, ‘I’m going to the shops, can you think of anything you need?’ not doing the whole list.
If you want the big rewards, you have to put it out there. If we don’t have the risk, we don’t have the vulnerability. If we don’t have vulnerability, we don’t have intimacy and it’s not worth anything.
Be caring witnesses to your partner’s dark emotions. If you love them, you love all of them.
Care about their needs as if they are your own.
Hold your despair off in their moments of joy and hold your celebration off in their moments of devastation—you will get your time.
Don’t wait to be asked and do what needs to be done, not for praise or to prove you’re good but because this is how you honour someone.
You are not ‘helping’ when you do the dishes or the filing, you are taking care of business.
Your partner comes first and everything else is secondary.
Wishing you love and happiness and only having to fill your car with petrol three times in nearly three decades! Oh, and I love you JP!